American politicians visiting Antarctica flock to the erstwhile South Pole to be photographed standing on their heads, but Chinese scientific tourists have lately favored an even more remote locale- Ice Dome Argus , a thousand kilometers to the East, and by virtue of its 4,063 meter elevation , probably the coldest place in the world.
Unsurprisingly , it stands atop some of the thickest . and hopefully oldest ice on the planet, and will be the scene of an heroic core drilling project as the International Polar Year program proceeds. The ice record may far exceed the present limit of 800,000 year-old cores , affording insight into the possible role of CO2 in the ancient transition between Ice Ages spaced 41,000 years or so apart , and the last few, which have come at roughly 100,000 year intervals .
The reason these hardy Chinese scientists look so cheerful may not be The East Is Red blaring in the background , but that they are about to leave the Deep South. Fall is in the air in Antarctica , and Dome Argus is no place to spend the winter, even if it promises to outstrip Greenland or the old Soviet Vostok Antarctic station as a treasure trove of buried palaeoclimate data .