A Vast White Wilderness
Antarctica is a frozen, windswept continent. A vast white wilderness with towering mountain ranges, enormous ice shelves and endless plateaus.
One and a half times the size of the USA, it is the coldest, windiest and most elevated continent on earth. It’s also the driest, experiencing only 200mm of rainfall a year, making Antarctica the world’s largest desert.
Expeditions into the heart of the continent often find themselves hundreds of miles away from any other human life. It’s an extremely remote and desolate place.
Temperatures tend to fluctuate around an average of -28°C in summer, dropping to -58°C in winter. The permanent cold means hypothermia and frostbite are ever present dangers.
In September the sun rises and does not set until March the following year, making it constant sunlight during the summer months. In contrast, there is no sunlight at all for six whole months during winter. The Willis Resilience Expedition takes place in November/December and will experience permanent sunlight.
The South Pole is located at the top of a large plateau which stands 2,835m (9,301ft). From the coast, Parker will need to ascend to the plateau, climbing to altitude from near sea-level.
On his way, he will need to avoid hurricane force Katabatic winds which can arrive in seconds, burying kit and entire camps without warning. He will also need to avoid lethal crevasses which, with one wrong move, can open up underfoot and plunge the individual in to an icy, cavernous darkness.
A ‘Coast-to-Pole’ expedition isn’t an undertaking that comes without risk. It’s an epic journey that will encompass all the beauty and danger Antarctica has to offer.
Climate Change & Antarctica
Antarctica is essentially two geologically distinct regions; East and West, separated by the Transantarctic Mountains and joined by a huge ice sheet. This makes Antarctica a powerful heat sink which strongly affects the climate of the whole planet hence the phrase “global thermometer”. Alterations to the annual sea ice cover around the continent affect climate all over the world.
Climate change in Antarctica has been studied by a number of organizations in recent years:
“The climate of the high latitude areas is more variable than that of tropical or mid-latitude regions and has experienced a huge range of conditions over the last few million years.
The snapshot we have of the climate during the instrumental period is tiny in the long history of the continent, and separation of natural climate variability from anthropogenic influences is difficult. However, the effects of increased greenhouse gases are already evident, and the effects of their expected increase over the next century, if they continue to rise at the current rate, will be remarkable because of their speed.
We can make reasonably broad estimates of how characteristics such as temperature, precipitation and sea ice extent might change, and consider the possible impact on marine and terrestrial biota. We cannot yet say with confidence how the large ice sheets of Antarctic will respond, but observed recent rapid changes give cause for concern – especially for the stability of parts of West Antarctica.”
SCAR’s Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment (ACCE)
Review Report, 2009
“Both the ice sheet and the sea ice are potentially subject to change in a changing climate; the ice sheet, in fact, may be changing now in response to past climate change. The greatest threat to the inhabited world comes from the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS), which rests on a bed far below sea level and so may have the potential for rapid shrinkage.
The Antarctic is vast, remote and difficult to monitor, the physical behavior of the ice sheet is so complex that there is as yet no definitive demonstration (or disproof) of such change, even though a pronounced climatic warming is ongoing in one northerly portion of the continent.
The Antarctic ice sheet contains sufficient ice to raise world-wide sea level by more than 60 meters if melted completely.
The amount of snow deposited annually on the ice sheet is equivalent to about 5 mm of global sea level, as is the mean annual discharge of ice back into the ocean. Thus, a modest imbalance between the input and output of ice might be a major contributor to the present-day rise in sea level (1.5–2 mm per year), but the uncertainty is large.”
The Antarctica and the Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC)