We are going to spend this week finding out as much as we can about the continent of Antarctica.
Did you know Antarctica has only two seasons? Summer and Winter.
We know how important this area is for climate change, which we will find out about this week but
there is also a historical connection that means so much to the local area of Dundee. Can you guess what it is?
We are sure you all know about RRS Discovery. We are working with our friends at Discovery Point
to bring you some great activities and information about Captain Scott and his amazing expeditions.
We are also lucky to hear this week from someone from Dundee who is travelling to Antarctica this year hopefully -
Let's see what she has to say and why she wants to go to the coldest continent on planet earth - you may want to visit yourself one day!
We now know it is the southernmost continent on earth - and 98% of it is covered with ice.
Antarctica only has two seasons - Winter and Summer. In Winter the amount of ice changes from 2 million square kilometres to 20 million square kilometres.
That is not quite the same as us having a bad winter with lots of snow!
Antarctica doubles in size in winter.
Basically between the two seasons the ice contracts and expands at an amazing rate.
During the six months of summer, it is daylight almost all the time - as the season progresses the sun stays in the sky for longer and longer. How would you know when to go to bed?
There are no humans living permanently in Antarctica. People come to visit, and we will hear about someone from Dundee Science Centre later this week who has plans to do just that!
The only residents are those who are staying in the scientific bases that are occupied mostly through the summer months although some stay during the wintertime.
Sometimes the scientist are stuck there as it can be too cold for the ships to be able to collect them.
We will find out more about what happens in the scientific bases tomorrow.
The lowest temperature on earth was recorded in Antarctica at -89.2 degrees centigrade! That is very, very cold.
2. Antarctica Wildlife
So not many people and definitely no native-born - but what about the wildlife population.
With temperatures this low what do you think can live there and what can grow for them to eat.
Wildlife that lives or spends some of the time in Antarctica have special adaptations to ensure they can stay warm in these extreme cold conditions. Some have a layer of blubber which acts as insulation and they have small flippers and feet to help too.
We all know there are penguins in fact 5 different species of penguins can be found here - but what else can live somewhere so cold!
Activity: Watch our drawing tutorials and have a go at drawing a penguin - there is one for seals too - send us your drawings - you can make them as fun and as interesting as you like!
There are 6 different species of seals - some very dangerous - and of course whales. Do some research and see what you can find out about seals and whales.
Krill are little shrimp type creatures that live in the water and are a valuable source of food for the native animals.
There are also some birds such as the Cape Pigeon and the Albatross.
All these animals and birds can be found in Antarctica at various times of the year but in fact, you would need a microscope to be able to see the creatures that live there all year round.
Activity: Have a go at making our pop up penguins with the help of the activity sheet.
3. Tardigrade - One of Antarctica's Strangest Animals
Check out this wee creepy-crawlies often referred to as a water bear!
Their real name is Tardigrade, and they
share this chilly continent with other native beasties such as rotifers and springtails. These creatures can
only be seen by a microscope as they are so tiny. But they have been here for pretty much ever and are of
great interest to scientists!
These tiny creatures are found all over the world - in the hottest deserts and the deepest oceans.
They are among the toughest and most adaptable creepy-crawly ever known.
They must be to survive the cold of Antarctica!
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
5. Learning From Ice Cores In Antarctica
Today we will learn about ice cores taken by scientists working in Antarctica and what they can tell
us about the past and how we can protect the future of our planet Earth.
What Is An Ice Core?
When it snows each Winter in Antarctica the snow falls on the snow that has already fallen; building layer after layer of snow and ice.
Each layer compresses the layer below it and traps the air at the time when it snowed into little bubbles. Look at the photograph and see how many there are in each "slice". Each bubble is a tiny
time capsule telling us exactly what the Earth's air was like at the time that particular layer of snow fell.
Scientist in Antarctica can drill down into the snow and extract long "ice cores" that tell the history of the Earth's air from long ago.
You will have heard the term greenhouse gases we are sure - researchers use the levels of these so-called greenhouse gases to measure how the planet's atmosphere has changed.
They can analyse the ice cores and measure the concentrations of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane and then compare them with the atmosphere now.
Antarctic ice cores have been extracted that are thought to be over 2 million years old! Not many cars and aeroplanes around then!
What Can We Learn From Ice Cores?
Studying climate change in Antarctica is very important as it gives a clear indicator of changing temperatures in areas of the Earth.
Antarctica is warming up much more rapidly than anywhere else - although you would not think that when looking at the videos and photos!
But scientists can learn a lot about climate change here and can report this to policymakers in the hope that we can be more aware of how we can help our planet and ensure its future health.
You will now understand why it is so important that these studies continue and we get the chance to hear about the findings and perhaps make small changes to our life that can have a massive impact in the longer term.
Watch this video from the Natural History Museum to learn more about ice cores in Antarctica.
6. Antarctica Real-Life Monsters!
Did you read about the plate tectonics in Planet Earth Week? Do you remember how the continents
have shifted apart due to underground volcanoes and earthquakes?
How do you think this has affected Antarctica? Do you think it has always been covered in thick ice?
Scientists have found evidence that about 34 million years ago it was ice-free!
One of the first people to uncover evidence of this was the explorer Robert Falcon Scott - our friends at Discovery Point will tell us more about this tomorrow.
Fossils that have been found tell us that this continent used to be covered in rainforest and lush undergrowth. And of course, dinosaurs!
Check out the link about
Sea Monsters and see what you can find out about the fossils discovered there that tell us about some of the creatures that used to live in Antarctica.
Now, use this information, and if you have time, watch the BBC Deep Oceans video to research everything about strange and
interesting creatures living there now and when it was a rain forest! Quite a contrast!
Activity: Now design a monster or dinosaur of your own! Make it as scary or as friendly as you like and send us your creations!
Icebergs can be a problem in Antarctica, as the ice melts and large chunks break off. It is tough for sea vessels around at the time to know just how deep these floating ice islands are. They also cause huge disturbances in the water when they break away.
Read about an unusually large iceberg that broke off in February 2020.
Now watch some videos showing what it is like when an iceberg breaks off!
Activity: Now have a go at
Making Your Own Iceberg with our worksheet.
You will soon realise just how much of the ice is under the water! Don't forget to send us your photographs of how you get on!
The RRS Discovery was built in Dundee in 1901. It was the first purpose built scientific research vessel for the Polar Regions and its first use was for what became known as the
Discovery Expedition (1901-1904) that took Captain Scott all the way to Antarctica. During this expedition the Discovery was to send two years locked into the ice, at one stage being over 20 miles from open water!
In 1911 the Discovery had a very unusual passenger on board for the journey from North America to the UK – a live brown bear destined for London Zoo!
At the time of sailing south for that expedition less was known about Antarctica than we now know about the planet Mars! They carried three years worth of supplies on board to help the 47 Officers, Scientists and crew to work and survive; everything from clothing, equipment, fuel, food and drink had to be crammed onto the ship. One ever present feature in the provisions lists for long voyages in those days were ships biscuits.
During their time in Antarctica great scientific work was carried out in temperatures so low that your sweat freezes. They collected fossils that helped to prove that Antarctica was once a forested, warm continent which had been connected to others (the “supercontinent” theory), they discovered the first breeding colony of Emperor Penguins, walked the furthest south any humans had ever been and Captain Scott even became the first person to fly in Antarctica, thanks to a balloon nicknamed ‘Eva’.
The Discovery Expedition had an incredible amount of food and drink supplies – including 2800lb of tea which is enough for more than 500,000 cups!
With the extreme cold a permanent danger the men of Discovery had to take many layers of specialised clothing to help them survive. Underlayers of wool and fleece were covered with thick protective jackets and trousers made of gabardine which designed to be wind proof. Reindeer, seal and even wolf furs were used for boots, gloves, sleeping bags and smocks.
Activity: Try out our
Blubber Glove Experiment and see how penguins and seals manage to survive the cold without all of the clothing the crew had.
One of the biggest risks to the crew was surprisingly from the sun. The snow and ice acts like a mirror and intensifies the effects on the human eye and can cause snow blindness. This is not only very dangerous (it’s like getting sunburn on your eye and in rare cases loss of sight can be permanent) but also incredibly painful – it is said to feel like thousands of needles hitting your eye at the same time! To reduce the possibility of getting this a variety of different protective snow goggles have been used over the years. Captain Scott preferred the wooden style based on those used for centuries in the Arctic.
During BANZARE the Discovery was equipped with a two seater airplane. You can see a short clip of it in action.
Important: Make sure you watch to the end for a near disaster captured on camera!
Who Looks After Discovery Today?
Since that first expedition the Discovery has been to Antarctica two more times for the British Oceanographic Expedition (1925-1927) and lastly the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition or ‘BANZARE’ (1929-1931). Throughout her life the ship has also been used as a cargo ship with the Hudson’s Bay Company, a transport ship during the first world war, a training ship and hostel for the Boy Scouts Association, a training or "drill" ship for the Royal Navy and finally becoming a permanent museum ship, at first with the Maritime Trust in London and then (since 1986) with Dundee Heritage Trust.
It cost Dundee Heritage Trust just £1 to buy the Discovery! However, the continual maintenance and preservation projects have cost millions since then.
Watch the video see what is happening whilst the pandemic is happening.
Would you like to be staying on board RRS Discovery during the pandemic?
Learn More About RRS Discovery
As we have learnt already you can not visit the RRS Discovery today, however, we have lots of other online resources to learn more.
Hint Hint: The more you know the easier Friday's challenge project will be!
Today we are fortunate to have a guest post from Dr Rebecca Wade, who is a lecturer at Abertay University, she teaches Environmental Science and Civil Engineering.
Rebecca is taking part in the Homeward Bound (HB) programme, a ground-breaking, global leadership initiative, set against the backdrop of Antarctica, which aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape our planet.
Watch Rebecca's fascinating talk to learn more!
You can learn more about what it is like to be there by watching this video of last year's programme ("HB4") and what last year's participants saw on their trip.
Getting Dress Up!
Antarctica can be cold, very cold and so it is essential to wear the right clothes to keep warm.
Watch this video from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) about the clothing that you would need to wear.
Travellers with BAS get a kit list – a bit like kids going to Scout camp!
In Flight Week we learnt about Drones and they are often flown in Antarctic too. Watch these videos to see what Antarctica looks like from the air.
This video shows Haley Station being moved to a new location in February 2017. British Antarctic Survey (BAS)
successfully relocated Halley VI Research Station to its new home on the Brunt Ice Shelf.
It took 13 weeks to move the world's first fully relocatable research facility 23 km across the ice.
This is a video about Rothera Station (BAS) and it shows a drone flight over the station.
Finally, today we have a longer video from SCIENTISTS AND EXPLORERS LIVE - What do Penguins and Coral Reefs have in common?
We hope you enjoyed today and see you tomorrow for our end-of-week challenge!
Rebecca Wade is passionate about working with nature to gain benefits for people and planet. She believes that by working together we can deliver multiple benefits that can help address the climate emergency, the biodiversity crisis and the need to create healthier communities for future generations.
Rebecca is a lecturer at Abertay University, she teaches Environmental Science and Civil Engineering. As a STEM ambassador she has made lots of visits to schools in Dundee and across Scotland to inspire girls and boys to study science and engineering subjects.
In addition to teaching, she carries out research on water, rivers and green & blue spaces. Her research work focusses on:
Ecosystem services (the benefits people get from nature, including people’s health and wellbeing),
River restoration (helping rivers to be more natural to reduce flooding and support wildlife), and
Sustainable water management and blue/green infrastructure (to help adapt cities to climate impacts like flooding and droughts, but also support biodiversity, and improve community spaces for people).
She runs an international network dedicated to sustainable water management (SUDSnet), is an Institution of Civil Engineers Superhero (Eco-Crusader), a gender-equality champion, a landscape champion (in SAGES and Scotland’s Landscape Alliance), a Fellow of the RSA, a Director at Dundee Science Centre (representing Abertay University) and a Trustee of the Esk Rivers and Fisheries Trust. She is also a dedicated mum, wife, friend, and mentor.
Rebecca was born in Dundee, after finishing school and college she studied geography at Dundee University. She has also studied, lived and worked in Illinois, USA. Now based back in Dundee, she has worked at Abertay University for 18 years. She works on projects that help improve the environment of Dundee and Scotland, as well as other projects that take place all over the world.
And, perhaps most importantly for this special week of DSC Antarctica projects - Rebecca is going to Antarctica! She has been selected for the prestigious international Homeward Bound initiative, a year-long women in STEMM leadership programme culminating in a life-changing voyage to Antarctica, one of the most ecologically sensitive and inspiring areas on Earth. She is super excited to share her enthusiasm for STEM and for Antarctica with all of you!
10. - Build Your Own RRS Discovery!
We hope you have enjoyed this week and have found out lots of exciting facts about Antarctica.
What did you think of the water bears?
Which penguin were you closest to in height? Not the fairy penguins for sure!
Discovery Day was exciting - we are looking forward to it opening up again and being able to visit.
Did you watch the video where the seaplane was being winched onto Discovery all those years ago - we were quite nervous
when we watched - the pilot was lucky not to have landed in that freezing seawater.
After all that hard work researching and taking notes, today we are going to have some fun building our very own Discovery!
Check out the worksheet then head to the recycle box and see what you can find.
Make a plan first, then get busy and do not forget to send us photos of your fantastic model.