Clepsydra Elegy

It should come as no surprise that one of the earliest tools humans used to tell time was water. After all, it’s what we are, what we need to live. A clepsydra is an ancient clock system that, at its most basic, uses two bowls, one nested inside another. The outer bowl is filled with…

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The Dire End of the Bandit 6

Pirates, those outlaws of the high seas, have held a blurred fascination for generations. They share the allure of an in-between realm with horseback bandits, a place free of everyday rules and constricted spaces. Who doesn’t fantasize, from time to time at least, about being outside the drudgery of convention? Just exactly who the pirates…

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Fading Indelibility

Old habits die hard. So, it turns out, do new ones. Back when I was living in Japan, I had a friend who was born near Tokyo in the 1950s. His family wasn’t poor, but with the scarcity of protein that Japan faced for many years after World War II, he grew up eating whale…

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Patch Job

A study published earlier this year pointed to a decrease in the size of the ozone hole over the Antarctic. This healing process indicates the success of the Montreal Protocol, the 1989 treaty intended to limit the production and use of ozone-harming chemicals. Ratified by all United Nations Members, as well as Niue, the Cook…

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Cold Case

It might seem like the project to take ice to Antarctica is the very definition of redundancy. Like taking coal to Newcastle or turning on the lawn sprinkler while it’s raining. But this ice endeavor is more like trying to archive some of the world’s most ancient books even as the ink rapidly vanishes from…

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Antarctic Shiver

Everyone knows the best scare stories are those in which the most obvious and visible danger turns out to less dire than an unsuspected peril revealed only later, the deadfall that sends a shiver down the listener’s spine. We’ve all heard about the Antarctic ice shelf melt-off that’s been taking place with increasing speed and…

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Toothfish Piracy

*Update below (July 29). There are a couple of cinema-worthy chase scenes going on right now, all located in the Southern Ocean. The New Zealand navy is currently chasing two ships sailing under the flag of Equatorial Guinea for illegal fishing, and a Sea Shepherd vessel has been chasing a Nigerian trawler, the Thunder, since…

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Weaving a New Mantle

Moving at a glacial pace is how we’ve always described something so sluggish as to be practically immobile. Geological time is what we sometimes say when we talk about things that take forever to occur, at least when using the yardstick of human life spans. The Earth’s mantle, that layer between the outer core of…

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Floating Seafloor

In 2010, a research team for the Antarctic Geological Drilling Program (ANDRILL) was working off the Ross Ice Shelf, deploying a remote-controlled submersible robot beneath the ice to investigate south pole water currents. A deep hole (850 ft / 259 m) was drilled in the ice, the robot plopped into the water below, and then…

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Social Climbers

The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is big, as birds go, and as graceful underwater as it is ungainly on land. Its native habitat is Antarctica, and until recently, the bird has been considered ‘sea-ice obligate’, meaning it breeds and forages from sea-ice platforms. The species hasn’t been considered under threat for time being, but given…

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