The white ice sheets of Antarctica hold 60% of our planet’s fresh water. They cover a vast mysterious continent with a rich history reaching out over millions of years. Until 160 million years ago it was connected to the African continent before the huge tectonic forces playing out within the Earth pulled these landmasses apart. And it wasn’t always a cold ice desert. In the Cretaceous Period (145 to 66 million years ago) dinosaurs roamed a landscape covered in forests, and their fossils remain in the rocks now frozen and hidden under ice.
We know Antarctica today as perhaps the world’s most ultimate harsh environment and a place of discovery and science. In the early C20th the Antarctic and the South Pole became a territory to conquer and a trophy to win for European empires. Today it is a place of international scientific cooperation and a focal point for understanding the impact of human activity on our planet. We have begun to reveal some of the secrets held within its rich terrestrial and marine ecosystem, and to understand its vital connectedness with the world’s environment. But there is a lot more to discover and look after.
‘Explore the Heritage of Antarctica’ with us and find out more about the wonders of this story. ‘Visit’ the heritage monuments in the landscape left behind by explorers of the past, and ‘view’ a selection of artefacts from their stories now in world museums. Zoom into each place to discover the detail. Immerse yourself in the ‘sense of place’ of Antarctica by watching short film clips made by people who have worked and visited, living for a short while in this hostile and wondrous spot on our beautiful planet. Discover tantalising clues about perhaps the first people to explore the Antarctic region – Māori and Yaghan indigenous communities travelling south.
This tour is a taster for us – we would love to do more about mapping Antarctica’s heritage now in world collections – building up a picture of the amazing natural and cultural heritage of this magical continent.
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