Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/225

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ANTARCTIC EXPLORATION.

is not a dome of land increasing in height slowly from the coasts to a central point near the South Pole; it is more likely to consist of a lofty mountain range running near the Pacific shore and of a broad plateau sloping downward from this mountain axis across the pole to Weddell Sea on the one side and the bight between Wilkes Land and Enderby Land on the other.

The remaining problems of the Antarctic are of less general and more technical interest. The magnetic survey, the need for which led to the British Government's contribution of £45,000 to the cost of the 'Discovery,' is generally regarded as the most important item in the scientific program. The principal point to be determined by the British expedition is the variation in the magnetic elements since the surveys of Ross and of Clerk and Moore. The deep fauna of the Antarctic seas was proved by the 'Challenger' and the 'Belgica' to be rich in new forms of life; and according to Murray the Antarctic and Arctic faunas have many elements in common. More material is needed for the proper analysis of the resemblances between the two faunas, and the collections may be expected to yield some hitherto undiscovered animals of ancient types.

The exact shape of the earth is another question which cannot be settled without fresh evidence from the Antarctic. For this purpose two at least of the expeditions have been provided with pendulum outfits; by noting the exact length of time occupied by the swing of a pendulum the distance of the place of observation from the earth's center can be determined. It is held that the south polar region projects further from the plane of the equator than does the north polar region; according to one estimate the south pole is slightly more than one hundredth further from the earth's center than the north pole.

The work of the expeditions includes researches in the physics of glacier ice, a subject in which Professor von Drygalski is an expert, on the distribution and spectroscopic phenomena of the Aurora; on the composition and movements of the atmosphere, and the currents of the Antarctic Seas.

If the explorers only have the success which they deserve their arduous and devoted labors will contribute materially toward the progress of many branches of science. In fact, as Sir John Murray assures us, 'the results of a successful Antarctic expedition would mark a great advance in the philosophy—apart from the mere facts—of terrestrial science.'