Science & Technology

Antarctica: journey to the end of the world, a glimpse of the future

King George Island, Antarctica, Jan 14 (EFE).- Often dubbed ‘the end of the world,’ Antarctica has become the Earth’s thermometer.

Despite its remoteness, the ‘white continent’ influences natural phenomena in all corners of the world, from the temperature of the North Sea in Europe, the blossoming of cherry trees in Japan to the floods in northern Chile.

“Antarctica plays a powerful role in regulating the planet’s climate, not only because of its albedo (capacity to reflect solar radiation) but also because the marine current that surrounds it produces a series of interactions in the seas around the world, which in turn produces a very interesting ocean-atmosphere relationship that conditions an important part of the global climate,” director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute INACH, Marcelo Leppe, tells Efe.


It is no surprise that Antarctica’s ice-covered landmass has become a haven for scientists researching climate change and its effect on our planet.

This is the case on King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands, which has become the gateway to the unknown, or entrance to the end of the world.

Every year, thousands of scientists visit its icy waters and snowy black slopes to research an array of phenomena from radiation, nutrient levels in the water or how wildlife is able to survive in such extreme conditions.

The island hosts numerous research bases belonging to various countries including Argentina, Chile, Russia and the United States, while across the whole Antarctic territory, there are 42 permanent bases belonging to 21 countries.

It is the “greatest diplomatic triumph in history” according to Leppe, because it is the only one that “dedicates an entire continent to the most altruistic concepts: peace and science.”


According to Leppe, the work is fundamental as we face one of our greatest challenges.

The planet is in a new climatic era in which the global average of carbon dioxide exceeds 400 parts per million.

The last time the planet recorded similar concentrations of CO2 was during the Pliocene period, between 5 and 3.5 million years ago, before humans roamed the Earth.

“All this that we are experiencing for us is new. We can find many traces in natural history, even in the Antarctic ice, that tell a turbulent climate story, but our ability to respond to these changes is what is at stake, and we are also aware of being the species that is causing the most important part of this change,” Leppe said.

Leppe hopes that the recently elected president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, a young leftist politician with a strong environmentalist message, will take the climate crisis into consideration while drafting the new constitution.

“Antarctica touches you and finally you become infected with one of the most beautiful pandemics in the world, which is to believe that humanity can agree to ensure the future existence of things that go far beyond the economy,” he said. EFE


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