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 Return from Antarctica

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UMD Geology Professor and a Frozen Continent

John Goodge, left, professor of geological sciences at UMD, and Jeff Vervoort, an isotope geochemist from Washington State University, in Antarctica.

John Goodge, professor, Department of Geological Sciences, returned to Minnesota on January 12 after a successful two-month research trip to the Antarctic. On this trip, he spent time in the Transantarctic Mountains, where his team covered more than 900 miles. His team researched the geology of Antarctica to help build a better picture of the continent and its connection to North America. He blogged for the New York Times about his National Science Foundation-funded research. See the slide show documenting his travels.

On this 11th expedition to the Antarctic, Goodge felt at home. "For me, getting back to the ice has a natural feel to it. Although being in Antarctica always makes me pause in wonderment, itís like revisiting a place thatís familiar although not quite home," Goodge said. "I know the routines ó the way we go about preparing for cold, building your pack, tying down loads, talking on the radio, and collecting snow to melt for water ó and itís easy to step right into them." Goodge estimates that, since 1985, he has spent more than 18 months in Antarctica, the world's least inhabitable continent.

This inhospitable continent provided many challenges to Goodge and his team. Often temperatures ranged between 0-20 degrees, but the wind and poor visibility made things difficult. Flying to each sampling site could take days due to the extreme winds. "Once we were on the ground, we could continue working in windy conditions unless it got too strong; after a while it just wears you down," Goodge said. Despite these brief delays, the trip went quite well and Goodge and his team managed to collect a variety of samples.

Antarctica landscape
An Antarctic landscape - one of the photos on the New York Times slide show.

Goodge's research has had an impact in the field of geological sciences related to the paleogeography of ancient supercontinents. During a 2005 trip, Goodge found a rock that helped to verify a proposed reconstruction of a supercontinent that existed more than a billion years ago that links North America and Antarctica.

On the recent expedition, Goodge attempted to find rocks representing the continent below the ice of Antarctica. His team accomplished this by collecting samples of rocks that the ice had pulled toward the surface. According to Goodge, Antarctica can reveal the world's past and shed light on modern problems like global warming.

Though Goodge is not a climate scientist, he believes that phenomena he has seen in the Antarctic are a bell-weather of changes taking place around the globe. "We should rely on meteorologists, glaciologists and oceanographers to robustly document the changes under way, but in the meantime I think it behooves all of us to consider 'the ice' as showing signs of change that will have consequences closer to home," Goodge said.

In his 11 trips to the Antarctic, Goodge has made a great number of discoveries. "I'm humbled and in awe of both the continent and what it presents to you," Goodge said.

Written by Mandee Kuglin

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