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Scientists May Soon Outnumber Penguins at Earth's Poles

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Scientists May Soon Outnumber Penguins at Earth's Poles
Tens of thousands of scientists are zipping up their parkas for the latest International Polar Year initiative. The research endeavor, the third of its kind since 1882, is sending teams from 63 countries to the Antarctic and the Arctic in an unprecedented, billion-dollar exhibition of cold-weather geekery. The poles will be crawling with underwater gliders, robot observatories, and a laser-firing lidar (think '80s-era Pink Floyd shows). Here are a few of our favorite ice capades.Wais DivideIn November, chief scientist Kendrick Taylor and a 50-member crew will use a 47-foot, $9 million drill tipped with four razor-sharp chisels to begin punching holes in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, eventually boring down 11,614 feet. "This is the cleanest ice on the planet," Taylor says. The cores he removes could contain the most accurate record yet of Earth's temperature and CO2 concentrations over the past 100,000 or so years.LarissaThe Southern Ice Cap has been shedding pounds like Amy Winehouse, and it's happening fastest on the Antarctic Peninsula. In fact, between January 31 and March 7, 2002, most of the Larsen B ice shelf disappeared. Teams from six countries will deploy glacier-measuring robots along the shelf, as well as an autonomous underwater vehicle to observe changes in ocean sediment and new life forms in waters once covered by ice.Princess Elisabeth Research StationPolar bases are usually powered by pollution- belching diesel generators. But in 2007,...

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