彭蒙惠英语:20110106 MP3在线课程 Antarctica: A Frozen Hotbed of Research

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January 6

Antarctica: A Frozen Hotbed of Research

by Scott Canon / (c) 2010, The Kansas City Star. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Antarctica's scientists arrive looking not for fame, but for answers

Anvers Island, Antarctica Roald Amundsen attacked this frozen nowhere-land as a racing explorer, determined to be fastest, to be first, to be remembered. His determination and savvy got him to the South Pole before any other, and made him a hero in an age when Antarctica existed in the human imagination as a final conquest. Mostly for show, he brought along a scientist.

A different motivation

Just shy of a century later, the conquerors have given way to the curious. Now scientists such as geologist David Barbeau and ornithologist Kristen Gorman, rugged individuals of another age, shuttle in rubber Zodiac boats from remote research stations and ice-breaking research ships.They bump aside small floes, bend against brutal polar winds and scramble up cliffs in search of their own discoveries.

They search not for fame, but for answers about the same climate that once tortured and killed their polar adventuring forebears. Around this continent, the weather has mellowed alarmingly.Giant glaciers and tiny creatures are threatened as this tip of our global iceberg warms faster than anywhere else on Earth.

These modern-day researchers come not to conquer, but to understand. Barbeau leads Antarctic expeditions hatched and financed entirely on the strength of theories about how the continent broke off from South America and iced over.

Gorman, meanwhile, tracks how dwindling Adelie penguin colonies connect to the retreat of sea ice. She teams with researchers to measure how the birds fare as Antarctica's glacial edges crumble into the sea.

"We're asking simple questions about food ecology in this larger framework," she said of fish and shrimp-like krill and their feathered hunters. "How do you better predict how climate will affect predators?" Barbeau and Gorman are just two among scores building careers in modern-day Antarctica, where climate studies promise academic status and grant money.

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