Canadian Geographic
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International polar year

Event of a scientific lifetime

Polar research cutting across disciplines and nationalities is shedding light on the most remote regions on Earth and the impacts of a changing climate.

The Arctic and Antarctic have held a magnetic attraction for generations of explorers and researchers but interest reaches an even higher level during International Polar Year (IPY). Since its origins in the 1880s, IPY has brought together countries four times to undertake intense studies of the polar regions.

IPY was inspired by Lt. Karl Weyprecht, an Austrian naval officer who championed the virtues of bringing nations together to address major scientific themes. International cooperation has been a cornerstone of IPY ever since.

During the first IPY in 1882-1883, some 700 people from 11 countries undertook 15 expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. The findings from these expeditions include some of the earliest and most reliable meteorological and geological information from the top and bottom of the world.

An equally impressive legacy emerged from IPY in 1932-1933, which was inspired by the discovery of the jet stream in the upper atmosphere. Some 40 countries took part, establishing dozens of permanent observation posts in the Arctic and Antarctic.

IPY of 1957-1958, also known as International Geophysical Year, involved 67 nations and coincided with the launch of the earliest satellites into space, ushering in an entirely new perspective. Researchers discovered the radiation belt in the upper atmosphere, confirmed the movement of continents and generated the first accurate estimate of the size of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Ever growing in numbers, IPY 2007-2008 has proved to be the most ambitious yet.


This interactive vignette tells the story of the 1881 Lady Franklin Bay Expedition into the Canadian Arctic – better known as the Greely Expedition. The story is presented in full sequence, but users are able to select various sections of the story at any time. The narration is assisted with photos of the Expedition.


On the next page:

Goals of IPY 2007-08

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Quiz :

Which Northern animal has been extensively tracked using satellites?

Arctic fox
Arctic hare