Sitting where I am, at a desk in my own cozy room at Palmer Station, overlooking a magnificent bluish iceberg in the middle of the Antarctic Peninsula, December 1st seems an especially meaningful day: 50 years ago today, 12 nations sat down and signed the Antarctic Treaty, designating this achingly beautiful white continent as one for all humanity, a whole continent devoted to science, not to war or mining. It has worked out well. But now that Antarctica is at the crux of practically all climate change issues, I can’t but hope we continue to protect this amazing world of ice.
It is a bit strange to feel so far from the rest of the world and yet be the center of issues, as I am sure Antarctica will be at the forefront of discussions at the next UN’s climate change conference in Copenhagen, on December 7th.
Scientists here, however, didn’t seem to ponder too much about the specialness of the day, at least not out loud. Instead, they took advantage of the radiant sunny, windless, downright perfect and hot day, and scrambled on black zodiacs to go visit penguins and whales and elephant seals in the gloriously glassy waters of the Palmer Archipelago. We science writers obliged and followed suit.