On clear days I could extend my path in any direction. Then I’d tuck a bundle of split bamboo sticks under my arms; and every thirty yards or so, as I went along, I’d prick one of these sticks into the surface. When the bundle was used up, I’d retrace my steps, picking up the sticks on the way, the last stick fetching me hard by my path. The sticks weighed very little, and I could easily carry enough to mark a path a quarter mile long. Although I varied the route often, the change really made no difference. No matter which quarter I faced, an identical sameness met the view. I could have walked 175 miles northeast to the Rockefeller Mountains, or 300 miles south to the Queen Mauds, or 400 miles west to the mountains of South Victoria Land, and not seen anything different.

Yet, I could, with a little imagination, make every walk seem different. One day I would imagine that my path was the Esplanade, on the water side of Beacon Hill in Boston, where, in my mind’s eye, I often walked with my wife. I would meet people I knew along the bank, and drink in the perfection of a Boston spring. There was no need for the path’s ever becoming a rut. Like a rubber band, it could be stretched to suit my mood; and I could move it forward and backward in time and space, as when, in the midst of reading Yule’s Travels of Marco Polo, I divided the path into stages of that miraculous journey, and in six days and eighteen miles wandered from Venice to China, seeing everything that Marco Polo saw. And on occasion the path led back down the eons, while I watched the slow pulsations of the Ice Age, which today grips the once semi-tropical Antarctic Continent even as it once gripped North America.

—  Richard Byrd, on walking in Antarctica, from Alone

emperor penguins, like other birds, have the capacity to fluff their feathers and insulate their bodies with a layer of air. but where most birds have rows of feathers with bare skin between them, emperors have a dense, uniform coat of feathers with tiny filaments at the base which allows them to release this layer of air as lubricating microbubbles. in doing so, the penguins are able to reduce their drag and the viscosity of the water, thus enabling them to swim faster. photos by paul nicklen (previously featured)


SCIENCE NEWS! There’s life way, way below Antarctica — chilling out in a subglacial lake. Just a few weeks ago, a team of scientists confirmed that half a mile beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, a bunch of tiny, single-celled organisms are alive and well… in a lake boasting sub-zero temperatures and no access to sunlight. 

The discovery is groundbreaking, leading some to wonder if there might also be life on a similar place — Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. 

John Priscu is one of the lead scientists behind the study. In a talk at TEDxBozeman, he explains what it’s like to be a scientist drilling though thousands of feet of ice while living in a tent in Antarctica. 

Watch the whole talk here»

Photos courtesy of NASA