Exploring the climate history and the geological structure and evolution of the rocks and mountains of Antarctica’s continental interior provides clues to past, present and future environmental change. Under-ice lakes, mountain chains buried by up to 4km ice, and sea bed sediments surrounding the frozen continent provide an unparalleled record of how the Earth’s climate has changed over millions of years.

Antarctica — our fifth largest continent — is 58-times the size of the UK. Buried beneath the snow and ice that cover more than 99% of its surface are chains of mountains the size of the Alps, while around the edge of the continent, and running across its centre, are other large mountain ranges that rise above the ice.

Geologists have studied the rocks in these mountains for more than a century. These rocks reveal that Antarctica has moved vast distances over millions of years. More than 500 million years ago, Antarctica straddled the equator, and the warm, shallow seas that covered the continent supported trilobites and other organisms long since extinct.

For hundreds of millions of years, Antarctica was locked in the centre of a giant continent called Gondwana. Around 150 million years ago, this supercontinent began to split apart, forming the modern continents of Australia, India, South America and Africa. At that time, instead of ice and snow, Antarctica was covered in dense forest and dinosaurs roamed its coastal plains.

Rocks and fossils tell us that the continent began to cool about 80 million years ago and around 35 million years ago, a vast ice sheet blanketed East Antarctica.

Locked in Antarctica’s rocks and in the sea bed around the continent is an unparalleled record of how the Earth’s climate has changed over millions of years. During the past 50 years, geologists at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have built up the world’s largest archive of Antarctic rocks and fossils and made major contributions to our understanding of Antarctica’s ancient history.

Today, using BAS’s Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross to carry out surveys at sea and BAS aircraft to study remote corners of the continent, BAS geologists are using these ancient records to help predict how future climate change will affect not only Antarctica, but also the rest of the world.

Scientists at BAS are using advanced computer models to show what the Antarctic may have looked like 3 million years ago. The models suggest that during the mid-Pliocene warm period, the ice retreated significantly from the edges of the continent and was replaced by a sparse tundra vegetation. That a rise in temperature of only a few degrees centigrade had such a profound effect on Antarctica is a stark reminder of what might happen in the near future.

Percussive Rapid Access Isotope Drill

The ice sheets of Antarctica can be several kilometres thick, and contain precious information about the past climate. However, the bottoms of the ice sheets are melting, erasing this information. …



Larsen-C Benthos

On 12 July 2017, the Larsen-C Ice Shelf calved one of the largest iceberg originating from the Antarctic Peninsula ever recorded. As iceberg A68 moves north, it  leaves behind an …


ApRES and groundwater

The aim of this study is to investigate whether a technique developed to measure the basal meltrate of ice shelves can be used to monitor groundwater in arid and semi-arid …


Data As Art

DATA AS ART is a science/art project in development at NERC’s British Antarctic Survey (BAS). It visualises science data (in its widest definition), to create stunning and thought-provoking artworks, using real Antarctic …


Seismic investigation of a subglacial lake

Field Team includes: Alex Brisbourne (BAS), Andrés Rivera (CECs), Rodrigo Zamora (CECs), Field Guide (BAS). Antarctic subglacial lakes contain unique records of ice sheet history and microbial life; they may …


GOCE+Antarctica

GOCE+Antarctica- Dynamic Antarctic Lithosphere -is an international project supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) that is using GOCE satellite gravity gradient data, GPS data and innovative 3D modelling to …


PolarGAP

The polar regions have the capacity to amaze and astound, but despite the considerable progress of recent decades we still know far less about them than less remote parts of …



The role of Antarctic sea-ice in global climate

Sea-ice is frequently cited as a likely driver and propagator of abrupt climate change because of the rapid and far-reaching impact of its feedbacks. However, numerical climate models are still …


Climate and Ice during the Last Interglacial

During the Last Interglacial (129-116 thousand years ago, ka) CO2 and global temperature were both higher than they were before human industrialisation. By examining Last Interglacial climate, we thus gain …



Arctic marine geophysics

This research focuses on investigating the glacial histories of Arctic ice sheets and ice caps using the marine geological record preserved on continental margins. By reconstructing past ice sheets, their …






Filchner Ice Shelf System, Antarctica

Understanding the contribution that polar ice sheets make to global sea-level rise is recognised internationally as urgent.  The mission of this five-year project is to capture new observations and data …


Antarctic Seabed Carbon Capture Change

The ASCCC Project  has been funded by ACE (Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition) to investigate, quantify and understand the role of polar and subpolar seabeds in the carbon cycle, particularly in response …





























































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































New magnetic anomaly map helps unveil Antarctica

17 July, 2018

The most comprehensive magnetic map of Antarctica ever produced is published this week (15 July 2018). The new map – which includes 3.5 million line-kilometres of magnetic anomaly data collected …





New Antarctic heat map reveals sub-ice hotspots

13 November, 2017

An international team of scientists, led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), has produced a new map showing how much heat from the Earth’s interior is reaching the base of the …





New study shows when Pine Island Glacier retreat began

23 November, 2016

New study reveals when West Antarctica’s largest glacier started retreating Reporting this week (Wednesday 23 November) in the journal Nature an international team led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) explains …


FEATURED PAPER: Modelling Gondwana break-up

17 November, 2016

Gondwana break-up changed the global continental configuration, leading to the opening of major oceanic gateways, shifts in the climate system and significant impacts on the biosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere. Although …






NEWS STORY: BAS at leading fossil festival

1 April, 2015

British Antarctic Survey exhibits at Lyme Regis Fossil Festival Staff from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are displaying some amazing Antarctic fossil and biological collections at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival …


NEWS STORY: Mountains frozen in time

19 November, 2014

Antarctic “ghost mountains” preserved by ice sheet A new study reveals how the rugged ridgelines of East Antarctica’s ancient and mysterious ‘ghost mountains’ have been preserved for millions of years …


NEWS STORY: BAS to host workshop

13 October, 2014

British Antarctic Survey hosts Chemical Air-Snow-Sea Ice Interaction workshop in Cambridge More than 60 scientists from over 15 countries are attending a workshop in Cambridge this week (13-15 October) to …


NEWS STORY: Geology under the ice

11 April, 2014

An international research team has generated the first comprehensive map of geology beneath the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that will help to understand long-term changes in the largest ice sheet …


NEWS STORY: Volcanoes helped life survive ice ages

10 March, 2014

New research suggests that life survived past ice ages with the help of volcanoes. An international collaboration, including scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, has found new evidence that the …


NEWS STORY: Airborne geophysics in the Antarctic

27 January, 2014

In this month’s International Innovation journal Dr Fausto Ferraccioli discusses how airborne geophysics can be used to uncover the geology of Antarctica and explore some of the Earth’s final frontiers. …


NEWS STORY: UK leading scientists listed

16 January, 2014

A list published this week by the Science Council features British Antarctic Survey Director, Professor Jane Francis as one of 100 UK leading practising scientists The list is the result …


NEWS STORY: Giant trench under Antarctic Ice

15 January, 2014

What lies beneath – scientists discover giant trench under Antarctic Ice A massive ancient subglacial trough — deeper than the Grand Canyon — has been discovered by a team of …


NEWS STORY: Mapping Antarctica’s last frontier

13 December, 2013

Mapping of remote Antarctic frontier will help model its reaction to climate change and unlock secrets of Earth’s ancient supercontinents. For the first time scientists have begun mapping one of …


NEWS STORY: Earthquakes strike Scotia Sea

18 November, 2013

Series of large earthquakes in Scotia Sea close to South Orkney Islands A series of earthquakes has been detected in the Scotia Sea region close to the British Antarctic Survey’s …


NEWS STORY: Award for innovative map

3 October, 2013

Map makers rewarded for stunning recreation of Antarctic without ice A colourful British Antarctic Survey map has won a coveted award. The map, created by the institution’s MAGIC (Mapping and …


NEWS STORY: Lake Ellsworth project leader honoured

2 July, 2013

Lake Ellsworth project leader awarded international prize Professor Martin Siegert, the principal investigator on the sub-glacial Lake Ellsworth project, has been awarded the 2013 Muse Prize. The award is in …


NEWS STORY: Bedmap opens up Antarctica

8 March, 2013

Bedmap2 gives scientists a more detailed view of Antarctica”s landmass Scientists at the British Antarctic Survey have been working with a host of international collaborators to present the most detailed …


PRESS RELEASE: Assessing potential sea level rise

16 January, 2013

New Antarctic geological timeline aids future sea-level predictions Radiocarbon dates of tiny fossilised marine animals found in Antarctica’s seabed sediments offer new clues about the recent rapid ice loss from …


PRESS RELEASE: Secrets of hidden rift valley

25 July, 2012

Hidden rift valley discovered beneath West Antarctica reveals new insight into accelerating ice loss Scientists have discovered a one mile deep rift valley hidden beneath the ice in West Antarctica, …


PRESS RELEASE: Challenging mission accomplished

16 January, 2012

Engineering team completes ambitious Antarctic expedition in the ‘deep-field’ A team of four British Antarctic Survey (BAS) engineers has returned to the UK after completing a gruelling journey to one …


PRESS RELEASE: Buried mountain range mapped

16 November, 2011

Gamburtsev Mountains enigma unraveled in interior East Antarctica The birth of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains buried beneath the vast East Antarctic Ice Sheet — a puzzle mystifying scientists since their …


PRESS RELEASE: Mission to submerged lake

11 October, 2011

British Antarctic Survey engineering team heads to Antarctica to explore hidden lake Next week a British engineering team from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) heads off to Antarctica for the first …


PRESS RELEASE: Underwater volcanoes discovered

11 July, 2011

Underwater Antarctic volcanoes discovered in the Southern Ocean Scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have discovered previously unknown volcanoes in the ocean waters around the remote South Sandwich Islands. Using …


PRESS RELEASE: New discovery from “ghost mountains”

3 March, 2011

Ice structures found among hidden Antarctic mountains The discovery of numerous large ice structures within Antarctica’s Dome A region, the site of the buried ‘ghost mountains’, reveals new understanding about …


PRESS RELEASE: How marine animals crossed continent

31 August, 2010

Marine animals suggest evidence for a trans-Antarctic seaway A tiny marine filter-feeder, that anchors itself to the sea bed, offers new clues to scientists studying the stability of the West …


PRESS RELEASE: Submerged lake drill site chosen

4 June, 2010

Drilling into the unknown – the first exploration of a sub-glacial Antarctic lake is a major step closer Scientists have located the ideal drill site for the first ever exploration …


PRESS RELEASE: Mission to buried mountain range

13 October, 2008

Challenge to discover Antarctica”s hidden world Later this month teams of scientists, engineers, pilots and support staff from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), USA, Germany, Australia, China and Japan will join …