Winter in Antarctica:Staying sane at the Bottom of world
On Antarctica,the world's coldest continent,the average high temperature is -49 degrees celius.In the summmer,the sun never sets,and in the winter,it never rises.Keeping sane there is its own special challenge.The McMurdo Station is a research base perched on the edge of the Ross Ice shelf,the world's largest body of floating ice.The station is administered by the Uninted States and is the largest community in Antarctica.Capable of surpporting more than 1200 residents,the population of the station drops to 150 brave(perhaps foolish)people when winter begins in March.Their task is to mantain the station during the months of total night.The biologists,astronomers,geologists,and climate scientists who were there before,have gone,as any research is impossible in the brutal winter.
Every day the remaining staff of maintenance personnel perform their routine tasks and make repairs when needed.Sometimes they peer through the darkness toward their friends from New Zealand,at Scott Base,about two miles away.Though most of the time thet're just voices on the radio.It's nice to have neighbors not too far away.Together,they share a power grid and one coast of a dark forbidding continent.
Though the days are dark and freezing cold in the depths of winter,the moon will rest above the horizon for weeks at a time.Its pale light illuminates the cold,craggy landscape as if acknowledging a conparion and reffirming the bonds od life.So even for those who live in the darkest part of the Earth,there's light.
Chernobyl:Lessons from Nature
On April 26,1986,Unit 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in northern Ukraine,then a part of the Soviet Union,was shut down for an unauthorized safety test .When the nuclear fuel rods hit the cooling water,the fission reaction accelerated out of control due to a sudden power surge.This caused the reactor to overheat and build up pressure until its structure failed and it blew up ,releasing large amounts of radiation.It took officials a whole day to comprehened the scale of the disaster and to order an evacuation of the surrounding area.Some 50.000 people had to leave,not knowing that they would never return.
In the following months,massive efforts were made to decontaminate the area while increased radiation levels were detected across much of Europe.Fallout from the disaater continues to this day ,decades later,and long-term effects such as cancers are still being investigated.Estimates of the number of deaths that will eventually result from the accident vary enormously.
The forest area near the reactor site is one of the most radioactive places on Earth.Named the Red Forest because its trees turned a reddish-brown color as they died,the forest is trying to make a recovery.Animals such as elk and eagles have been seen in the area.And birch trees grow where the radioactive trees of the forest were bulldozed and buried by the Soviet government.
Some people have returned as well,mostly former residents who returned illegally after the evacaution.The old company town of Pripyat,once home to 50.000 plant workers is still destered,but is slowly being reclaimed by the forest. It seems that nature can recover and even thrive where humans cannot.Let's hope that humans can learn from this experience.Chernobyl,and more recently,Fukushima in Japan,have lessons to teach us .