Living in Antarctica
In this learning sequence, discover the challenges of living in the driest and windiest continent on Earth. Take a tour of one of the stations to find out the vital role support staff play. Investigate daily life and what impact this may have on the environment. Find out what is being done to reduce the impact on the Antarctic environment. Create a presentation about living in Antarctica.
Setting the scene
Locate Antarctica on a map or globe of Earth. Discuss what students know about its climate and conditions. How cold might it get? Refer to the average maximum temperatures for Mawson station.
Antarctica is known as the driest and windiest continent. Why might this be? It also has winters with a period of no or limited hours of daylight. It has summers with long hours of daylight. Think about how these conditions impact daily life.
View the gallery of Antarctic images that show the types of conditions that are encountered.
Pose the question: ‘What would it be like to live for a year in Antarctica?’
Ask students to brainstorm their ideas and record them using a bubble or mind map graphic organiser. Encourage them to think about the challenges, opportunities, living conditions, types of weather, seasonal changes, what role they might play, what they might see.
Humans impacting Antarctica
Draw a before and after picture to show how humans can impact an environment.
Show a scene of the Antarctic environment and its wildlife. Compare it to a site where humans have created a permanent settlement. What types of buildings would need to be built? What might be some of the ways humans impact the environment?
Explore and research
Australian stations in Antarctica
Provide a copy of two types of map that show Antarctica in relation to Australia.
One map shows Antarctica and its location compared to the continents.
The other map shows relative distances of Australian Antarctic stations and the Australian mainland.
Compare what the two maps reveal.
Interpret the map using cardinal points and approximate distances to describe the relative locations of Antarctic stations from Hobart or Fremantle. For example Casey is approximately 3,800 km south of Fremantle. What if the stations were located on the opposite side of Antarctica? How would this impact travel times and safety?
Pose the question: Why were these locations selected as a site for a scientific research station?
Provide students with a copy of the Mawson station area map.
Using this map, discuss the following with students:
- Look at the features on the map. Describe key reasons why this site was likely to be chosen for a scientific base.
- Think about transporting cargo and the needs of a research station.
- Discuss landforms such as bays and natural harbours with island protection, level ground for buildings and places of higher ground.
Provide students with a copy of the Mawson station buildings map.
Using this map, ask students to answer the following questions:
- Why do you think the buildings are in the locations they are?
- What do these buildings show about the type of activities engaged in at the station?
- What sort of lifestyle would you expect the residents of Mawson station to have?
- What do the green and yellow lines indicate? Why would this be needed?
As an extension, view satellite imagery of Davis and Casey stations. Use these images to create your own map of the station. Compare student maps to photographs or maps of each station to identify buildings.
Tour of Davis Station
Find out how many people on average stay for winter at Davis station, and their roles.
Discuss and list the types of skills people might need to live and work on one of the stations.
View this introductory video about living in Antarctica [YouTube].
Take a guided tour of Davis.
Provide a copy of the worksheet, Working at Davis [PDF].
Discuss how these people support the work of the scientists at the station. How are people’s lives dependent on one another in this environment?
What do you need to live?
List all the resources you would need and use during a day. Think about a typical day on the weekend. Estimate:
- how much food you eat
- how much water you use
- what energy requirements you have and how many hours of electricity and gas you use
- the types of waste you produce.
Provide students with a copy of the worksheet, Resources I use on a typical day [PDF].
Draw a visual representation that shows your estimated daily needs and waste produced. Estimate what this would look like over a week, month and year.
What sort of impact would you have on Antarctica? How could your impact be reduced?
Explain and share
Human impacts on Antarctica
Consider how these three aspects of living in Antarctica provide for the needs of the people living in Antarctica but also may have an impact on the environment. Summarise your ideas in a table.
What are the challenges of providing food for people living in Antarctica? How does diet in Antarctica compare to your weekly diet? How is catering worked out, and what is the food entitlement per person? What packaging and food waste might be produced?
This article explains how food is provided at the stations.
List the needs for water on an Antarctic station. What challenges are faced to provide a community of people with water in Antarctica? What water systems are used on the stations? What restrictions are set in place?
This article gives some information about water at Antarctic stations.
At some stations, over-snow vehicles such as the Hägglunds and quad bikes are used. View the Antarctic transportation video to get a sense of the environment and use of the vehicles. Consider the environmental impacts these vehicles may have as well as safety issues.
Elaborate and apply
Reducing environmental impact
- Discuss the use of diesel generators to supply electricity. Discuss the issues of cost, pollution, safety hazards and storage.
- Find out about the wind turbines at Mawson station.
- Rubbish tips at all Australian stations were closed in 1985 and sites removed of waste. Consider and make a list of waste that would be produced at one of the stations.
- Draw up a plan to explain how you would address the issue. What would you return to Australia? How could waste be avoided in the first place?
What if you were able to work in Antarctica?
Ask students to imagine their future, years from now, being given an opportunity to work in Antarctica. Have them select a type of work and compare what life would be like doing that job living where they are now compared with living in Antarctica.
Provide students with a copy of the worksheet, Living and working in Antarctica [PDF].
To help them with their comparison, students may like to explore information under Station amenities and operations.
Discuss ways in which their life would be similar and ways their lives would be different.
Describe ways in which the environment would influence their lives.
What life would be like in Antarctica
Create a digital presentation that depicts what life might be like living for a year in Antarctica. Use a selection of images available on the Australian Antarctic Division website.
Explain the standard of referencing relevant to AAD images by making sure to cite the copyright owner. On the last slide list all photographs used together and the copyright owner.
Use images to explain what life would be like in Antarctica. Prior to selecting and compiling the presentation encourage students to plan out a storyboard with text of the main points they wish to cover.
At various points in the learning assess to what extent students:
- describe ways in which the environment influences their daily life;
- describe the landforms around the Antarctic stations and the needs of a settlement;
- explain the human impact on Antarctica and ways to reduce it;
- describe Australia’s connection to Antarctica?