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U.S. Antarctic Program Images
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The 46 images below depict aspects of the U.S. Antarctic Program, America's principal expression of interest in the region and, as a set, can be used to present a summary of the US Antarctic Program. 

The National Science Foundation periodically updates this set of images and is eager to consider adding good images, especially those depicting science.  If you are interested in contributing images, please contact David Friscic (dfriscic@nsf.gov) at 703-292-8031.  You will be asked to provide a caption describing the image, giving the date it was taken and identifying the photographer.  Although you will retain copyright to the image, by donating images you agree that  they can be placed on US Government Web sites for free downloading and that the Government can sell copies of them on a cost reimbursable basis. 

The Foundation maintains two collections of antarctic images:

  • an online library of digital images of current science and support activities in Antarctica at the Raytheon Polar Services Company site. These images are available to the public and can be downloaded directly from the Raytheon site.
  • an archival collection of slides, photographs, and videos at the US Antarctic Resource Center at the US Geological Survey headquarters in Reston, Virginia.  These images show science at antarctic stations and camps, support work, vehicles, aircraft, ships, and Antarctica's vegetation, wildlife, mountains, and ice. 
To order antarctic images from the U.S. Geological Survy, please contact: 

Angel Gonzalez 
US Antarctic Resource Center 
US Geological Survey, MS 515 
Reston, Virginia 20192 
703-648-6010 (telephone), 703-648-6755 (fax) 

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1. United States Antarctic Program logo. The ice-covered continent of Antarctica is white, and the major ice shelves (i.e., floating glacier ice) are light blue. Lines of longitude are red, and the Prime Meridian (Greenwich, or 0 ° longitude) points up. The National Science Foundation, a Federal agency, funds and manages the program. Field participants include scientists from universities, other research institutions, and Federal agencies, the NSF contractor Antarctic Support Associates and other contractors and subcontractors, the Department of Defense (Navy and Air Force), and the Coast Guard. Credit: NSF. 

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2. Antarctica from space. This famous photograph of Earth shows Antarctica near the height of the austral summer and thus almost fully illuminated by the Sun. The Apollo 17 crew took the picture on 7 December 1972 while traveling toward the Moon, the first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the antarctic ice sheet. The digital image is on NASA's Web site as 72-HC-928; the original is on 70mm film. Credit: NASA

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3. Antarctica/US relative size. The continent of Antarctica is 5.4 million square miles, all but 2.6 percent of which is ice-covered. The contiguous United States is 3.6 million square miles. Credit: NSF

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4. Sea ice maximum, October. Sea ice around Antarctica varies from about 8 million square miles in September or October to about 1 million square miles in January or February. This image from the Nimbus 7 Scanning Multichannel Multiwave Radiometer, which operated from 1978 to 1987 shows the sea ice maximum in October. Credit: NASA

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5. Sea ice minimum, February. Sea ice around Antarctica varies from about 8 million square miles in September or October to about 1 million square miles in January or February. This image from the Nimbus 7 Scanning Multichannel Multiwave Radiometer, which operated from 1978 to 1987, shows the sea ice minimum in February. Credit: NASA

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6. Tabular iceberg. The iceberg calved from Antarctica, having originated as fresh-water ice resulting from precipitation on the continent. Surrounding the iceberg is sea ice, which is frozen sea water. Icebergs can be hundreds of feet thick. Sea ice rarely exceeds 10 feet in thickness. Credit: NSF

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7. Glacier and Royal Society Range. Glaciers pass from the polar plateau through mountain passes like this one, some reaching speeds of 800 meters per year. By contrast, the ice sheet at South Pole Station, in the continental interior, is moving about 10 meters per year. Credit: NSF

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8. Cutaway, land under ice. The thickness of the antarctic ice sheet averages 2,160 meters and at one point is 4,776 meters — just short of 3 miles. This ice is 90 percent of all the world's ice; it is 70 percent of all the world's fresh water. Portions of the bedrock are below sea level. Credit: National Geographic Society

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9. US Antarctic Program, sites of major activities. The map locates the three year-round stations — McMurdo, Amundsen-Scott South Pole, and Palmer — and shows the operating areas of research ships and the Coast Guard icebreaker. Vostok, also shown, is a Russian station that collaborates with the United States and other nations in collecting a deep ice core. Credit: NSF

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10. Geographic South Pole. The copper pipe marks the exact spot of 90 degrees South latitude as determined each January using the satellite-based Global Positioning System, or GPS. In the mid-background are flags of the original 12 signatory nations to the Antarctic Treaty. In background is the geodesic dome housing facilities of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Credit: Lynn Teo Simarski, NSF

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11. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, named to commemorate the Norwegian and English explorers who were the first humans to reach the pole in December 1911 and January 1912. The research station has been in continuous operation since 1956. Its population during the winter isolation (February-October) is about 27, and the summer population can exceed 180. Astronomy, astrophysics, atmospheric studies, glaciology, and seismology are performed here. The station is supplied entirely by air from McMurdo. Credit: Lynn Teo Simarski, NSF

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12. Palmer Station, smallest and northernmost of America's three year-round research stations in Antarctica. The summer population is 43; winter, about 10. Marine biology is the major scientific pursuit, and the area is a designated National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Research site. The station is supplied by ship from South America. Credit: Ann Parks Hawthorne, NSF

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13. McMurdo Station. The segmented, tan building (46,500 square feet) at center is the Albert P. Crary Science & Engineering Center, built in the 1990s to replace several aging research facilities. Beyond the lab are dormitories (brown buildings) and the research ship Nathaniel B. Palmer in tiny Winter Quarters Bay. Beyond the bay are Hut Point and McMurdo Sound. McMurdo is the logistics hub of most of the US Antarctic Program. Most cargo and all fuel come to McMurdo by one cargo ship and one tanker per year. Credit: Lynn Teo Simarski, NSF

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14. Dorm interior. A typical dormitory room at McMurdo. Each room normally houses two people and shares a bath with another room. Credit: Stuart Klipper, NSF

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15. Recycling bins. The US Antarctic Program removes all its solid and hazardous waste from Antarctica. About 70 percent is recycled. Sorting of waste at the source is a responsibility of all. Here are recycle containers in front of McMurdo Station dormitories. South Pole and all camps send all their trash to McMurdo for removal from Antarctica. Credit: Joyce Jatko, NSF. 

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16. Satellite communications. Modern research requires modern communications. Antarctic stations and ships have Internet thanks to installations such as this one on Black Island, near McMurdo. Windmills provide much of the power required. Credit: Lynn Teo Simarski, NSF

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17. Remote camp. Camps placed by airplane or helicopter enable researchers to get where they need to go for the amount of time they need to complete their work. These tents are similar to Robert F. Scott's, although more modern designs also are used. Credit: Bert Rowell, NSF

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18. Building a snow shelter. Before leaving McMurdo to work at remote sites, scientists and support personnel are trained in survival techniques, including building shelters using snow. Credit: Peter West, NSF

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19. McMurdo Station annual population cycle. In August, several flights from New Zealand raise McMurdo's population from its winter minimum with early science and support staff to prepare for summer. In October the population rises quickly, and over the summer people arrive and depart several times a week. In late February, when reduced daylight and plummeting temperatures make field research impractical, the population drops to the winter minimum. Populations here are for the three years June 1994 through May 1997. Credit: NSF

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20. USAF C-5B landing on the McMurdo Sound sea ice runway. The annual airlift of people and priority cargo that opens the austral summer season uses Air Mobility Command (US Air Force) C-141s and C-5s. The runway is usable until early December, when the sea ice deteriorates from summer warmth. Credit: NSF

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21. Helicopter being unloaded from a C5 at McMurdo. A contractor (Petroleum Helicopters Inc., or PHI) operates four helicopters in summer, supporting scientists within about 100 miles from McMurdo or from camps established nearly anywhere in Antarctica. Credit: NSF

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22. LC-130 Hercules The four-engine, ski-equipped air transport is the backbone of the US Antarctic Program and makes it possible for scientists to work at nearly any location in Antarctica. The airplane can land on wheels or on skis. Only the United States has ski-equipped Hercules. The planes shown in this picture are operated by the Air National Guard of Schenectady, New York, for the National Science Foundation. The Air National Guard also operates LC-130s in Greenland in support of NSF sponsored arctic research. Credit: Josh Landis, NSF/RPSC

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23. Nathaniel B. Palmer, the 308-ft research icebreaker built in Louisiana in 1992 to support US research in the ice-covered seas around Antarctica. The ship operates year-round. It and Palmer Station are named for Nathaniel B. Palmer, a Connecticut sealer (later a ship builder) who may have been the first person to see Antarctica — in 1820. Edison Chouest Offshore built the ship and operates it under charter to the US Antarctic Program. Credit: Stuart Klipper, NSF

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24. Laurence M. Gould, shown here near Palmer Station, entered into antarctic service in early 1998 to support science in the Antarctic Peninsula region and to supply Palmer Station.  The 230-ft ship is ice-strengthened.  Edison Chouest Offshore built the ship and operates it under charter to the US Antarctic Program. 
Credit:  David Bresnahan, NSF

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25. USCGC Polar Star is one of the US Coast Guard's two Polar-class icebreakers. The sister ship is Polar Sea. The Coast Guard's primary antarctic mission is to open the channel to McMurdo each year to enable delivery of cargo and fuel. It also supports some science as shown here. Credit: Ann Parks Hawthorne, NSF

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26. Icebreaker in channel. A Coast Guard Polar-class icebreaker escorts a supply ship through a channel that it has broken open. South winds eventually will remove the broken ice, leaving the channel ice-free. Credit: M. Merthaler, NSF

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27. Icebreaker and tanker. McMurdo's wharf, built in winter by pumping water into place in numerous 6-inch lifts, of ice, is in Winter Quarters Bay. A polar-class icebreaker and a tanker are alongside. Credit: Stuart Klipper, NSF

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28. Ice coring provides a history book of former climates and atmospheric constituents going back as much as 250,000 years. One of Antarctica's most important scientific exports, ice cores provide clues to future global climates. Credit: NSF

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29. Weather station, one of dozens of automated ones that have been placed at locations around Antarctica. The stations transmit data every 2 minutes to the University of Wisconsin. Credit: Ann Parks Hawthorne, NSF

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30. Air samples are collected at the clean air facility at South Pole Station. This air, far from industrial sources, is the cleanest on Earth. Measurements of minute changes of trace amounts of constituents over the years has enabled documentation of changes in the planet's background levels of "greenhouse" gases such as carbon dioxide. Credit: Ann Parks Hawthorne, NSF

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31. Ozone balloon. Expeditions to McMurdo in August 1986 and 1987, shortly after the ozone hole was first reported, provided measurements through a column of the stratosphere that gave strong indications that man-made chemicals cause the hole. Some of the measurements were made by sensors taken aloft by balloons. Such measurements continue to refine understanding of the ozone hole. Credit: Jose Lopez Jr., NSF

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32. Total ozone. A NASA instrument — called TOMS (Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer) — records ozone depletion above Antarctica. Commonly called the “antarctic ozone hole,” the depleted area is three times larger than the entire land mass of the United States the largest such area ever observed. The "hole" expanded to a record size of approximately 11 million square miles (28.3 million square kilometers) on 3 September 2000. The previous record was approximately 10.5 million square miles (27.2 million square km) on 19 September 1998. The lowest readings in the ozone hole are typically observed in late September or early October each year. Credit: The TOMS science team and the Scientific Visualization Studio, NASA/GSFC

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33. UV monitor. Stratospheric ozone depletion results in harm to biota because it allows more of the Sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation to reach the surface. The US Antarctic Program operates UV monitors at its three antarctic stations and at three locations outside Antarctica. Credit: Ann Parks Hawthorne, NSF

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34. This 29-million-cubic-foot balloon being launched by the National Scientific Balloon Facility near McMurdo takes a 4,000-pound research payload to 125,000 feet altitude, where if all goes well it circumnavigates Antarctica; staying aloft 8 to 10 days to record galactic cosmic rays, gamma rays, and X-rays to help understand the far reaches of the universe. Credit: NSF

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35. Vertebrate fossils. The discovery in Antarctica of fossil plants, reptiles, and marsupials that are the same species as those found on the other southern continents has virtually clinched the argument that the continents were joined millions of years ago and that Antarctica's climate once was temperate. Credit: NSF

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36. Cryptoendolithic microorganisms. In the McMurdo Dry Valleys, cold-adapted algae live in favorable microclimates just beneath the surface of porous rocks facing the Sun. Credit: Russ Kinne, NSF.

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37. Astrophysical research. CARA (Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica), an NSF-funded project headed by Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago, and involving other institutions, takes advantage of the extremely clear (because it is cold and dry) atmosphere at the South Pole to make observations in a number of wavelengths, particularly the infrared. The CARA flag and two research facilities are shown. Credit: Stuart Klipper, NSF

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38. Biologist diving through sea ice. Study of the abundant marine ecosystems around Antarctica often involves diving through holes in the sea ice. Credit: NSF

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39. Krill (Euphausia superba), about an inch long, are extremely numerous around Antarctica, and much of the region's other animal life depends on krill directly or indirectly for food. Credit: Peggy Hammer, NSF

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40. Penguin rookery. These are Adélie penguins on Torgersen Island near Palmer Station. Credit: Ann Parks Hawthorne, NSF

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41. Emperor penguins are large (about 4 feet tall), breed only in the Antarctic, and they number an estimated 500,000. Of the estimated total of 350 million birds of all species in the Antarctic, about 175 million are penguins, and the rest are flying birds. Adélie penguins are the most plentiful penguins. Credit: PH1 Thompson (USN), NSF.

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42. Tagging seals. The Weddell seal population in McMurdo Sound has been well documented over the last 3 decades. Study of these seals, whose population is stable, helps scientists understand stressed populations such as those in the Hawaiian Islands and the Bering Sea. Credit: PH1 T. McCabe (USN), NSF. 

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43. Elephant seals are found in the Antarctic Peninsula area and on subantarctic islands. They do not range as far south as McMurdo. Credit: NSF

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44. US policy for Antarctica. Credit: NSF

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45. Antarctic Treaty. The principal measures of the treaty. There are 45 member nations, of which 27 are consultative (have voting rights) because they are original (1959) signatories or perform substantial scientific research in the Antarctic. Credit: NSF

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46. President's memorandum 6646 (5 February 1982). This document tasks the Government with operation of the US Antarctic Program. Credit: NSF

 Images prepared for  NSF/USAP by Greg Coats, US Geological Survey.  Last updated:   February 2001 (images); 19 December 2003 (text)
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