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60 years in Antarctica

NZ is celebrating 60 years in Antarctica this week. The Hillary hut has been fully restored – repaired and painted – in time for the celebrations. It was first used by Sir Edmund Hillary before starting on his tractor journey to the South Pole.

60 years ago was the start of the International Geophysical Year which involved 67 countries. It was the start of east-west cooperation on a number of earth sciences including the effects of solar activity. It was the year in which the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. It was also the year in which New Zealand started scientific research in the Antarctic.

One important finding was a discovery by a New Zealand Geology student of a fossil of an animal which was alive at the time of the dinosaurs. This showed that the climate in the Antarctic must have been much warmer. The fossil was also found in other parts of the world. This led to a better understanding of plate tectonics and continental drift.

To celebrate the important work in the Antarctic, the New Zealand base, Scott Base, is hosting a TEDx event. TED means Technology, Entertainment, Design and TED speakers usually speak for about 18 minutes. These talks are available on the internet. This TEDx event was filmed last week and will be broadcast tomorrow. A number of New Zealand and overseas experts will talk about climate change and how it could affect the Antarctic and the world. The speakers include an astronaut, a filmmaker, a photographer and some scientists.


Note: Antarctica or the Antarctic – either is acceptable but if you choose the second option, you need to use ‘the’ and pronounce it ‘thee’.

• solar activity – effects of the sun (solar – adj from the sun; cf lunar activity from the moon)
• launch (v) – to put a new ship in the water or a new satellite into the atmosphere
• fossil (n) – the preserved remains of a plant or animal which existed many years ago
• plate tectonics – the theory that the outer shell of the earth is made up of several plates which move
• continental drift – the theory that continents were once joined together but drifted apart