EXHIBITS: A Frigid Banner Year

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Science  06 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5723, pp. 769
DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5723.769e

Neither marauding wolves, nor temperatures as low as −46 degrees Celsius, nor overdue supply ships stayed the explorers at Fort Conger in northwestern Greenland from their meteorological rounds. In 1882 and 1883, U.S. personnel at this isolated station and researchers at other sites across the Arctic recorded air temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, and other variables as part of the first International Polar Year. At this site from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, history buffs can learn more about this pioneering project, and researchers can download the original data.

The project's goal was to share environmental measurements from different locales, and 11 countries teamed up to staff Arctic observing stations. Their readings provide a snapshot of the far north before human-induced global warming began. Besides data, the site holds an archive with more than 200 photos, maps, and drawings that provide a glimpse of life at the stations. Paintings even record the deaths of three members of the Fort Conger expedition; only seven of the 25 members of the party were alive when rescuers arrived.


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