2.3 DE: Research in Antarctica

  • Climate change is a huge threat to Antarctica and its biodiversity. Biodiversity in a region which many of us consider to be an ice desert? Yes! If you want to know more about this, watch Sabrina Heiser's talk about Seaweed Forests in Antarctica:

    (Running time 3:55-26:00)


    What challenges are you facing when you work at a polar station?


    A marine biologist explains what it is like to do

    scientific research in Antarctica.


    During my 18-month stay on the island of Adelaide, we had to learn a lot to take care of ourselves and to be able to act in case of an emergency. Therefore, we had winter trainings again and again. We had to learn everything about food hygiene so that we would be able to cook for others. We also had to be prepared in case something happened to someone or there was a fire. Cook, nurse, firefighter, there are a lot of jobs you need to be good at when you work at a polar station.


    And we had to do a thorough diving training. To be able to dive, you first need a hole in the ice. For this we had to take a preheated and well-wrapped chainsaw with us. Then we drew a rectangle and finally cut it out in blocks with the saw. We always cut 2 holes so that we had a backup hole in case one of them was used as a breathing hole by seals.

    After these trainings, we took many trips to nearby islands and that's how I learned more and more about Antarctica. Finally, the day came when I left for my first expedition. It was gorgeous. We took tents and a lot of gear with us. Here it was important to be very careful with the sledges because of the crevasses. To set up our tent after the trip, we first had to dig out a place for it. The flaps on the outside were covered with snow so that the tent wasn't blown away when the wind came up. On the inside we had several layers on the ground to keep the cold out. Finally, we had to set up the radio to talk to the base every evening at 7pm. Another challenge: Well, now what to do when you have to pee? For this reason, a poo tent was set up (another orange tent with a bucket).


    We also had to take turns with the night watch on the trips, every night at 12 o'clock, at 3 o'clock and at 6 o'clock someone had to sit at the radio and listen if people were trying to make contact and to see if there was an emergency.

    After we got back to the polar station, there were new lessons to learn. One day it was sewing. We had to manage to sew someone back together, either in the field or possibly on base if there was an accident. We practiced on nice little duck breasts. The sewing itself turned out to be easier than expected in the end. We were thus again allowed to learn something about the job of a doctor. It is also always useful for the doctor when we can take and develop x-rays. It means she can stay with the patient. The process in the darkroom is quite similar to developing images from an analogue camera and takes about 20-30 minutes. After having learned how to take x-rays, we learned how to put a cast on a broken bone! We practiced on arms and legs and everyone tried it out.


    We also had to clean the base ourselves, of course. Did you know that one needs to be able to do so many different things as a marine biologist?


    One last thing that is really strange is the disappearance of the sun. There is not really complete darkness, but a few hours of twilight every day in the middle of winter. Can you imagine this? Do you think you could manage to work at a polar station?


    This text was written by Mats (Year 8) and inspired by Sabrina Heiser´s blog. Find out more about her blog here.