January 15, 2009

Simple Tasks Can Become More Challenging On Antarctica

Harsh weather, remoteness and even elephant seals in Antarctica can become an obstacle for people living on the continent.

On Wednesday, a group of seals lying on the beach delayed what should have been a simple repair of a nearby hut.

"You're not supposed to interfere with the seals. So I just make myself a nuisance and hope they'll move on," said John Loines, 56, of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). "It can be intimidating but they usually do move."

Loines attempted to repair the outdoor wooden steps of an emergency hut on Lagoon Island. He said the stairs were probably crushed by a nearby seal.

"Stuff here has to be weatherproof and sealproof -- if one of those decides to lie on anything it will squash it flat," he told Reuters reporter Alister Doyle, who is visiting the Rothera Research Station.

While he repaired the steps, only a few of the seals moved, others simply rolled over and returned to their latent position.

The cold temperature, presence of seals, and other natural occurrences become obstacles for people working on the island. Most of the people living on the continent are there to study the environment and affects of climate change.

Temperatures on the Peninsula have risen by up to 5.4 Fahrenheit in the past 50 years -- the fastest rate of warming in the southern hemisphere, according to Reuters.

"If you think something back home will take an hour, here it takes two," said Athena Dinar, spokeswoman for BAS.

"You don't have the same spare parts, you don't have the same tools -- you have to be much more creative."


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