David Barber (in the white hat) and Alex Langlois are sampling new ice in the Arctic. Dr. Barber is a prominent Arctic researcher and Alex was a graduate student at the University of Manitoba at the time of the photo. This picture was taken by Victoria Razina during a summer cruise in 2005.
Click on image for full size
Image taken by Victoria Razina

International Polar Year - and IPY's of the Past

The IPY or International Polar Year of 2007-2008 is being met with much excitement from the polar science community.

What is an IPY and were there IPY's in the past?

*** First IPY ***

The First IPY took place in 1882-83. An Austrian scientist and a navy officer Karl Weyprecht was the leader behind this event. After spending years in the Arctic, he realized that it would be better if many countries worked together to collect data. He worked on this idea and the international polar year was born. In 1882, 12 countries set up 15 stations (13 in the Arctic and 2 in the Southern Hemisphere off the coast of South America) and collected data year around.

*** Second IPY ***

The science community came back to this idea fifty years later, announcing 1932-33 as the Second International Polar Year. By that time, technology had improved and better ground-based weather and physical measurements were made. Atmospheric measurements were taken too.

40 coutries participated in the second IPY and forty permanent stations were established in the Arctic. Many of these stations are still active now. The second Byrd expedition to the Antarctic continent also happened during the second IPY. This expedition made a winter-long weather station on the Ross Ice Shelf, the first research station inland from Antarctica’s coast.

*** IGY ***

The International Geophysical Year (IGY) started in 1957 and was more broad in aiming to study many of the Earth sciences. Although the world was in the middle of the Cold War, the IGY was by far the most successful example of international scientific collaboration. 67 nations participated in the event. So many important scientific advancements were made during this IGY:

The theory of continental drift was confirmed after 50 years of dispute. The first satellites into space enabled the discovery of the radiation belts around Earth. For the first time scientists crossed the Antarctica continent, measuring the total size of its ice mass. Permanent stations were established in Antarctica. The advances in science were overwhelming and the IGY activities went beyond the “year” that had been planned.

*** IPY of 2007-08 ***

Over 30 nations are involved in this event. The main goals of these countries are to advance current understandings and investigate the unknowns in polar science. Education of the next generation of scientists and engaging the awareness, interest and understanding of polar research among the general public, school children and policy-makers world-wide is also a goal.

This text was adapted from text written by Maria Tsukernik who is a graduate student at University of Colorado-Boulder.

Last modified January 29, 2007 by Jennifer Bergman.

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Exploration of the Poles of the Earth

Polar exploration includes the physical exploration of the Arctic and the Antarctica. The Arctic is the area around the Earth's north pole and includes parts of Canada, Greenland, Russia, the United States...more

The New South Pole Station

The United States has dedicated a new scientific station at the geographic South Pole. This is the third station the United States has operated at the South Pole since 1957, and the new station will allow...more

The Antarctic Region

What Will You Find There? South of the Antarctic Circle (at 66.5°S latitude) you will find the continent of Antarctica surrounded by the Southern Ocean, the geographic South Pole and the magnetic South...more


Antarctica is unique. It is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth. The land is barren and mostly covered with a thick sheet of ice. Antarctica is almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle...more

The Arctic: Earth's North Polar Region

North of the Arctic Circle (at 66.5°N latitude) you will find the Arctic Ocean surrounded by the continents of Europe, Asia, and North America. You will find the geographic North Pole and the magnetic...more

Polar Bears on Thin Ice

“Polar bears are one of nature’s ultimate survivors, able to live and thrive in one of the world’s harshest environments, but we are concerned the polar bears’ habitat may literally be melting” said US...more

Sea Ice in the Arctic and Antarctic

Sea ice is frozen seawater. It can be several meters thick and it moves over time. Although the salts in the seawater do not freeze, pockets of concentrated salty water become trapped in the sea ice when...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA