Research on the Web: Living & Working in Antarctica

Part of the Antarctica: The Farthest Place Close to Home Curriculum Collection.

Examine some of the information prepared by Antarctic Support Services for researchers preparing to travel there. You will also examine some images of their living and working spaces in order to understand the technology that humans have developed for living and working in extreme Antarctic conditions.

To conduct your investigation, work as scientists do: —predict what you may discover, make observations, and record what you see. Look for patterns. Afterwards, offer hypotheses to explain those patterns. Don't worry if your hypotheses are sketchy right now; any testable hypothesis is a valid starting point. When scientists test their hypothesis and discover that their observations and data do not match their hypothesis, they redefine their investigation by improving the test and gathering more data, or refining the original hypothesis based on the new data before testing again. In your investigation, you can return to the Web resources if you need to observe more details. Then revise your hypothesis or develop a new one based on each new round of observations.

Take your journal and go to: U.S. Antarctic Program Participant Guide. Here you'll find the book that Polar Support Services offers to all Antarctic personnel. Look especially at "How and What to Pack" and "Travel Guidelines" to get an idea of how Antarctic researchers and staff prepare for life in the extreme Antarctic environment. Check out the different types of gear required by different types of personnel.

Next visit the section of the site that has video clips, maps and images. Look at images of McMurdo and Palmer Station to see the living and working spaces there. 

Use the questions below to guide your investigation and your journal notes; you may also want to include drawings in your notes. If you're working with a team, remember to record in your own journal your observations about the technologies humans have adapted in order to live and work in Antarctica.

  • What kinds of gear are required for everyone traveling to Antarctica? What extra gear do field researchers need? What does this tell you about conditions in Antarctica?
  • What do you notice about the fabrics and other materials used in Antarctic clothing and gear? Why does Antarctic Support Services need to be so specific about materials? Why can't people just purchase this gear back home and bring it with them?
  • Describe the living and working spaces in Antarctica. Compare field conditions with conditions at the research stations—and with conditions where you live.
  • What additional questions do you have about humans living and working in Antarctica?