Research at the Poles

At the time of the first International Polar Year (IPY), which lasted officially from 1882 to 1883, Earth’s polar regions were largely unexplored. A dozen countries launched 15 expeditions, two of them to the Antarctic. The American expedition led by Adolphus W. Greely met with tragedy when 17 people died. Some reports--denied by Greely--said that some of the dead were consumed by the survivors.

The fourth IPY, which extends over the next 2 years, promises to go better. Nearly 70 nations are spending about $1 billion on a global campaign of coordinated research at both poles.

Gonçalo Vieira

In the 125 years since the first IPY, concerns have shifted toward climate change. The pulse of the planet, researchers have concluded, can best be measured in the pristine environments of the High Arctic and the Antarctic.

In connection with the Science special issue celebrating IPY, Science Careers focuses on the challenges of doing science at the poles of the world and what it takes to meet those challenges.

In “Cruising the Frozen Seas”, scientists onboard an icebreaking research vessel describe what it's like to sail and do science on the Ross Sea. This floating laboratory offers great scientific opportunities, stupendous vistas, and intense stresses related to time, climate, and social environment.

In “Polar Research in Portugal: Breaking the Ice”, we introduce Gonçalo Vieira, a physical geographer at the University of Lisbon, who is leading Portugal’s IPY efforts.

Andrew Fazekas is a correspondent at Science Careers and may be reached at

Comments, suggestions? Please send your feedback to our editor.

DOI: 10.1126/science.caredit.a0700035

Follow Science Careers

Search Jobs

Enter keywords, locations or job types to start searching for your new science career.

Top articles in Careers