Scaling New Heights: Weathering the Elements at Princess Elisabeth Antarctica
Scientists at Princess Elisabeth Antarctica use an Adam industrial floor scale to weigh containers of rock and ice samples, in preparation for transport to research laboratories around the world.
Once the samples are collected from the Antarctic terrain, they are carefully packaged, weighed and placed on sleds. Tractors tow the sleds 200km to the coast, where the boxes are loaded onto ships that carry them to their final destinations.
Managed by the International Polar Foundation, Princess Elisabeth Antarctica is the first zero-emission scientific polar research station. The facility
is located on the granite ridge of Utsteinen Nunatak in the Dronning Maud Land region of East Antarctica, where temperatures range from a low of -50°C/-58°F to a high of -5°C/2
Bone-chilling temperatures such as these aren't a problem for Adam’s industrial scale. It consistently has functioned well in Princess Elisabeth’s chilly climate for the last five years, according to Jacques Touchette, a Canadian construction specialist working at the station. Touchette regularly weighs cargo on the scale and says it performs with excellent repeatability.
"We operate the scale between 0 degrees Celsius and minus 30 degrees Celsius," Touchette said. "It does work well, and it is always left in the cold."
Researchers from different nations spend several months each year at Princess Elisabeth Antarctica studying biology, geology, geomorphology, glaciology, meteorology and astronomy. When they are ready to depart, their luggage is weighed on that same scale before boarding a small DC-3 for Novolazarevskaya Station, a Russian research base just off the coast of Antarctica. From there, they take a larger cargo plane to Cape Town, South Africa, where they can catch flights to their home countries.
Compared to other continents, Antarctica is relatively pristine, making it valuable for scientific research on climate change. And while Antarctica is a great distance away from most of Earth's inhabitants, its ice provides clues into environmental issues that affect the human race worldwide. That ice covers most of the continent and contains 70 percent of the Earth’s fresh water.
Geologists and glaciologists collect samples of ice and rock from deep below the surface of the Antarctic terrain, hoping to learn about the formation of continents, and to glean insight into how ice forms and reacts with the environment. They study the movements of polar glaciers over millions of years to gauge the global effects of rising sea levels.
These environmental concerns are the impetus for creating a zero-emission facility such as Princess Elisabeth Antarctica. During the station's design phase, architects and engineers incorporated state-of-the-art technologies to minimize impact on the environment. Solar panels and wind turbines produce the energy that powers the station, while an integrated, computerized "smart grid" manages electricity use and trains occupants to use energy more efficiently. Advanced water treatment systems facilitate wastewater recycling.
The energy solutions perfected at Princess Elisabeth Antarctica are being adapted for use in mainstream applications that will redefine energy use in homes, offices and schools worldwide.
To learn about the International Polar Foundation, visit www.polarfoundation.org.
For more information about Princess Elisabeth Antarctica, go to www.antarcticstation.org.
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