Perched midway on the 2,000-foot face of McIntyre Promontory, scientist Erik Gulbranson takes a view of Antarctica. Here, he found a large number of fossilized tree stumps of Permian age (250 million years old).
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Five New Fossil Forests Found in Antarctica
Hundreds of millions of years ago, Antarctica was carpeted with prehistoric greenery. Now, scientists may have uncovered clues about what happened in the "Great Dying," or Permian extinction.
Antarctica is one of the harshest environments on the planet. As the coldest, driest continent, it harbors a world of extremes. The powerful katabatic winds that rush from the polar plateau down the steep, vertical drops around the continent's coast can stir up turbulent snowstorms lasting days or weeks, and the endlessly barren terrain gives Antarctica the title of the world's largest desert.
Today, polar summers pound the continent with 24 unforgiving hours of light for about half the year, before polar winters plunge it into complete darkness for the other half. Regardless of the season, the temperatures are consistently below freezing, making treks to the landmass unthinkable for the faint of heart.
But Antarctica wasn't always like this.