January 7, 2009
Way, way, long ago, Antarctica had rain forests. Now, it’s just bare rock and ice, a total desert on land.
But wait! There is life among the rocks, after all. As snow melts this summer, we’re seeing spots of lichen and algae that were hidden underneath. Snow algae is green and spreads in carpets over wet, muddy spots beneath snowfields, and the lichen is bright orange and clings to rocks, also around the edges of snowfields. They’re the closest thing we’ve got to real plants, so I like to imagine I’m walking through a lush forest as I step over little patches of algae and navigate among lichen-covered rocks. It’s incredible that they survive the long Antarctic winters.