Antarctica has long been a prime spot for scientific research. The United States first established bases there in 1957. Today, more than 14 different countries maintain research stations in Antarctica.
Due to the climatic extremes and isolation, Antarctica is easily one of the most untouched regions on the earth. This makes it extremely valuable for all types of scientific research, but especially those involving climate change. The ice sheet that covers all but 2% of the continent contains 70% of the earths fresh water. This provides scientists with the perfect specimen to study and has enabled them to advance our knowledge of how ice sheets form and react with the environment over millions of years. Other scientific disciplines being researched on Antarctica include astronomy, astrophysics, biology, earth science, environmental science, geology, marine biology and geophysics.
Antarctica is of particular value to astronomers and astrophysicists. The South Pole is one of the best places on earth for viewing stars and scientists there are able to take advantage of the location and atmosphere in order to obtain valuable scientific data. Antarctica is also the best place in the world to find meteorites. Dark meteorites show up well in the snow and ice and there is no vegetation anywhere on the continent to cover them up.
Another key research field is geology. By studying geological evidence, scientists have been able to determine that Antarctica at one time had a temperate climate. The information that is hidden under the ice in Antarctica will continue to be retrieved and studied for generations to come.
Most of what makes Antarctica so valuable for research also makes it difficult for the scientists who are stationed there. The isolation and extreme climate are difficult for many people to endure for extended periods of time. Antarctica is both the coldest and the windiest continent. These two things combine to make an extremely hostile environment. The research stations that are maintained on Antarctica use state of the art technology to both protect scientists from the environment and to provide a level of comfort which enables them to live and work there relatively safely and comfortably.