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Investigating the polar regions from the inside out

Current location: Columbus, Ohio, USA
Current temperature: 15º C

A place with a name means nothing. It’s just a place, far off across the world; remote and removed from here. When I first heard the name “Byrd Camp,” my imagination conjured a vague image of white space and tents. And you know, that’s pretty much what it turned out to be.

But this place- this remote field camp in the depths of West Antarctica, became more than just a name with a vague mental image. It was a home for me and many others during the 2009-2010 POLENET field season. The enduring white horizon speckled with brightly colored tents held a collection of people that, through good days and bad, were committed to the success of a logistically challenging science research project in the most remote places of the world.

I’m often asked what POLENET is-- a question that can take a minute or an hour, depending on what you want to know. I’ll give you the minute version, and if you’d like to know more, keep checking back on the Live Feed, watch our podcasts, and get in touch with us if you like!

POLENET is a network of observation stations that are deployed on the bedrock of the polar regions. These stations collect data about how the rocks are moving every 30 seconds. This data isn’t very interesting to look at over the span of a day or two, but when studied for years at a time, it leaks out secrets of the stress that these rocks are under. As ice accumulates, the bedrock will sink under the weight. Likewise, when it melts, it will rebound-- rise up vertically in response.

So POLENET uses these measurements to learn how fast the rock is rising in response to the ice melting in the polar regions. This will give us vital clues about how, where, and at what rate the ice is melting.

To install these stations in Antarctica, POLENET scientists base themselves at strategic locations around the continent- mainly McMurdo Station, Byrd Camp, and Patriot Hills Camp (check out our map on the LiveFeed).

My name is Megan and I’ll be bringing you updates from the field as we install these stations across a continent that is one and a half times the size of the United States. Come along with me as I travel to Byrd Camp for the 2010-2011 POLENET field season. It can get lonely in the polar desert and it would be great to have you along!

Students-- check out our Challenge of the Week on the LiveFeed to win a postcard delivered to your door from Antarctica! The first challenge will be posted in early November.

Stay tuned---
megan

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