Time-lapse of the "dancing" northern lights.
Part of a time-lapse sequence illustrating an experiment to study the winds in the high atmosphere that shape the aurora borealis, or northern lights. These winds are responsible for causing the northern lights to "dance" by blowing around the glowing molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. The molecules glow because they are stimulated by highly charged sub-atomic particles flowing from the sun (the "solar wind").
In Siberia, domesticated reindeer pull sled-bound huts across the ice.
The Dolgan, a reindeer-herding people, live in the most northerly mainland region of the Arctic — the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia. Siberia is also the coldest region of the Arctic. The Dolgan live in extended family groups, occupying reindeer skin huts all year-round, even though temperatures can reach -76°F. They must move their herds of several hundred reindeer every week or two in search of the best foraging — and that means the Dolgan must move too. They have developed the unique solution of building their huts on sleds so they don't have to take down tents every time they move, as other reindeer-herding peoples do. Reindeer fur is an extremely good insulator so these huts, as well as being very warm, are very light and easy for the reindeer to pull.
A submersible explores the Antarctic seabed.
The SCINI (Submersible Capable of Under-Ice Navigation and Imaging) is the smallest and most maneuverable robot submarine yet developed. Since 2008, SCINI has documented large regions of the Antarctic seabed that had previously been unexplored. The team behind SCINI believe they may have discovered several animals new to science. This is such recent science, however, that those findings have yet to be confirmed.
Inuits hunt walrus from a boat in Smith Sound, Northwest Greenland.
This tradition has changed little for thousands of years except that now hunters use a single gunshot rather than a harpoon to kill the walrus.
The aurora australis over Halley, the British Antarctic Survey research station in Antarctica.
The best latitude to view the aurora australis, or southern lights, is actually a little way south of the poles themselves.
The Sirius Patrol in northern Greenland (6 a.m., -31°F).
The Sirius Patrol is Denmark's means of continuing to stake their claim to the northeast quarter of Greenland, an area larger than France and Great Britain combined. This area is known to be rich in mineral wealth, though technology is not advanced enough yet to exploit it in these conditions. The patrol consists of six dog sleds, each manned by two men from the Danish Special Forces. The sleds travel for six months, from November to June, with a brief break over Christmas. Each sled travels separately and they can cover over 1,200 miles. There are 14 dogs in each team. They use Greenlandic dogs, bred intensively for strength, stamina and obedience.
High-risk egg collecting in the Russian Arctic.
Supported only by a thin nylon rope, Kolya of the Chukchi people descends a crumbling limestone cliff face on a small island off the coast of Chukotka. The most easterly province in Russia, Chukotka is just 50 miles at its closest point from Alaska. In late June and early July, Kolya and his fellow villagers collect the eggs of guillemots and gulls, which add some much valued variety to the local diet of sea mammal meat and fish. Men have lost their lives in the past on these very cliffs.
A member of the Dolgan tribe rounds up his reindeer.
The Dolgan live in the most northerly mainland region of the Arctic — the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia. Siberia is also the coldest region of the Arctic, where temperatures often reach -76°F. The lasso was first invented in Central Asia and came north centuries ago with the Dolgan's ancestors. The best lassos are made from walrus or bearded seal skin, which the Dolgan traditionally obtain in the summer when they bring their herds to the coast and trade with the coastal hunters.
The aurora borealis over a Sirius Patrol tent in northern Greenland.
The Sirius Patrol consists of six dog sleds, each manned by two men from the Danish Special Forces. The sleds travel separately for six months, from November to June, and can cover over 1,200 miles. There are 14 dogs in each team. They use Greenlandic dogs, bred intensively for strength, stamina and obedience.
A research balloon in the shadow of Mount Erebus.
A balloon made of material no thicker than cellophane is inflated on the Ross Ice Shelf in the shadow of Mount Erebus, Antarctica's only active volcano. This balloon will expand to be 300 feet tall as it rises to the very edge of the Earth's atmosphere. It will carry a device for detecting cosmic rays — tiny particles from outer space. Antarctica is the perfect place for such experiments; the constant day length means the balloon temperature will be even and it will stay at a constant altitude.
Vegetable and herb seedlings in the "greenhouse" at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
Seedlings are planted in one of the world's most sophisticated hydroponic growth chambers during the Antarctic summer and grown under artificial light. This meant the skeleton staff of 60 or so people who spend the winter here in total darkness and isolation can have fresh greenery right in the middle of winter, when it can be as cold as -112°F outside. The balance of nutrients in the fluid in which the plants grow is controlled precisely from a computer in Arizona.