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January 15, 2009

HSH Prince Albert II in Antarctica

Dry Valleys, Bull Pass and Ross Island

 Picture : HSH Prince Albert II in Antarctica

Prince Albert is pursuing his tour of scientific bases in Antarctica. After having reached the South Pole and Ross Island, he went on to the Dry Valleys.

D The Dry Valley region, which has no ice cover, is bounded by glaciers behind which the mountains culminate 2,500 metres above sea level. The bedrock is brown. The peaks are very jagged because of erosion with their sides worn in long deep perpendicular grooves.

D D On a scientific scale, this is one of the world's most arid regions since, as Professor Andrew Fountain of Portland State University, explains: “Here, we find water, but life develops only in microbiological form... There is little precipitation and it evaporates.”
Such hostile conditions for the development of life are in fact a very important field of investigation for scientists since they recall those in which life first developed in Earth.

D D The Sovereign Prince then went to Bull Pass, a little further on. In this area, which scientists compare to the planet Mars, the rock formations are studied to see how water has withdrawn from them, as are the progression and retreat of glaciers over millennia. NASA, among others, set up a research programme there the better to understand what may have happened on Mars on the basis of what can be observed in the Antarctic.

D In the afternoon, after a detour to the promontory of Marble Point HSH Prince Albert II returned to Ross Island via Cape Royds to meet David G Ainley who, for several decades, has been studying Adelie penguins, a species that may well disappear because of global warming.

D Dr Ainley is also the keeper of the wooden hut built in 1907 by Ernest Shackleton, one of the first to attempt to cross the Antarctic continent.

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