Let The Antarctic Adventure Begin

logo by Malaka Gharib i i
logo by Malaka Gharib
Freeze Frame: Sights, Sounds And Science From The Bottom Of The World
For the next five weeks, we will feature dispatches from NPR science producer Jason Orfanon as he journeys to the Antarctic Peninsula, documenting life on the front lines of climate change research. You can also keep up with him Twitter: "@jorfanon."

By Jason Orfanon
Geographical coordinates: 53 degrees 9' 0" South, 70 degrees 55' 0" West

After three flights and more than 30 hours of traveling, I have arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile. This wind-swept town of some 150,000 people serves as a launching point for National Science Foundation (NSF) research vessels headed south to Antarctica.

The Laurence M. Gould, one of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic research and supply vessel i i

The Laurence M. Gould, one of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic research and supply vessels, awaits its cargo of scientists, research assistants and crew at a dock in Punta Arenas, Chile. (Jason Orfanon/NPR) hide caption

itoggle caption
The Laurence M. Gould, one of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic research and supply vessel

The Laurence M. Gould, one of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic research and supply vessels, awaits its cargo of scientists, research assistants and crew at a dock in Punta Arenas, Chile. (Jason Orfanon/NPR)

Pictured above is one of them: the Laurence M. Gould, or LMG. This 230-foot, steel-hulled brute of ship will be my floating home for the next week. My final destination is Palmer Station, Antarctica, one of the most remote permanent research stations on Earth.

Google Map screen grab

Screen grab of Google Maps hide caption

itoggle caption

I'm here to accompany researchers studying issues related to climate change, ranging from ice and ocean currents, to microbes that feed on penguin poop, and even a possible ancient ecological disaster that could shed light on what's happening to our world today.

And the timing couldn't be better — the Antarctic Peninsula is warming faster than anywhere else on the Earth. How these changes, and others like, will influence our climate — and ultimately the future of our planet — is one of the most pressing questions of our day.

Map showing Punta Arenas, Chile. i i

A map shows Punta Arenas, Chile. (Jason Orfanon/NPR) hide caption

itoggle caption
Map showing Punta Arenas, Chile.

A map shows Punta Arenas, Chile. (Jason Orfanon/NPR)

Coming up next ... a gear-lover's dream: I get outfitted with everything I need to survive Antarctica's icy extremes.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.