Rising Temperatures in Antartica

This past year was the hottest year on record and 2016 is on track to eclipse that record. Rising temperatures in Antarctica are going to have the most dramatic effect on sea levels. Global warming and how it relates to Antarctica will be one of the things I will be covering in this blog in more detail. But first a bit of my philosophy.

One of my philosophies is that there is almost invariably something good about the bad things that happen in one’s life. Sometimes the good aspect is not readily apparent, but becomes clear later on. Say, for example, you get hurt badly in an accident, but then while rehabilitating yourself from that injury, you learn a great deal about how to recover from subsequent injuries. And maybe you learn how to prevent a similar injury in the future. I could give many examples, but I think you get the idea.

So using this philosophical approach, I can actually find something good about Donald Trump’s candidacy. He does not believe in man-made global warming and if he became president he would nullify the historic global climate accord reached in Paris by sixty nations last December. I thought the climate accord was a done deal, but that is not so. Like many things, the devil is in the details. In order for the accord to become law, it must be approved by at least fifty-five nations and those giving their approval must be responsible for at least 55 percent of the climate altering missions. Even if all sixty nations formally approved the accord—as China and the US did recently—they still would only account for 48 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Normally it takes several years if not decades for an international agreement to become law, but thanks to Donald Trump it looks like the accord can become law this year. At a UN ceremony two days ago fourteen more countries said they would approve the accord this year. For many of these countries, the matter has become much more urgent based on their fears that Trump could become president.
 

"The Pursuit of Endurance: on the Shoulders of Shackleton"

I had the honor of meeting Luc Hardy on September 13, 2016 following a screening of his excellent new documentary film,” The Pursuit of an Endurance – On the Shoulders of Shackleton”. Mr. Hardy is an experienced polar explorer, venture capitalist and vice president of Green Cross. He produced the film and led the expedition that traced Shackleton’s heroic voyage between Elephant Island and South Georgia Island, as well as Shackleton’s treacherous crossing of this mountainous island. Although I knew about the crossing, I now have a much better idea of the degree of difficulty Shackleton faced when he crossed the island with two of his men 100 years ago. Shackleton traversed the then uncharted island, ridged with 10,000 foot peaks, with primitive equipment and little supplies in thirty-six hours. In contrast, Mr. Hardy’s expedition, with modern equipment, maps, and tremendous logistical support, needed several attempts before they were successful.

In the Q&A following the film, I was surprised to learn how many people had never even heard of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famous polar explorer who helped save his men from almost certain death after their ship, the Endurance was crushed in the Weddell Sea icepack. Their story of survival in the brutal conditions of Antarctica is beyond compare. Of course, I didn’t know much about Shackleton either, until 1970 when I was the ship’s doctor aboard a Coast Guard icebreaker, the Glacier, and we ended up hopelessly trapped in the same icepack, in essentially the same place as Shackleton, 100 miles from open water. Fortunately, our outcome was far less harrowing then Shackleton’s and it gave me a great story to tell.

The attached trailer of Luc Hardy’s film should give you a much better idea about Shackleton’s saga. I will be writing more about Shackleton in subsequent posts.

Interesting Facts about Antartica

Antarctica is the driest continent. With all that snow and ice, you would not think so, but it actually gets less precipitation than many deserts. It seems that there is more snow there because most of it does not melt. It will blow around and develop the consistency of talcum powder that gets into everything. Eventually most snow there turns into ice.

The first person to discover Antarctica was a Russian, Thaddeus von Bellingshausen, on January 1, 1820, but he wasn’t given official credit for his discovery until late in the twentieth century. Apparently Russia was not particularly impressed by his discovery nor did they tell the rest of the world. Bellingshausen’s logbooks were destroyed in the Russian Revolution. It wasn’t until 1982, when Polar Historian, A.G.E Jones, reviewed Bellingshausen’s diary, a report to the Russian Naval Ministry, dated July 21, 1821, and other documents in a Russian museum that he determined that Bellingshausen had discovered Antarctica a mere two days before a British Royal Navy officer, Edward Bransfield.

The largest iceberg ever recorded was Iceberg B-15. It measured 4,200 square miles, which is about the size of Connecticut or the island of Jamaica. An iceberg that large could supply the world’s need for drinking water for a year.

Welcome!

Welcome to my new blog site. I am a retired physician who spent seven months as a Ship’s Doctor aboard a Coast Guard icebreaker, including five months cruising and busting ice in Antarctic oceans. My focus for this blog will primarily be about all things directly or indirectly related to Antarctica, particularly topics discussed in my nearly finished novel, Wind, Fire and Ice: The Perils of a Coast Guard Icebreaker in Antarctica. I will be writing about such as things as the Southern Ocean, Antarctic history, Sir Earnest Shackleton, polar icebreakers, geography, medicine, ecology, marine science, expedition psychology, global warming and military life. But I’m not going to paint myself into a corner regarding the topics I’ll cover. I have an adventurous spirit and a curious mind. One of the joys of starting any writing project is not knowing exactly where it will end. Although I may stray from central topics from time to time, I’ll always try to keep things interesting.