| || On the Earth there is one continent that is as fascinating and mysterious as another planet: Antarctica, the Terra Australis Incognita of explorers from the 17th to 19th centuries. It was not until 1899 that Carsten Borchgrevink became the first to winter on the continent. Today Antarctica is a world reserve dedicated to peace and science; it belongs to no other country and is regulated by the Antarctica Treaty signed in 1959 and expanded in 1991. From bioprospecting (searching for unknown organic molecules) to astronomy, almost all scientific disciplines run research programs here. For example, it was at the British-run Halley base that the “hole” in the ozone layer was discovered in the 1980s. At the US McMurdo base, they are studying the fossil evidence of the Big Bang, the gigantic explosion that preceded the creation of the universe, 15 billion years ago. Another important area of Antarctica research is the study of climate change, using bubbles of air that have been trapped inside the ice for hundreds of thousands of years.
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