National Geographic : 2013 Jan
367 ft ANTARCTICA South Pole 50°S60° Antarctic Pod There’s only one current that circles Antarctica. At the bottom of the planet, wind whips the water around and around without any land to get in the way. Because these waters are so dangerous to study, scientists depend largely on data from automated floats and summer research ships. That’s what makes explorer Jean-Louis Etienne’s new research pod important. Scheduled to be deployed in 2015, the vessel will act like a buoy and be steered by the Circum- polar Current—it’ll be towed out, then let go. Critical to Etienne’s design is a stable platform 80 feet above the water, so researchers can study how the ocean and air interact plus accurately measure salinity, temperature, and currents, nighttime and daytime, year-round. The pod might also tell scientists more about the feeding areas whales depend on. — Gretchen Parker NEXT ART: DON FOLEY. MAP: INTERNATIONAL MAPPING SOURCES: JEAN-LOUIS ETIENNE; LAURENT MERMIER, SHIP STUDIO Little fuel is needed; wind turbines generate electricity. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current is the world’s largest. The body of the research pod can accommodate a crew of seven. Tanks filled with seawater keep the vessel vertical. The heaviest sections stay underwater to enhance stability.