Big Picture Science – Stranded

by Gary Niederhoff on September 14, 2015


Big Picture Science – Stranded

Imagine not knowing where you are – and no one else knowing either. Today, that’s pretty unlikely. Digital devices pinpoint our location within a few feet, so it’s hard to get lost anymore. But we can still get stranded.

A reporter on board an Antarctic ship that was stuck for weeks in sea ice describes his experience, and contrasts that with a stranding a hundred years prior in which explorers ate their dogs to survive.

Plus, the Plan B that keeps astronauts from floating away forever … how animals and plants hitch rides on open sea to populate new lands … and the rise of the mapping technology that has made hiding a thing of the past.

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Hiawatha Bray – GPS
Part 2: Andrew Luck-Baker – Trapped in the ice
Part 3: Alan de Queiroz – Monkey’s voyage
Part 4: Chris Hadfield – Alone in Space

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar Alexander Polsky September 18, 2015 at 10:20 am

Listened to this podcast on a hike, and I noticed your dismissal of Polynesian navigation– that’s a significant error.

Without sextants, compasses or GPS, Polynesians traveled enormous distances across open ocean, quite accurately. Consider just how far Rapa Nui is from anything else. This is an amazing feat, and Polynesian navigation was robust. Nothing to fail, and since many knew how to do it, the loss of a skilled navigator wouldn’t have doomed a ship.

One might also add that all sorts of animals navigate enormous distances, with remarkable accuracy, using only perceptual cues.

So while GPS is impressive . . . so is the migration of the Monarch butterfly, or the return of the Salmon to the stream in which it spawned. Navigation is a problem with a lot of solutions . . . technological, human, and biological

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