The Great crack-up

It’s hard to wreck a continent you can barely get your hands on. Human beings typically do our worst environmental damage in the places we live and work—clear-cutting forests, strip-mining mountains. Antarctica, however, was more or less out of reach. No more.

Climate change has become our species’ great destructive equalizer, leaving no part of the planet safe from the harm we do. In March 2017, the sea ice around both poles reached a record low for that time of year. In July, a 1 trillion–ton iceberg, roughly the size of Delaware, calved off of the Larsen C ice shelf in western Antarctica. The damage to the ice is being done not just from above, as the planet’s air warms, but from below, as its oceans do too.

In November, during a nine-day expedition over the west Antarctic peninsula, photo­journalist Paolo Pellegrin rode along on the four-engine P-3B airplane that conducted the surveys. The pictures Pellegrin brought home may serve as a reminder to care for the Earth in a way that better protects our profound good fortune.
Jeffrey Kluger, editor-at-Large at TIME writes about the disappearance of Antarctica's sea ice through a photo essay, edited by Andrew Katz, TIME’s Deputy Director of Multimedia.

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