National Geographic : 2012 Jul
could be home to life-forms that have long been charting a separate evolutionary course. With such matters in mind, we set o . in the offices of Antarctica New Zealand, in Christchurch, where a jolly man called Chris issued us clothes: long un- derwear, two pairs of eece trousers (thick and thin), two eece jackets (ditto), a pair of wind- proof overalls, a light jacket of synthetic down, a windbreaker, a heavy jacket of real down, two pairs of boots, two pairs of thick socks, down tent slippers, nine pairs of gloves and mittens, a hat, a balaclava, a neck gaiter (a scarf shaped like a tube), snow goggles, and sunglasses. Because Antarctica is a desert, albeit a chilly one, Chris also gave each of us a widemouthed water bottle emblazoned with the command along with a list of the more common signs of dehydration. Thus outfitted, we flew on a U.S. military transport plane---along with a few other pas- sengers and some huge crates labeled "Do not freeze"---to Ross Island. We landed on an expanse of sea ice and stepped out into a land- scape of white, blue, and gold. White: ice, snow, clouds. Blue: sky, certain kinds of ice, and where you can see it, open ocean. Gold: re ections of the sun off ice or clouds. But we didn't have long to take it in, because we were met by a man wearing a gigantic bobbled hat and driven the short distance to Scott Base, New Zealand's re- search station in Antarctica, for training. Even in these modern times, when if some- thing goes wrong there's a reasonable chance of rescue, the practicalities of Antarctic travel are detailed and complex. "Make no assumptions," e microbiology team gets ready to sample the volcano's hot soils. To protect the resident life-forms from invasive ones, the researchers spray their boots with ethanol to remove any contaminants and wear sterile suits over their cold-weather gear---giving them the look of monstrous snowmen.