Is the West Antarctic ice sheet disintegrating, threatening to raise the worldwide level of the ocean with disastrous effect? Charles R. Bentley, chairman of the Glaciology Committee of the Polar Research Board, National Research Council, posed the question and gave a personal answer, at a recent meeting of the Antarctican Society, in Washington, D.C. Bentley has long researched the Antarctic, beginning with a 2-year tour during the International Geophysical Year (1957–1958).
West Antarctica is the subject of interest because the ice cover there rests on bedrock as much as 2000 m below sea level, and this ‘marine’ glacier, unlike the ice over of East Antarctica, may be affected by changes in sea level. West and East Antarctica (divided along the Transantarctic Mountains) are as different as New Guinea and Australia, according to Bentley. East Antarctica exhibits continental characteristics, including a thick crust and mountain ranges; much of West Antarctica is underwater and dotted with active volcanic features.