Joseph Dalton Hooker

The botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker was born 200 years ago, on 30 June 1817. Kew Gardens, of which he was the director, has a special event to commemorate him. Hooker travelled on expeditions to Antarctica, India, Palestine, Morocco, and the Western United States. The pictures below are from his The botany of the Antarctic voyage of H.M. discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. He also published several volumes on the botany of India.


The Antarctic ozone hole is finally shrinking

In good news for the month, the Antarctic ozone hole (shown above as at 2006) has been shrinking since the year 2000, according to a recent article in Science. Various natural ups and downs have obscured this encouraging trend, which is also visible in the graph below (data from here):

The data shows that the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which phased out chlorofluorocarbons, is finally having an effect. The planet, in this respect, is indeed slowly healing. More details can be found in Science News.


1957–58, the International Geophysical Year

The International Geophysical Year (actually a year and a half, from July 1957 to December 1958) saw the beginning of the “space race,” and the collection of a huge amount of valuable data. The science books I grew up with as a child were constantly referring to the results of the event.

The IGY, as it was abbreviated, included several solar eclipses (23 Oct 57, 19 Apr 58, 12 Oct 58) as well as the record-breaking solar maximum of 1957/58. In fact, February 11, 1958 turned out to be a very good night for Aurora chasers.

The IGY incorporated, among other activities:


Perhaps the world can use more collaborative efforts like the IGY.


Blogroll: AntarcticArctic

AntarcticArctic is a blog by a “Waste Management Specialist” at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station over the dark Antarctic winter. It has covered several interesting topics, such as the Aurora Australis and Aurora Borealis (see satellite image below).

I’m not sure if the blog will survive its author’s return to warmer climes – but, through both words and photographs, it has succeeded in sharing a perspective on our planet that most of us will never experience.


Penguins in the cold

A recent article in Wired shows some fabulous infrared images of Emperor Penguins. Somewhat surprisingly, large sections of an Emperor Penguin’s body surface are cooler than the surrounding air. Their eyes, their flippers, and the tops of their feet stand out as hot spots.

Emperor Penguins survive the long Antarctic winter by huddling together, in temperatures that can drop to −40° — a theme I explored in my children’s book Penguin, which was so beautifully illustrated by Marion & Steve Isham.