United States Antarctic Program

Project Description
[from http://www.usap.gov ]

Without interruption since 1956, Americans have been studying the
Antarctic and its interactions with the rest of the planet. These
investigators and supporting personnel make up the U.S. Antarctic
Program, which carries forward the Nation's goals of supporting the
Antarctic Treaty, fostering cooperative research with other nations,
protecting the Antarctic environment, and developing measures to
ensure only equitable and wise use of resources. The program comprises
research by scientists selected from universities and other research
institutions and operations and support by a contractor and the Navy,
the Air National Guard, the Air Force, the Army, and the Cold Regions
Research and Engineering Laboratory of the Army. The National Science
Foundation (the U.S. Government agency that promotes the progress of
science) funds and manages the program. Approximately, 3,000 Americans
are involved each year.

The research has three goals: to understand the region and its
ecosystems; to understand its effects on (and responses to) global
processes such as climate; and to use the region as a platform to
study the upper atmosphere and space. Antarctica's remoteness and
extreme climate make field science more expensive than in most
places. Research is done in the Antarctic only when it cannot be
performed at more convenient locations.

The program has three year-round research stations. In summer (the
period of extensive sunlight and comparative warmth that lasts roughly
October through February) additional camps are established for
glaciologists, earth scientists, biologists, and others. Large,
ski-equipped LC-130 airplanes, which only the United States has,
provide air logistics. Air National Guard crews operate these
planes. Helicopters, flown by a contractor, provide close support for
many research teams. Tracked or wheeled vehicles provide transport
over land and snow; small boats are used in coastal areas.