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About this book

In 2016, scientist Rosaly Lopes and artist Michael Carroll teamed up as fellows of the National Science Foundation to travel to Mount Erebus, the world’s southernmost active volcano in Antarctica. The logistics of getting there and complex operations of Antarctica's McMurdo Station echo the kinds of strategies that future explorers will undertake as they set up settlements on Mars and beyond. This exciting popular-level book explores the arduous environment of Antarctica and how it is similar to other icy worlds in the Solar System.

The bulk of this story delves into Antarctica’s infrastructure, exploration, and remote camps, culminating on the summit of Erebus. There, the authors explored the caves and ice towers on the volcano’s flanks, taking photographs and generating original art depicting scenes in Antarctica and terrestrial analogs on other planets and moons.

Readers will see an intimate side of Mount Erebus and Antarctica while surveying the region’s history, exploration, geology, and volcanology, which includes research funded by the National Science Foundation’s United States Antarctic Programs. Richly illustrated with photographs and stunning paintings showcasing the beauty of the harsh continent, the book captures the spirit and splendor of the authors’ journey to Erebus.

Table of Contents


1. The Lure of the Poles

Goethe said, “The ideal of beauty is simplicity and tranquility.” He never saw Mount Erebus. The 3,795 meter (12,448 foot) tall volcano soars majestically into Antarctic skies, collared by mist and fog. Multiple craters crown its summit, while its fumaroles and vents build complex towers and ice columns. Erebus eruptions generate the rarest of volcanic crystals, seen on only one other volcano on Earth. And while the mountain may seem tranquil most of the time, its beauty has come at the hand of violent forces.
Michael Carroll, Rosaly Lopes

2. The Mountain and Its Madness

Please note that Figs. “2.1–2.8, 2.10–2.12” are not cross-referred in the text.
Michael Carroll, Rosaly Lopes

3. First Step: Getting There

For US citizens, the journey to McMurdo Station, Antarctica begins not at a major airport but in Washington, D.C., home of the National Science Foundation. More specifically, our project began with a proposal to the NSF, which gave grants to roughly 500 proposals in 2016. Only four of those were granted to the Artists and Writers Program.
Michael Carroll, Rosaly Lopes

4. Second Step: McMurdo

Please note that Figs. 4.1–4.15 are not cross-referred in the text.
Michael Carroll, Rosaly Lopes

5. Working on the Edge

Antarctica provides scientists with excellent research opportunities in a wide range of topics, including astronomy, atmospheric and climate sciences, marine biology and ecosystems, and earth and oceanic sciences. While we were focused on geology and volcanology, we had the amazing opportunity to meet others who were engaged in fascinating field and laboratory work. McMurdo’s “science edifice,” the Crary Lab, contains laboratories that support many different types of research projects and provides limited office space for scientists. It is both educational and inspirational to get to know the different research teams at McMurdo. Many of these scientists go out to remote field sites, sometimes for day trips but more often for weeks or even months. It all depends on individual research needs and availability of field sites, availability of assets, and access to transportation. Before the summer field season starts, the NSF has to carefully evaluate resources and schedules. This includes support personnel such as mountaineers and cooks, and modes of transportation ranging from planes and helicopters to trucks and individual snow machines (skidoos). Problems can have a domino effect, and weather is always an unpredictable factor. Fuel has to be delivered to remote field sites and, if the weather is bad or there are mechanical problems with planes, delivery gets delayed and no personnel can be there. Even getting to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station can be problematic due to weather. While we were at McMurdo, a fellow grantee from the Artists and Writers Program had waited for two weeks for his flight to the Pole. Finally, the weather cleared and he boarded a flight. At lunch that day, we commented about how great it was that he was finally able to go, only to have him join us partway through lunch – his flight was “boomeranged” due to changes in weather conditions.
Michael Carroll, Rosaly Lopes

6. Our Voyage Up The Mountain

The 2016/17 season was a busy one on Mount Erebus. Some 32 National Science Foundation personnel and grantees stayed on the summit for stints lasting more than eight hours. Many came to carry out scientific research. Others came to repair the structures, experiments, and huts that humans have boldly erected and that the mountain’s elements continue to sunder. No tourists came. To visit Antarctica’s steaming mountain, one must have a very good reason, and only personnel with specific designated duties are allowed upon its crown.
Michael Carroll, Rosaly Lopes

7. Landscapes on This and Other Worlds

Please provide the citation for Figs. 7.1–7.11. Note that the order of main citations of figures in the text must be sequential.
Michael Carroll, Rosaly Lopes

8. Future Explorations

Please provide the citation for Figs. 8.1–8.7. Note that the order of main citations of figures in the text must be sequential.
Michael Carroll, Rosaly Lopes

9. Journal Entries

Please check the alignment of paragraphs in this chapter, and correct if necessary.
Michael Carroll, Rosaly Lopes


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