Program 1: The Last Continent

THE SOUTH POLE WAS THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH REACHED BY THE GREAT EXPLORERS OF THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY...

AND STILL, TODAY, ANTARCTICA IS DIFFICULT TO GET TO, AND A CHALLENGING, DANGEROUS PLACE TO LIVE AND WORK.

BUT IT'S ALSO THE ONLY CONTINENT DEDICATED TO PEACEFUL SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH, AND A PLACE OF NATURAL WONDERS AND RARE BEAUTY.

title: ANTARCTICA-LAND OF EXTREMES

IN THIS VIDEO, WE'LL COME TO KNOW ANTARCTICA AS A LAND OF EXTREMES...

title: ALL ABOUT ICE

WE'LL FIND OUT.. "ALL ABOUT ICE"

title: GETTING THERE... AND GETTING AROUND

...AND WE'LL SEE WHAT IT TAKES FOR TODAY'S SCIENTIFIC EXPLORERS TO GET HERE AND TO GET AROUND...

main program titles:
program 1: THE LAST CONTINENT

chapter head ANTARCTICA-LAND OF EXTREMES

ANTARCTICA IS THE COLDEST... WINDIEST... ICIEST PLACE ON EARTH.

EARTH'S COLDEST TEMPERATURE, MINUS 90 DEGREES, WAS RECORDED HERE, AT RUSSIA'S VOSTOK RESEARCH STATION.

IT IS, ON AVERAGE, THE HIGHEST CONTINENT ON THE PLANET... MORE THAN 3 TIMES HIGHER THAN NORTH AMERICA.

IN SIZE, ANTARCTICA IS LARGER THAN THE UNITED STATES AND MEXICO COMBINED, MORE THAN 5 MILLION SQUARE MILES.

BUT EACH ANTARCTIC WINTER THIS VAST CONTINENT DOUBLES IN SIZE AS THE SEA ICE STRETCHES OUT OVER THE SOUTHERN OCEAN.

THE SEA ICE MAY BE JUST 10 FEET THICK, BUT ICE CLOSE TO 3 MILES DEEP COVERS THE INTERIOR, ONE REASON THAT COLD AIR, FLOWING DOWNHILL FROM THE POLAR PLATEAU, CAN REACH SPEEDS OF MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED MILES PER HOUR AROUND THE SHORE.

EARLY EXPLORERS FOUND WINDS STRONGER THAN ANYTHING THEY'D EVER EXPERIENCED OR HEARD OF...

90 PER CENT OF ALL THE ICE ON OUR PLANET, AND 70 PER CENT OF THE WORLD'S FRESH WATER IS FOUND HERE.

ICE COVERS 98% OF THE CONTINENT.

BARE ROCKS TOWER OVER THE REMAINING 2 PER CENT.

SOIL, AND PLANTS, ARE RARE, CONFINED ONLY TO A FEW ISLANDS ALONG THE PALMER PENINSULA, WHERE TEMPERATURES AVERAGE A LITTLE OVER FREEZING.

INLAND, AROUND THE POLE, IT'S NOT SNOW BUT JUST OLD ICE CRYSTALS YOU SEE BLOWING AROUND, DRIFTING LIKE SAND.

AND DESPITE ALL THIS ICE, MANY PARTS OF ANTARCTICA ARE AS DRY AS A DESERT.

SOME PLACES GET LESS THAN AN INCH OF RAIN, AND ARE DRIER THAN THE SAHARA.

WHAT MAKES ANTARCTICA SO COLD? ULTIMATELY IT'S THE RESULT OF PLANETARY PROCESSES...

...AND THE FACT THAT THE CONTINENT IS CUT OFF BY A CIRCLING WALL OF AIR AND OCEAN HERE AT THE END OF OUR PLANET.

EARTH'S TILT OF 23.5 DEGREES AND ITS ANNUAL JOURNEY ROUND THE SUN MEANS ANTARCTICA HAS ALMOST 6 MONTHS OF DARK, COLD NIGHT EACH YEAR, FOLLOWED BY 6 MONTHS OF DAY.

BUT DURING THAT DAY, MORE THAN 80% OF THE SUN'S RADIATION IS REFLECTED BACK TO SPACE BY ALL THIS ICE, AND SO THE CONTINENT WARMS UP MUCH LESS THAN OCEAN, FIELD OR FOREST.

ANTARCTICA IS THE ONLY CONTINENT ON EARTH NEVER TO HAVE BEEN SETTLED BY HUMANS.

BUT EACH ANTARCTIC SUMMER ALMOST 3,000 RESEARCHERS FROM AROUND OUR PLANET CONVERGE ON THE CONTINENT.

WITH AFFECTION TINGED WITH AWE THEY CALL THIS PLACE "THE ICE"...

AND TO BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND ANTARCTICA YOU HAVE GET TO KNOW ALL THIS ICE AND THE ROCKS THAT LIE BENEATH IT.

THE MATERIALS OF OUR PLANET, ON WHICH OUR LIVES AND OUR CIVILIZATION DEPENDS, ARE THE AIR ABOVE-THE GASES OF THE ATMOSPHERE...

THE SOIL IN WHICH PLANTS GROW...

THE ROCKS ON WHICH OUR BUILDINGS STAND...

AND LIQUID WATER, WITHOUT WHICH LIFE WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE.

BUT IN ANTARCTICA LIQUID WATER IS RARELY PRESENT.

A FEW TRICKLES FLOW DOWN THE DRY VALLEYS INTO STRANGE, ICE-COVERED LAKES FOR JUST A FEW MONTHS OF THE YEAR...

SNOW FALL, LIKE THIS SPRING BLIZZARD NEAR PALMER STATION IS SURPRISINGLY INFREQUENT.

FLYING OVER THE VAST POLAR PLATEAU, THE ICE LOOKS THE SAME.

UP CLOSE, IT'S NOT, AND HAS MANY NAMES TO HELP US UNDERSTAND IT

ICE SHEETS COVER THE LAND, THE UNDERLYING CONTINENT OF ANTARCTICA.

THE ICE EXTENDING OUT FROM THE SHORE IS KNOWN AS ICE SHELVES...

SEA ICE IS THE FROZEN OCEAN, WHICH-EACH SOUTHERN WINTER-DOUBLES THE AREA OF ANTARCTICA.

GLACIERS ARE ICE IN MOTION, RIVERS OF FROZEN WATER.

HERE, IN THE FOREGROUND, YOU CAN SEE THE CANADA GLACIER SLIDING DOWN ACROSS ONE OF THE McMURDO DRY VALLEYS.

SOMETIMES A GLACIER, LIKE THIS ONE NEAR PALMER STATION, "CALVES"-AND VAST AMOUNTS OF ICE CRASH DOWN INTO THE OCEAN.

SOME CALVING ICE BECOMES ICEBERGS...

SOME ARE SMALL, MORE LIKE ICE CUBES.

SOME ICEBERGS ARE AS LARGE AS THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT, OVER 4,000 SQUARE MILES.

WITH CARE, YOU CAN LAND HEAVY CARGO PLANES ON THE ICE, AS THE U.S. ANTARCTIC PROGRAM DOES TO RE-SUPPLY DISTANT FIELD CAMPS.

IN FACT, THE U.S. ANTARCTIC PROGRAM EVEN LANDS PLANES ON THE FROZEN OCEAN!

STRIP AWAY THE ICE, AND ANTARCTICA BEGINS TO REVEAL SOME IMPORTANT SECRETS...

EAST ANTARCTICA IS A CHUNK OF VERY ANCIENT ROCK, DATING FROM PERHAPS 3 BILLION YEARS AGO...

BUT WEST ANTARCTICA IS A COLLECTION OF ISLANDS, JOINED BY ICE.

SLICE THROUGH THE CONTINENT THROUGH THE PALMER PENINSULA, AND YOU CAN SEE THAT MUCH OF THIS PART IS BELOW SEA LEVEL.

IT LOOKS AS IF THIS CONTINENT FORMED IN DIFFERENT WAYS... AND SOME RESEARCHERS BELIEVE ANTARCTICA BEGAN IN DIFFERENT PLACES.

IN FACT, THEY THINK ANTARCTICA IS JUST PART OF A GLOBAL JIGSAW PUZZLE, A LIVING, DYNAMIC PLANET IN MOTION OVER MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF YEARS.

THE ENERGY WHICH TRANSFORMS EARTH'S SURFACE IS OUR PLANET'S INTERNAL HEAT.

CONVECTION PATTERNS MOVE SECTIONS OF THE EARTH'S CRUST, KNOWN AS PLATES, ACROSS THE GLOBE.

THE CONTINENTS SIT ON THOSE PLATES.

THESE IDEAS WERE FIRST DEVELOPED BY A GERMAN RESEARCHER, ALFRED WEGENER.

IT BEGAN WITH THE KIND OF SIMPLE INSIGHT A CHILD MIGHT HAVE. BUT WEGENER TOOK IT SERIOUSLY.

HE NOTED THAT THE COASTS OF AFRICA AND SOUTH AMERICA SEEMED TO FIT TOGETHER PERFECTLY, AS IF THEY HAD ONCE BEEN JOINED.

COULD IT BE, HE WONDERED, THAT SOME FORCE MOVED THEM APART?

COULD THAT FORCE CAUSE ALL EARTH'S CONTINENTS TO "DRIFT" OVER TIME?

THAT THEORY-NOW KNOWN AS "PLATE TECTONICS"-IS WHAT GEOLOGIST IAN DALZIEL AND HIS COLLEAGUES NOW BELIEVE.

AT "WINDY GULLY" IN THE TRANSANTARCTIC MOUNTAINS, HE CAN IDENTIFY ROCKS THAT HAVE COUNTER-PARTS IN WHAT WE NOW THINK OF AS OTHER CONTINENTS.

name title: IAN DALZIEL, Geologist, University of Texas

We can see essentially the whole history of the Transantarctic mountains right here. You can see layering in "buff-colored" sandstone. That sandstone is called the Beacon Sandstone. At Table Mountain in South Africa, and the Table Mountain sandstone is the same as this Beacon, and contains the same fossils. Including fossil, flora, leaves that were first found in India, and are now know throughout all of the southern continents for which the southern part of the super continent of Pangea called "Gondwana" took its name.

IN FACT IT'S NOT JUST AFRICA AND SOUTH AMERICA THAT SEEM TO HAVE BEEN JOINED TOGETHER IN WHAT'S CALLED THE SUPERCONTINENT OF "GONDWANALAND"-BUT ALL THE SOUTHERN CONTINENTS.

STILL FARTHER BACK IN TIME, ABOUT 750 MILLION YEARS AGO, DALZIEL BELIEVES WHAT'S NOW AUSTIN, TEXAS, AND COATES LAND, ANTARCTICA, WERE JOINED!

THERE ARE STILL MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT JUST HOW THE CONTINENTS ARRIVED IN THEIR PRESENT POSITIONS.

BUT NEARLY ALL GEOLOGISTS NOW ACCEPT THE STORY OF "PLATE TECTONICS" AND "CONTINENTAL DRIFT" WE CAN FOLLOW IN THIS TIMELAPSE PORTRAIT OF THE EARTH.

THE CONTINENTS WE LIVE ON RIDE ON TOP OF THE PLATES, WHICH SLIDE OVER MOLTEN ROCK.

IT'S JUST A FEW CENTIMETERS A YEAR-BUT OVER MILLIONS AND BILLIONS OF YEARS, EARTH CAN PUT A LOT OF KILOMETERS ON ITS CLOCK!

DALZIEL THINKS EARTH'S INTERNAL HEAT AND VOLCANIC ACTION ALSO SHAPED THE MOUNTAINS OF ANTARCTICA, AS WELL AS THE CONTINENT ITSELF.

Ian Dalziel in helicopter:

This is Observation Hill. This cross is a memorial to Captain Scott and his party who died on their way back from the South Pole. The hill itself is made from volcanic lava, which was a vent off a small volcano off the side of the large Mt. Erebus. And it is probably the heat from the rift systemů that the associated volcanoes, Mt. Erebus, Mt. Melbourne, and other submarine volcanoes... which applied the heat for the uplift of the Transantarctic Mountains.

DALZIEL USES THE RECORD IN THE ROCKS TO FIND OUT WHERE ANTARCTICA HAS BEEN IN THE PAST.

OTHER RESEARCHERS READ THE ROCKS TO TRACE THE LONG-TERM TEMPERATURE AND CLIMATE HISTORY OF THE CONTINENT.

IN SOME OF THE ROCKS THEY FIND FOSSILS OF PLANTS... AND TREES... AND FERNS... AND DINOSAURS!

UNDER ALL THAT ICE THERE'S EVIDENCE THAT MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO, ANTARCTICA WAS A TROPICAL FOREST!

COULD IT BE THAT, SOMEDAY, MORE TEMPERATE TIMES WILL RETURN AND ALL THAT ICE COULD MELT???

THAT'S ONE OF THE MAIN QUESTIONS THAT BRINGS RESEARCHERS HERE EACH YEAR.

BUT FIRST YOU HAVE TO TRAVEL THERE, AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET AROUND AND STAY SAFE IN ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING ENVIRONMENTS ON EARTH.

chapter head title: GETTING THERE and GETTING AROUND

THE UNITED STATES ANTARCTIC PROGRAM HAS THREE YEAR-ROUND BASES IN ANTARCTICA...

THE LARGEST IS McMURDO STATION ON THE ROSS SEA.

IT'S THE CLOSEST THING ANTARCTICA HAS TO A TOWN, WITH UP TO THIRTEEN HUNDRED RESIDENTS AT THE HEIGHT OF THE SOUTHERN SUMMER.

IT HAS GARAGES FOR SNOWCATS AND SKIDOOS AND RUNWAYS FOR SKI-EQUIPPED PLANES.

BUT IT ALSO HAS STATE-OF-THE-ART SCIENCE LABS AND SUPPORTS FIELD RESEARCH WITHIN HELICOPTER RANGE...

McMURDO THE JUMPING OFF POINT FOR AMUNDSEN-SCOTT SOUTH POLE STATION-NAMED FOR THE EXPLORERS WHO FIRST REACHED THE POLE-WHICH IS ANOTHER 700 MILES TO THE VERY END OF THE EARTH... 90 DEGREES SOUTH LATITUDE.

ON THE ANTARCTIC PENINSULA, THE FINGER OF LAND EXTENDING TOWARDS SOUTH AMERICA, IS PALMER STATION, SMALL BUT INVALUABLE FOR THE KIND OF RESEARCH ON MARINE BIOLOGY IT CAN SUPPORT.

GETTING TO THESE STATIONS IS A LESSON IN GEOGRAPHY, AND WHAT IT TAKES TO SURVIVE IN THE MOST EXTREME WEATHER CONDITIONS ON EARTH.

FOR ALL THE RESEARCHERS, SUMMER IN THE NORTH IS A HECTIC TIME TO PREPARE FOR THE PRECIOUS FEW MONTHS OF SUMMER IN THE SOUTH.

DESTINED FOR PALMER, ROBIN ROSS AND HER TEAM READY THEIR NETS AND FANCY GEAR IN SUNNY CALIFORNIA, GETTING READY TO SAMPLE THE STORMY SOUTHERN OCEAN.

THEY'LL BE TRAVELING BY ICEBREAKER... LEAVING FROM PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE, AT THE TIP OF SOUTH AMERICA.

GATHERING AT LAX, GEOLOGISTS LIKE DAVE HARWOOD WILL FLY ALL THE WAY TO McMURDO, AND STILL MORE REMOTE FIELD CAMPS.

AFTER ALL THE CRAZY MONTHS OF HARD WORK PREPARING, THE LONG PLANE RIDE TO NEW ZEALAND, LAST STOP BEFORE THE ICE, IS A CHANCE TO SNOOZE... OR CRANK OUT A FEW LAST MINUTE E-MAILS!

BUT WHETHER YOU ARRIVE BY SHIP OR PLANE, YOU NEED TO PICK UP "ECW"-EXTREME COLD WEATHER GEAR.

NSF HAS SPECIAL CLOTHING STORES AT BOTH GATEWAYS TO THE ICE.

SOME OF THE GEAR IS MORE OR LESS THE SAME. YOU NEED TO KEEP WARM.

BUT IF YOU'RE OFF TO PALMER AND THE PENINSULA, YOU'LL NEED CLOTHING SPECIALLY DESIGNED TO KEEP YOU DRY ON BOATS LARGE AND SMALL.

BUT IF YOU'RE OFF TO THE HEART OF THE CONTINENT, KEEPING WARM IS PRIORITY NUMBER 1.

LAYERS, AND LAYERS, AND LAYERS OF CLOTHING ARE WHAT YOU'LL BE PICKING UP.

THEN IT'S OFF.

FROM PUNTA ARENAS IT'S ABOUT 750 MILES... NOT SO FAR, BUT THESE ARE THE ROUGHEST SEAS ON EARTH.

THE CIRCUMPOLAR CURRENTS CHANNEL THROUGH THE DRAKE PASSAGE AND THE "ROARING 40'S" WILL GIVE YOU LITTLE REST.

GRAD STUDENTS AND PH.D'S A LIKE ALSO GET A CRASH COURSE IN HOW TO USE A LIFE BOAT... JUST IN CASE.

AND HEARD OF "GUMBY"?

THAT'S WHAT THEY CALL THESE ALL-BODY LIFE PRESERVERS WHICH JUST MIGHT SAVE YOU IN THE FREEZING WATER...

FROM CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND, THE 21 HUNDRED MILE PLANE RIDE MAY SEEM A BREEZE IN COMPARISON-UNTIL YOU REALIZE THAT YOU'RE THE CARGO IN THE HOLD OF A NOISY JET PLANE.

A BAG OF FOOD, A COUPLE OF BOTTLES OF WATER, AND EAR PLUGS ARE ESSENTIAL.

BUT THEN THE HARD WORK AND DISCOMFORT BEGIN TO PAY OFF...

SAILING TO PALMER, YOU SEE YOUR FIRST ICEBERGS... AND PENGUINS.

ARRIVING BY PLANE ON THE ICE RUNWAYS AT McMURDO, IT'S THE BLINDING LIGHT REFLECTED OFF THE ICE AND TOWERING MOUNT EREBUS THAT WELCOME YOU.

AHEAD ARE STILL MORE TRAVELS, TO UNIQUE LOCATIONS WHERE YOU'LL DO SCIENCE IMPOSSIBLE ANYWHERE ELSE ON EARTH.

EVEN WITH ALL OUR SHIPS AND TRUCKS AND PLANES, VISITING ANTARCTICA REMAINS AN ADVENTURE NEARLY ONE HUNDRED YEARS AFTER AMUNDSEN AND SCOTT MADE IT TO THE POLE.

NOW 44 NATIONS ARE PEACEFULLY UNITED IN USING THE CLEANEST AIR AND THE CLEAREST SKIES ON EARTH TO ILLUMINATE SCIENTIFIC MYSTERIES THAT ARE BEST ANSWERED HERE.

WHAT MAKES ANTARCTICA AN EXTREME ENVIRONMENT IS, IN FACT, WHAT MAKES IT SO VALUABLE.

FOR CUTTING EDGE RESEARCH, ANTARCTICA, THE LAST CONTINENT, IS THE FIRST PLACE TO GO...