Explore Antarctica at AMSE

on display through March 11

Emperor Penguins are the largest species of penguins.  They stand over 40 inches tall and weigh about 84 pounds.  The Emporer Penguins are one of the 12 species of birds in Antarctica.  Photo by Glenn Grant, National Science Foundation
Emperor Penguins are the largest species of penguins. They stand over 40 inches tall and weigh about 84 pounds. The Emporer Penguins are one of the 12 species of birds in Antarctica. Photo by Glenn Grant, National Science Foundation
  • Emperor Penguins are the largest species of penguins.  They stand over 40 inches tall and weigh about 84 pounds.  The Emporer Penguins are one of the 12 species of birds in Antarctica.  Photo by Glenn Grant, National Science Foundation
    Emperor Penguins are the largest species of penguins. They stand over 40 inches tall and weigh about 84 pounds. The Emporer Penguins are one of the 12 species of birds in Antarctica. Photo by Glenn Grant, National Science Foundation
    Emperor Penguins are the largest species of penguins.  They stand over 40 inches tall and weigh about 84 pounds.  The Emporer Penguins are one of the 12 species of birds in Antarctica.  Photo by Glenn Grant, National Science Foundation
    Emperor Penguins are the largest species of penguins. They stand over 40 inches tall and weigh about 84 pounds. The Emporer Penguins are one of the 12 species of birds in Antarctica. Photo by Glenn Grant, National Science Foundation
  • After departing the C-17 aircraft, the researchers make their way to Ivan the Terra Bus for a 30 minute shuttle ride to McMurdo Station on the Ross Sea on the southern most continent.  Photo by Kirk Beckendorf
    After departing the C-17 aircraft, the researchers make their way to Ivan the Terra Bus for a 30 minute shuttle ride to McMurdo Station on the Ross Sea on the southern most continent. Photo by Kirk Beckendorf
    After departing the C-17 aircraft, the researchers make their way to Ivan the Terra Bus for a 30 minute shuttle ride to McMurdo Station on the Ross Sea on the southern most continent.  Photo by Kirk Beckendorf
    After departing the C-17 aircraft, the researchers make their way to Ivan the Terra Bus for a 30 minute shuttle ride to McMurdo Station on the Ross Sea on the southern most continent. Photo by Kirk Beckendorf

Explore the Antarctic environment and the working life of scientists on Earth's coldest, highest, driest and windiest continent in this special exhibition "Antarctica: Where Science Is Cool" on display until March 11 at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge.

Museum visitors can try on cold weather Antarctic gear, view photographs, maps, graphs, use a computer interface and even visit with an AMSE staff member, who has worked on the sourthern most continent. 

"Antarctica: Where Science Is Cool" exhibition was prepared by Kirk Beckendorf, an AMSE educator/exhibit manager, who participated in a meterological research project in 2008 to set up and repair remote automated weather stations in Antarctica.  See his cold weather gear plus photos taken during the Happy Camper School, where researchers camp out and learn Antarctic survival skills. 

The exhibition features photographic sections with explanations about Antarctica, including Getting There, Home Away From Home, Transportation, U.S. Research Bases, Research Projects, and how you can connect with researchers.  During the southern summer months (October - February),  Antarctic researchers will not see the sun rise or set, as it continually circles the sky almost parallel to the horizon.

Using a map and photographs, the AMSE visitor can identify and explore the only "settlements" which are the scientific bases.  In Antarctica, the U.S. maintains three main research bases and two research ships.  The three U.S. research bases include Palmer, the smallest; McMurdo, the largest permanent station; and the South Pole Station, which sits on top of a 9,000 foot thick ice sheet.  Additionally, field camps are built and used during the short Antarctica summer work session.

Most U.S. personnel arrive by plane from New Zealand and only stay for the summer.  There are few individuals who stay at McMurdo and the South Pole during the Antarctic winter months (March through September), where there is no chance of transportation in or out.

There are multiple methods of transportation used in Antarctica.  The remoteness, vast distances, weather and landing connections make transportation very difficult and determine the type that is needed. Exhibit photographs further illustrate the types of transportation equipment used in Antarctica.

There are no completely land based vertebrate animals living on the continent of Antarctica.  Six species of seals and 12 species of birds inhabit the continent, but all are dependent on the ocean for feeding, or they are migratory.  The oceans surrounding the continent are full of life, including krill, soft corals and sea stars. Learn more about the seals, birds and ocean life through the exhibition. 

Antarctica is a unique natural laboratory,  Much of the research cannot be conducted anywhere else in the world.  Some of the topics studied include the region's substantial influence on current and past global climate, the ocean ecosystems, the ozone hole, glacial dynamics, astronomy, geology, physics and volcanoes.

The exhibit highlights a Tennessee museum educator, Alex Eilers, who is currently in Antarctica working with a team of researchers studying Weddell seals.  She is participating in the PolarTREC program that partners educators and polar scientists.  Museum visitors can learn how they can connect with Ms. Eilers interactive blogs and live webinars.

Ms. Eilers has previously presented a public program at AMSE and visited with students at Jefferson Middle and St Mary's School, both in Oak Ridge.  She encourages students, teachers, and the general public to ask questions of her and her research team at www.polartrec.com 

The American Museum of Science and Energy, located at 300 South Tulane Avenue in Oak Ridge, is open Monday - Saturday from 9 am - 5 pm and Sunday 1 - 5 pm.  AMSE admission is Adults $5, Seniors (65+) $4, Students (6-17) $3 and Children (5 and under) free.  AMSE members are free. Group rates are available for 20 or more with advance reservations.  AMSE memberships, good for 12 months from date of purchase, are Family $45, Grandparents $30, Individual $25 and Family & Friends $75.  AMSE members receive unlimited AMSE visits and free admission to 250 museums that participate in the ASTC Passport Program.  Other AMSE benefits are discounts on Discovery Shop merchandise purchases, discounts on classes, workshops, camps and birthday parties.  For more information on AMSE membership, exhibits, programs and events, click www.amse.org  To schedule a group visit, call AMSE at (865) 576-3200.