Veronika Meduna on science in Antarctica

Veronika Meduna (from Radio NZ’s Our Changing World) reflects on the New Zealand’s contribution to Antarctic science in a column for the Press.

Veronika is the author of Science on Ice: Discovering the Secrets of Antarctica, published by Auckland University Press, and will be in Christchurch for The Press Christchurch Writers Festival event The Big Chill on Friday.

An excerpt from the Press column (read in full here):

Antarctica a window into the past

First-time Antarctic visitors trying to describe their impressions often end up borrowing phrases from Antarctic heroes such as Scott and Shackleton – or they are completely lost for words. When I got my first brief aerial view of the Ice through the porthole of a C-130 Hercules, all I was able to produce was a muzzled shriek. Then, as I finally emerged from the cargo plane’s exit hatch, I was gasping silently, like a fish out of water.

The immensity of the icy landscape is hard to fathom. Space and distance are beyond comprehension. From the ice runway near Scott Base, the summit of steaming Mt Erebus looks like a day’s walk. Yet, it is 70km away and at 3794m surpasses any peak in New Zealand.

The reason for this distorted perception is the crisp, clear air and a lack of familiar reference points in the landscape.

A thick blanket of ice rises to more than 4000 metres above sea level, buries towering mountain peaks and smooths the contours of the underlying ranges. It also conceals our planet’s best- kept archive of past climate conditions, stretching back millions of years far beyond the earliest stirrings of human evolution or even the demise of the dinosaurs.

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