Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

South Pole re-routed

26.02.2002


Satellites see through snow to steer safely across Antarctica.


Snow knowing: the south pole is a navigation nightmare.
© SPL


’Linda’ marks the spot where a hidden ice crevasse swallowed a snow tractor.
© SPOT Image Corp.



Satellite images that expose perilous crevasses now reveal safe overland routes to the South Pole. Carolyn Merry of Ohio State University in Columbus has pieced together high-resolution satellite pictures that see through the snow, to map the passable Pole1.

Since a snow tractor, floundered into a hidden fissure in 1991, all supplies have been flown into the US South Pole research station. Safe transport routes might be a cheaper way to bring in bulk provisions or building materials for the new polar station currently being built.


"It would be a very good tool," says Cecilie Rolstad of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. In future, polar explorers might study satellite maps before setting out, she predicts. Yawning abysses the length of a football pitch "are a real danger", says Rolstad.

Merry used infrared images from the Landsat satellite, to pick out light and dark features on snow and ice, plus a visible light image from the SPOT satellite. She mapped routes starting at the McMurdo station, the main port into Antarctica, across the vast Ross Ice Shelf.

Like isobars on a weather map, sweeping lines and rifts on Merry’s map reveal the direction and rates that the ice is flowing and shearing. "It shows areas you should avoid," she says.

Snow fall

"The surface was white snow for miles around; we could see no relief," recalls tractor driver Quinton Rhoton: "Then gravity struck."

In 1991, Rhoton and his companion were driving a snow tractor out from McMurdo dragging a sled full of explosives too dangerous to ship by air. They plummeted into a hidden crevasse. "Shattered glass from the cab window and snow streamed into the cab," remembers Rhoton. Wedged by a V-shaped gash in the ice, 16 tonnes of cargo were left teetering on the icy lip above them.

Without handholds on the sheer walls, the two waited in the tractor for several hours before other group members hauled them out with ropes.

The crevasse was hidden under an ice bridge - undetectable to the eye - but visible in Cherry’s satellite images. The map suggests that the crevasse formed upstream of the crash site, as stresses on the ice appear insufficient at that spot. "I would have told them not to go there," says Merry.

References

  1. Whillans, I.M. & Merry, C.J. Analysis of a shear zine where a tractor fell into a crevasse, western side of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Cold Regions Science and Technology, 33, 1 - 17, (2002).

HELEN PEARSON | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/020225/020225-1.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Ozone-depleting substances caused half of late 20th-century Arctic warming, says study
21.01.2020 | Earth Institute at Columbia University

nachricht NASA, NOAA analyses reveal 2019 second warmest year on record
16.01.2020 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A new look at 'strange metals'

For years, a new synthesis method has been developed at TU Wien (Vienna) to unlock the secrets of "strange metals". Now a breakthrough has been achieved. The results have been published in "Science".

Superconductors allow electrical current to flow without any resistance - but only below a certain critical temperature. Many materials have to be cooled down...

Im Focus: Programmable nests for cells

KIT researchers develop novel composites of DNA, silica particles, and carbon nanotubes -- Properties can be tailored to various applications

Using DNA, smallest silica particles, and carbon nanotubes, researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) developed novel programmable materials....

Im Focus: Miniature double glazing: Material developed which is heat-insulating and heat-conducting at the same time

Styrofoam or copper - both materials have very different properties with regard to their ability to conduct heat. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz and the University of Bayreuth have now jointly developed and characterized a novel, extremely thin and transparent material that has different thermal conduction properties depending on the direction. While it can conduct heat extremely well in one direction, it shows good thermal insulation in the other direction.

Thermal insulation and thermal conduction play a crucial role in our everyday lives - from computer processors, where it is important to dissipate heat as...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer IAF establishes an application laboratory for quantum sensors

In order to advance the transfer of research developments from the field of quantum sensor technology into industrial applications, an application laboratory is being established at Fraunhofer IAF. This will enable interested companies and especially regional SMEs and start-ups to evaluate the innovation potential of quantum sensors for their specific requirements. Both the state of Baden-Württemberg and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are supporting the four-year project with one million euros each.

The application laboratory is being set up as part of the Fraunhofer lighthouse project »QMag«, short for quantum magnetometry. In this project, researchers...

Im Focus: How Cells Assemble Their Skeleton

Researchers study the formation of microtubules

Microtubules, filamentous structures within the cell, are required for many important processes, including cell division and intracellular transport. A...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

„Advanced Battery Power“- Conference, Contributions are welcome!

07.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new look at 'strange metals'

21.01.2020 | Materials Sciences

Body's natural signal carriers can help melanoma spread

21.01.2020 | Health and Medicine

Structual color barcode micromotors for multiplex biosensing

21.01.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>