<p>Photo: Satellite image of the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica</p>

Photograph courtesy NASA

About the Project

In December 2007, a team of explorers set off on a five-week expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula, where they traversed the Larsen Ice Shelf and Weddell Sea by skis, sea kayak, and sailboat. The Larsen Ice Shelf expedition team conducted studies examining how global warming is changing the topography of the seventh continent and how those changes could have dramatic impacts on the world's oceans.

The Larsen Ice Shelf Expedition was the culmination of Expeditions Council grantee Jon Bowermaster's Oceans Eight project. Oceans Eight is a long term project exploring the world's oceans by sea kayak. This mode of travel allowed Jon and his teams to reach corners of the world rarely seen. The goal of each expedition is adventure crossed with exploration of local cultures, histories, environmental issues and the future of these varied regions.

In many ways, Antarctica is the planet's great thermostat, driving climate with its cycles of freeze and thaw. A 7-million-square-mile (18-million-square-kilometer) ring of ice forms around the continent each winter, and each summer it thaws, releasing trillions of tons of fresh water into the oceans. This melt and release affects ocean current circulation, redistributes the heat of the sun, and regulates climate, affecting the planet's weather—and our lives—at the most fundamental level.

Today global warming is rapidly changing Antarctica's landscape, and with it, our climate. Global warming is thought to have spurred the dramatic destruction of the 500-billion-ton Larsen-B ice shelf in March 2002. Peninsular ice shelves like Larsen-B mark early warning signs of global warming in the Antarctic. Scientists predict much of the continent's ice could calve off, as it did from Larsen-B. If vulnerable parts of the ice that blankets Antarctica succumb to warming temperatures, rising seas could flood hundreds of thousands of square miles—much of Florida, Bangladesh, the Netherlands—and displace tens of millions of people.

The Larsen Ice Shelf expedition team got as close to the Larsen-B Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea as possible, then crossed the Antarctic Peninsula to its western side. Very few have ventured down this side of the peninsula, even during the warmer summer months, since reaching it requires caution, skill, and patience. By glimpsing what remains of the Larsen Ice Shelf and bringing back dramatic stories, photos, and video of this fast-evolving region of Antarctica, the team provided an up-close look at one of the planet's most at-risk environments.


Critical Work in Research, Conservation, Exploration, and Education

Since 1888, National Geographic has supported exploration and discovery, bringing gems like Machu Picchu, undersea wonders, and new species to light. Our programs in field-based research, conservation, exploration, and education continue to provide the world with scientific breakthroughs and discoveries that inspire people everywhere to care about our planet. Today, a new generation of National Geographic explorers are redefining exploration. Living the mission and making the world a better place. Meet these explorers and learn more about our funded projects throughout the world.

Projects Currently in the Field

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    Out of Eden Walk

    Where will Paul Salopek walk on his seven-year adventure? Find out as he updates us from the field.

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    Discovering the Endangered Cypress Trees of Laos

    A National Geographic-sponsored expedition to save the Critically Endangered Chinese swamp cypress.

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    Pristine Seas

    Enric Sala and the team are exploring, researching, and helping to protect the last wild places in the ocean.

  • Picture of kayaker in a creek in Florida

    Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition

    Carlton Ward hikes 1,000 miles to highlight a wildlife corridor from Central Florida to the Gulf Coast, through the Big Bend, and across the Panhandle all the way to Alabama.

  • Picture of a western lowland gorilla at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, TX

    The Photo Ark

    Joel Sartore is documenting biodiversity to get people to care as species face extinction.

  • Paul-Salopek-Ethiopia-Walk3-990x659.jpg

    Out of Eden Walk

    Where will Paul Salopek walk on his seven-year adventure? Find out as he updates us from the field.

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    Feed the World

    National Geographic explores how we can feed the growing population without overwhelming the planet in our food series.

Listen: Explorer Interviews

Listen to Nat Geo Explorer Interviews

Fascinating Conversations From Our Weekly Radio Show—Nat Geo Weekend

  • 00:11:00 Bob Ballard

    Boyd heads out of the studio to join National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Bob Ballard aboard his vessel the E/V Nautilus. Currently in Turkey, Ballard tells Boyd about the many shipwrecks he is finding in the Mediterranean. You can follow Ballard and his team, live as they explore the ocean at www.nautiluslive.org.

  • 00:06:00 Valerie Clark

    National Geographic grantee Valerie Clark licks frogs for a living. As Clark tells Boyd, she’s not looking for Prince Charming. Instead, she is studying how the diet of frogs in Madagascar relates to the toxicity of their skin.

    • 00:11:00 Lee Berger Audio

      National Geographic grantee and paleoanthropologist Lee Berger has been searching for the fossils of human ancestors, but it was his 9-year-old son who stumbled upon the find of a lifetime: a partial skeleton that may very well change our understanding of the genus Homo.

    • 00:07:59 Brad Norman

      Some go swimming with dolphins or stingrays, Brad Norman, National Geographic Emerging Explorer and marine conservationist, talks about swimming with the largest fish in the world: the whale shark. Norman speaks with Boyd about his research concerning whale shark habitats, tracking and conservation.

    • 00:11:00 Losang Rabgey

      National Geographic Emerging Explorer Losang Rabgey has found her life's work in strengthening rural communities on the Tibetan plateau, which includes building schools to educate local students. Rabgey joins Boyd with updates on the successful work of Machik, the non-profit she founded and now directs.

    • National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert capture astounding images of African wildlife in their beautiful films. The Jouberts live in the African bush alongside the lions and other animals they profile. They explain to Boyd that, because big cats are in such danger, their work is now focused on conservation projects such as the Cause an Uproar program.

    • 00:11:00 Nathan Wolfe

      National Geographic Emerging Explorer and virus hunter Nathan Wolfe says there is a disease pandemic lurking just around the corner. But, we can prepare ourselves.  Wolfe says there are even ways to harness and use the power of viruses. Wolfe joins Boyd to talk about his new book, The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age, which is changing the way we think about viruses.

      • National Geographic Emerging Explorer Joshua Ponte was a successful young English entrepreneur when, over breakfast one morning, his eye fell on a newspaper ad that said "Gorilla Reintroduction Program, Gabon." His life has never been the same since. Pursuing his passion for conservation, Ponte moved to a central African forest where 13 orphaned gorillas were being studied. Boyd talks with Ponte about the joys and dangers of raising young gorillas.

      • 00:11:00 Wade Davis

        How did the death and destruction of World War One lead young British climbers to attempt an epic conquest of Mount Everest? National Geographic Explorer in Residence Wade Davis answers that question in his new book “Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest.” Davis joins Boyd in the studio to chat about the book.

      • 00:11:00 Sylvia Earle

        National Geographic Explorer in Residence Sylvia Earle has been deeper undersea than any other woman. Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author, lecturer, field scientist, and an inspiration to women around the world. She recently received the Royal Geographic Society’s 2011 Patron’s Medal. Boyd talks to Earle about some of her early dives in the Jim Suit.

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      • 00:08:00 Bruce Bachand

        Many people picture archaeology as the swashbuckling adventure portrayed in the Indiana Jones trilogy. But in reality, it can be much more tedious than discovering the Holy Grail and fighting Nazis. National Geographic grantee Bruce Bachand has been meticulously sewing a 3,000 bead necklace back together in Mexico after discovering a pre-Olmec burial site that housed a tribal chief and his wife, undisturbed for several centuries.

      • 00:09:00 Catherine Jaffee

        Turkey is famed for its honey, which is music to Boyd's ears—he has a notorious sweet tooth. He visited National Geographic grantee Cat Jaffee, a beekeeper who left her job in Washington, D.C. to make honey in rural Turkey. She says that bees harvest pollen from their surroundings: the best honey comes from bees with natural surroundings, large meadows, rather than urban environments. Most people, Jaffee says, eat honey that is basically a synthetic mix of sugars from all over the world.

      • Most of human history existed before the advent of GPS technologies that can pinpoint where we are at any time. National Geographic Fellow and ethnonavigation expert, Elizabeth Lindsey has taken it upon herself to understand what it was like for Polynesian explorers to colonize tiny, remote islands across the south Pacific Ocean. To better appreciate the skills it takes to study the clouds and winds in search of land, Lindsey plans to join a team of Polynesian women who are island-hopping using traditional methods: no GPS, no cellphones and no compass.

      • 00:11:00 Lucy Cooke

        Lucy Cooke