Sunday, November 21, 1999

Cold Hard Queries

Published in the Antarctic Sun

In recent days, several people have stopped by the Sun’s office and posed intriguing Antarctic trivia questions. Here are the answers we’ve found:

Is there lightning in Antarctica?

Jeff Prucinsky of Mac Weather reports, “I do not believe that there has ever been a recorded case of lightning in the Antarctic.” The reason is that lightning requires clouds that are tall enough to have large areas of positive and negative charge. Because Antarctica is so flat and white, there is little convective activity, and no chance for clouds to form high enough, Prucinsky said. With no tall clouds, there is no lightning.

How did Amundsen and Scott know when they had reached the South Pole?

Both expeditions used a navigational instrument called a theodolite (the-AHD-oh-lite), which measures the elevation of the sun above the horizon, to map the track of its orbit. From the
path of the sun across the sky, Amundsen’s and Scott’s parties were able to determine their latitude. Longitude was of no concern, since longitude is meaningless at the poles. As well, Scott knew he was at the Pole because he found a Norwegian flag planted there.

Why is a Jamesway called a Jamesway?

This is a tough one. Though we’ve been unable to pin down an answer, we’ve heard several theories, including that the building is named after a person named James Butler Way, or
after a person or corporation called Jamesway. If you can shed additional light on
these ideas, or know of other theories, please contact us at the Sun.