The Earth's White Box

Nature is slow to reveal the intricate patterns that shape our world. Doubly so in the wind-scoured whiteness of Antarctica, the least understood continent on Earth. But while nature is in no rush to inform us, our human need is more urgent. Locked within Antarctica’s frozen heart lie answers to vital questions concerning our planet’s past, present and future.
Since early days, this majestic continent has captured people’s imagination, its magnetism drawing a procession of intrepid explorers to test the limits of human endurance.

The presence of heroic figures like Ross, Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton, Byrd and Hillary seem almost palpable in the continent’s breath-taking snowscapes and silences. The sheer scale of Antarctica is intimidating. Captured in its frigid grasp lies 90% of the world’s ice, amounting to about 70% of the globe’s freshwater supply.

At 14 million km2 it occupies a tenth of the planet’s total terrestrial surface area. Its seasonal sea-ice traverses up to 19 million square kilometres. Antarctica’s ice-sheets range up to three miles thick and conceal climatic records stretching back millions of years. Some of its valleys haven’t seen rain in more than two million years.

The unique atmospheric dynamics and water masses of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean exert a powerful influence over the world’s oceans, climate and biodiversity. For science and humanity, Antarctica represents an unspoiled laboratory and presents an unrivalled opportunity for ground breaking science to reveal the earth’s climatic record and uncover critical future indicators for our planet’s wellbeing. Such insights will inform how we in New Zealand move to adapt to changes in our climate, sea level, and ecosystems.