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Antarctic Exploration
Ocean Currents Exploration

Each two-week module on the Study of Place web site is framed by an historical event that makes a connection between the physical environment and human activity. The activities focus primarily on physical and earth science content, geography, and inquiry skills.

Endurance at night

Endurance at night
Image Courtesy of Royal Geographic Society

The Antarctic Exploration module is framed by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica. It explores the relationship between the expanse of sea ice and seasonal change.

You will:

  • examine satellite images of Antarctica, comparing and contrasting the information provided by the various types of technology;
  • explore seasonal changes in the expanse of sea ice and learn about the Sun's seasonal effect on the concentration of energy on Earth’s surface;
  • explore the differences between fresh and salt water and salinity levels in the Antarctic Ocean;
  • study the effect of albedo and insulation on sea ice and heat transfer and apply these concepts to a discussion of global climate change.


Franklin-Folger 1769 chart of the Gulf Stream
Reproduced with permission from US Library of Congress.

The Ocean Currents Exploration module is framed by Benjamin Franklin's quest to explain why English ships carrying mail to the American colonies took two weeks longer to cross the Atlantic than colonial merchant ships making a similar voyage. It explores the mysterious force in the ocean called the Gulf Stream.

You will:

  • use images of the Gulf Stream to explore seasonal changes in temperature, wind direction, and wave height;
  • investigate density-driven ocean currents and consider whether global climate change might affect deep currents;
  • learn about wind-driven currents by plotting the location of sneakers from a ship's container spill, and model the movement of gyres;
  • investigate how sand and water store and transfer heat energy and read about the possible climatic implications of a warmer ocean.

As you work on the Study of Place web site, you will find images and visualizations, animations, information, and readings. These materials will give you background science information and bring authentic scientific tools into the classroom, taking advantage of the power of the Web.

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