DECEPTION ISLAND, Antarctica — Their beady little eyes, squarish torsos and adorable waddling make penguins one of the main attractions for tourists who come to Antarctica. But far from the surface waters where they swim with seals and whales, deep in the oceans and across thousands of miles of frozen continent is another side of Antarctica that is both forbidding and mysterious.
It's in those places that scientists study the rapid melting of icebergs and global warming, look for clues about humanity's past that could help us see the future and even find forms of life that survive and thrive in extremely harsh conditions.
Over two weeks, an Associated Press team traveled to Antarctica with scientists who were looking for hints of pollution, studying rock formations and analyzing the worrisome melting of the ice along the western side of the continent. Along the way, the team encountered awe-inspiring glaciers and jagged craters, a Russian orthodox church that doubles as a beacon of light for incoming ships and even spent several days stranded in a nasty patch of fog, the kind of volatile weather that is practically a staple of any Antarctica visit.
This selection of photos provides a window into to some of the animals, landscapes and unique people who live and work in one of the world's most inhospitable yet important places.