1 March, 1999
March 1, 1999
Greetings from way down south! Boy, what a day! It started off with high winds and large waves . . . that even woke me up in the middle of the night! We changed time zones last night, so the fact that I was already awake helped me get up an hour earlier than usual. About 10 minutes after I started working, the fire alarm went off. It was another emergency drill . . . but you should have seen me jump when I heard the alarm! I guess it took me by surprise.
The seas were so rough this morning that we couldn't do anything that we wanted to do. Rather than sit around and wait for better weather, we decided to move closer to the land and hope for calmer seas in that area. It worked! The height of the waves depends on three things: the wind speed, the wind duration, and the fetch (the distance the wind blows over the water). Since we moved back towards the ice shelf, the fetch was much shorter so the waves were much smaller. After that, we were able to take a piston core and then run about four hours of the deep tow! The winds are still high tonight, and we're hoping that this storm system will be done by sometime tomorrow. How do you suppose that storms in Antarctica are different from those in the United States? How are they similar? We'll look at that in tomorrow's journal.
Our question for today was: "How can there be laws that everyone is forced to obey in Antarctica?" As you probably remember, Antarctica is not owned by any one nation. The countries that conduct research in Antarctica have worked together to come up with the Antarctic Treaty, which was originally signed by 12 nations in 1961 and now includes 43 different countries. In this agreement, countries active in Antarctica consult on the uses of the whole continent. Specifically, the treaty includes all the area south of 60 degrees South latitude. The Treaty itself includes 12 arcticles, but can be summarized with the following:
1) It agrees that Antarctica should be used for peaceful purposes only. 2) It prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of nuclear waste. 3) It guarantees the freedom of science and promotes sharing among scientists. 4) It allows on-site inspection by foreign observers to make sure the Treaty is being followed.
5) It does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial claims.
Although the Antarctic Treaty seems very complete, there have been many other treaties passed since 1961 to make more specific rules about protecting Antarctica. The most recent agreement was the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. It was passed in 1991, and it applies to all people and activities on the continent of Antarctica. Some of the special regulations include:
1) Respect Protected Areas -- This specifies that a person may not damage, remove, or destroy historic sites or monuments. In some places, people are even required to have a permit to enter.
2) Respect Scientific Research --People are not allowed to interfere with scientific research, facilities, or equipment. They are also required to obtain permission before visiting Antarctic science and logistic support facilities.
3) Be Safe -- People must be prepared for severe and changeable weather. They should not expect a rescue service. Rather, they should work towards self-sufficiency. Their clothing and equipment must meet Antarctic standards. They also must respect any smoking restrictions and not enter emergency refuges except in the case of emergencies.
4) Protect Antarctic Wildlife -- The taking of Antarctic wildlife is prohibited unless someone has a permit. No person is allowed to feed, touch or handle birds or seals. They may not damage plants. No non-native plants or animals are allowed in Antarctica. Guns and explosives are prohibited. In addition, vehicles (on land, air, or sea) should be used in ways that do not disturb wildlife. Even our ship avoids ice that is carrying seals or penguins.
5) Keep Antarctica Pristine -- People are not allowed to dispose of litter or garbage on the land and open burning is prohibited. Lakes and streams must not be polluted, and special rules must be followed for materials disposed at sea. Graffiti or carving on rocks or buildings is prohibited. It is illegal to take any geological (rock) or biological (egg, fossil, bone, etc.) specimens as a souvenir. It is also illegal to take parts or contents of buildings or to deface or vandalize buildings of any type.
This agreement also sets some other rules -- for example it also prohibits mining in Antarctica. Sometimes it is difficult to get all the nations of the Antarctic Treaty to agree to more specific rules such as these, but they are really good for the continent and the ocean around the continent. Antarctica is the last pristine place on the planet. I am very glad that the people and the countries who work there are cooperating together to protect it!
I'm looking forward to hearing some more questions soon. I'm so glad that I have an opportunity to share all of my experiences with you. I'm really having a wonderful time down here, and I love sending back the journals and pictures each day!
Latitude: 73 degrees 47 minutes South
Longitude: 127 degrees 51 minutes East
Temperature: -4.2 degrees C
Barometer: 983.2 mb
Wind Speed: 47.5 knots
Wind Direction: 91 degrees (from the East)
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