Not long ago, as geologists measure time, the now snow white continent of Antarctica was a wonderland of lush cool rainforests, swampy tundra, and wooded plains populated with megabeasts of every clade. Today, it is both the largest desert on earth and, paradoxically, the world's greatest reservoir of fresh water, enough to give every person alive their own chunk of ancient ice larger than the Great Pyramid. And courtesy of Quark Expeditions, one lucky blogger will win an all expense paid trip to document the magnificent desolation, colorful wildlife and hardy fauna, and the alarming changes now occurring in the last true wilderness left on earth.
Quark has left the decision on which blogger to send to the blogosphere. This community has the power to play a key role in choosing who goes and it happens that two registered Kossacks are among a field of great candidates competing for the prize. Both hold a PhD in biology, each is a veteran blogger who has dedicated a huge portion of their life to the pursuit of science, and have spent untold thousands of man-hours defending science from ideological opportunists and culture warriors. Both have been actively campaigning for the contest and each has written a diary about it in hope of earning your vote.
Antarctica diary is here; VOTE for him here.
Antarctica diary is here; VOTE for her here.
It's a one vote per PC rule, takes only a few seconds to sign up and vote, and don't feel constrained by the two choices above. I strongly recommended perusing all the candidate entries. If there are other Kossacks in the contest, or someone else you personally vouch for, don't hesitate to link that person's voting page below and I can link at least a few here. Never forget: just like in any election, if you don't vote, someone else will, and elections have consequences.
When looking at video and pictures from Antarctica, it's not hard to imagine one is looking at images from another planet. Short of strapping onto the sharp end of a very big rocket, it's the most alien landscape today's explorers can visit. Conditions at the peak of a Transantarctic mountain more closely resemble a Martian spring day than they do most of earth. The kilometers of ice guarding the ancient waters of Lake Vostok are a terrestrial training ground for future missions to explore the subterranean oceans of Europa or the slushy buried seas of Ganymede.
But Antarctica is on earth, and the same ice that conceals its rich biological past and is slowly grinding away the remaining fossil bearing strata bear witness to events all over the rest of the precious blue dot we humans call home. Want to understand the global cooling that ended the age of the apes and sent one surviving species stumbling onto the African savanna? Look in that ice. Researching the effects of an ancient volcanic eruption that may have sent the first anatomically modern humans to the brink of extinction? Yeap, it's preserved in the ice. If we want to calculate the average global temperature during the reign of Caesar Augustus, examine the very air that once filled the sails of the HMS Beagle, or search for a whiff of Japanese gunpowder used in WW2, it's all there, patiently locked away in an icy book of natural history spanning more than 15 million years, waiting for anyone with an appetite for great adventure to pull out a page and read it.
Someone is going to win this contest and see all this and more. Just ask Kossack Dogdad who's been to the region: they'll have a computer, internet access, video gear, and a proven knack for writing. Given the vast range of sights and sounds to draw from, what would you like to see come out of this trip for the blogosphere?