On December 14, 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole. Amundsen and his team arrived at the pole five weeks ahead of their rival, British explorer Robert Falcon Scott. (Perhaps more importantly, Amundsen and his team returned from their journey, while Scott’s expedition perished.)

The South Pole was one of the last terrestrial locations explored on Earth, and Antarctica remains a difficult place to visit today. Temperatures can drop as low as -80 degrees Celsius (-112 °Fahrenheit) in the winter. Ice covers 98% of the continent, and is more than a kilometer deep.

Once explorers like Amundsen conquered the South Pole, scientists moved in. The unique isolation of Antarctica makes it important for studying Earth at its extremes. About 5,000 researchers work in Antarctica, studying climate, glaciers, biodiversity, astronomy, and even paleontology in the most extreme part of the planet.

astronomy
Noun

the study of space beyond Earth's atmosphere.

Noun

all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.

climate
Noun

all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

conquer
Verb

to overcome an enemy or obstacle.

Noun

one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

expedition
Noun

journey with a specific purpose, such as exploration.

Noun

mass of ice that moves slowly over land.

Noun

water in its solid form.

isolation
Noun

state of being alone or separated from a community.

journey
Noun

voyage or trip.

Noun

the study of fossils and life from early geologic periods.

perish
Verb

to die or be destroyed.

Noun

large, spherical celestial body that regularly rotates around a star.

Noun

fixed point that, along with the North Pole, forms the axis on which the Earth spins.

Noun

degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

terrestrial
Adjective

having to do with the Earth or dry land.

unique
Adjective

one of a kind.

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