1: Introducing extreme environment



What is an extreme environment?
A Mountains

C Polar

D Mars


What is the definition of an extreme environment and what do we know about them?

We are fascinated by extreme environments. People climb mountains, cross deserts and travel to the Poles. Sometime during this century people may even set foot on another planet. What is it that makes us go to such extremes? Is it to explore new places, to escape the stress of modern life, or simply for the excitement? An extreme environment is one where it is hard for people (or other forms of life) to survive. Extreme environments can be as vast as a desert or as small as a mountain peak.
B Desert

[Mountain Photo] A ]

The South Pole is as dry as a desert. Snow and ice have accumulated there over thousands of years.

The warmest day on Mars is barely as warm as the coldest day on Earth. The Martian atmosphere contains almost no oxygen.

The higher you go in the atmosphere the less oxygen there is. Above 5000 metres it is hard to breathe.

Extreme environments can be: • high • cold • deep • dry • hot • remote • wet • dark

• toxic • stormy • lacking oxygen.

+ There

is no right answer to question 3, but ranking will help you to think about what an extreme environment is.

Learn 2 learn

[Desert Photo]B

Discuss 1 Look at the four extreme environments on these pages. a Which one do you find most fascinating? Why? b Would you want to go there? Why, or why not? 2 a What do all these environments have in common? List three things. (Clue: it might help if you think about what is missing.) b Choose one of these environments. What makes it extreme? (Clue: think about wahy it would be hard to survive.) 3 With a partner put the four environments in order from most extreme to least extreme. a First, choose five factors to help you to judge how extreme each environment is. Choose from the list in the box above. b Then, rank the environments from 1 to 4 for each factor you chose. c Finally, add your rank scores together to put the environments in order.

Deserts can be hot or cold and some deserts can be both! They are very hot during the day and can be freezing cold at night.



1: Introducing extreme environment


Mountains on your mind



In 1985 two mountaineers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, set off to climb Siula Grande, a mountain in the Andes, South America. Their story is told in Joe’s book, Touching the Void, and in the film based on the book. Here is a short extract.

How do people react to extreme environments? Our love affair with mountains goes back a long time. In 1815 William Wordsworth wrote a poem inspired by a mountain; you can read the first few lines below, B. Until then, most people had thought of mountains and other extreme environments as dangerous places that were best avoided. Through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ideas changed. People became more adventurous, and began exploring extreme environments. They soon discovered that – yes – mountains are very dangerous!
n be A Mountain landscapes ca inspiring

C From ‘Touching the Void’

Crouching down on my knees, I turned my back to the cliff edge and managed to get my axes to bite in deeply. I lowered my legs over the cliff until the edge was against my stomach and I could kick my crampons into the ice wall below me. I felt them bite and hold. Removing one axe, I hammered it in again very close to the edge (...) I was hanging on to the ice axe, reaching to my side to place the hammer solidly into the wall with my left hand. I wanted it to be perfect before I removed the axe embedded in the lip and lowered myself on the hammer. As the hammer came out there was a sharp cracking sound and my right hand, gripping the axe, pulled down. The sudden jerk turned me outwards and instantly I was falling. (...) I felt a shattering blow in my knee, felt bones splitting, and screamed. The impact catapulted me over backwards and down the slope of the East Face. I slid, head-first, on my

back. The rushing speed of it confused me. I thought of the drop below but felt nothing. Simon would be ripped off the mountain. He couldn’t hold this. I screamed again as I jerked to a sudden violent stop. Everything was still, silent. My thoughts raced madly. The pain flooded down my thigh – a fierce burning fire coming down the inside of my thigh, seeming to ball in my groin, building and building until + crampons - spikes on I cried out at it, and my breathing a climber’s came in ragged gasps. My leg! Oh boots Jesus. My leg!

+ Don’t worry Learn 2 learn
if you think Wordsworth’s poem is hard – it is. Just think about how his words make you feel.

3 Read the extract from Touching the Void. Better still, close your eyes and get someone to read it to you. Try to picture the action in your mind. 4 Imagine what might happen next. Continue the story in your own words. You will find out what really did happen in Chapter 3. If you can’t wait till then, turn to page 00 to find out (but not until you’ve made up your own story!). Discuss + This Learn 2 learn 5 Talk about these questions with a partner. technique – a How did the extract make you feel? picturing a story in your mind and b What does it tell you about mountains? continuing it – is sometimes called a c How is the extract different from the poem? mind movie. It can help to get your mind d How does this tell you that the way we think about mountains has really working. changed since 1815?

1 Look at photo A. a How does it make you feel? b Think of at least five words to describe the mountain. 2 Now read the poem (B). a What words does the poet use to describe the mountain? b How do you think he feels about it?


Extract from November 1, a poem written by William Wordsworth in 1815

How clear, how keen, how marvellously bright The effluence from yon distant mountain’s head, Which, strewn with snow smooth as the sky can shed, Shines like another sun – on mortal sight Uprisen …



1: Introducing extreme environment


Is there life on Mars?
much s than th maller e Earth , but it about has the sam e area land. T of wo-thir ds of th Earth is e covere d by sea .


B Comparing Earth to Mars


Comparing Earth and Mars
Water Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water and all life depends on it. On Mars there is some water, but it is frozen at the Poles. Temperature Mars is further from the Sun than the Earth is. It also has a very thin atmosphere that does not retain much heat. This means that the temperature on Mars is much lower. Pressure Because the Martian atmosphere is thin, it does not weigh much and pressure at the surface is much lower than on Earth. There is not enough air to breathe. Oxygen On Earth 21% of the atmosphere is oxygen, while Mars has only 0.13%. We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Too much CO2 would suffocate us. Storms Storms on Earth usually bring wind and rain. On Mars storms bring winds, which blow up dust from the surface. Summer storms blanket most of the planet in dust.



How do people react to extreme environments? There are few places left on Earth that people have not already explored. However, space is another matter. So far, the only place beyond the Earth where people have been is the Moon. In future, we are re e likely to go to other planets. Almost certainly, we will find environments s that are far more extreme than any on Earth. The endless possibilities of space have become a subject for science-fiction writers, film makers s and even newspaper reporters.
Express A Extract from the Daily

You + Mars r world is

By John Chapman Wednesday 23 January 2008

The issue has divided stargazers for centuries. Now finally this picture provides evidence that there really is life on Mars – or does it?
The photo from the Red Planet appears to show a Yeti-like creature with a huge head making its way down a mountainside. It was taken by a Nasa space probe and its appearance on the internet yesterday fired the imagination of every science fiction fan who secretly yearns for a close encounter with an extra-terrestrial. Then again, of course, it might not be a Martian at all...but just a strange rock formation. Initially, astronomers hoping for signs of life on the fourth planet were disappointed when Nasa’s Mars Explorer Spirit sent back images from the surface four years ago. The pictures showed a red, drab, dusty surface devoid of life. But one space enthusiast scanned every rock and crevice and spotted the ape-like ‘Martian’ which appeared as just a pinprick on the original photograph. The image was then blown up and posted on a Chinese website. The intriguing photo will again focus attention on Earth’s nearest neighbour, which many scientists have long believed could harbour alien life.

1 Look at B. In what ways do you think that Mars is: a similar to extreme environments on Earth? b different from extreme environments on Earth? 2 Do you think there is life on Mars? Using the evidence on these pages, say why you think there is, or isn’t. 3 You have been asked to make preparations for the first human expedition to Mars. Make a list of what to take and give a reason for each item. Think about what you would: • breathe • eat • drink • wear. 4 Think back to what you already know about extreme environments on Earth. Would you take similar items to an extreme environment on Earth? Discuss 5 a Do you think people are likely to go to Mars in your lifetime? Why, or why not? b If they do, how is the way we view Mars likely to change? (Think about the way our views on mountains changed through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.)




Extremely British

1: Introducing extreme environment
Sometimes people can adapt to live in an environment that other people might think is extreme. In Britain about 90 per cent of us live in cities. Of course, we don’t usually think of a city as an extreme environment – it is just where we happen to live. However, from another point of view, the city is an extreme environment. Where else do you find so much concrete, noise, pollution or, above all, crowds of people? Imagine what it would be like to be in a city for the first time. That is what happened to a group of Maasai warriors from Tanzania (B). They were invited to run in the London Marathon in 2008 to raise money for a new well in their village. It was the first time they had left Tanzania. While in London their chief kept a diary (C).
the B Maasai warriors running London Marathon



What environments within the UK may be considered extreme? When we think of extreme environments we don’t usually think of Britain. After all, we don’t have any deserts or ice caps, and our mountains are not very high ( ) y g (A).

A Ben Nevis


April 4 – 12
Highest mountain Largest desert Largest glacier Hottest place (highest temperature ever recorded) Coldest place (lowest temperature ever recorded) Wettest place (average annual rainfall) Driest place (average annual rainfall) Biggest city Ben Nevis, Scotland, 1344m –

The World
Mt Everest, Nepal, 8850m Sahara Desert, North Africa, 9 million km2

nally, th Maasa e i peop le are herder cattle s. They need to good r unners be to herd cattle a their nd to e scape lions! T from oday, many o them li f ve in to wns.

+ Traditioworld


No glaciers in the UK (though it Lambert Glacier, Antarctica, 80 km wide, sometimes snows!) 500km long Faversham, Kent, 38.5°C Braemar, Scotland, -27.2°C Snowdonia, Wales, 447cm Clacton, Essex, 513mm London, 7.5 million people El Azizia, Libya, 57.8°C Vostok, Antarctica, -89°C Cherrapunji, India, 1270cm Atacama Desert, Chile, 0.1mm Tokyo, Japan, 28 million people

Arrival in London T plane was so big and frightening. he (...) Heathrow was very busy and it was difficult to walk on the floor because some of it moved. You’re walking along and the next moment it’s whoooosh! It’s difficult to get on and off but very good when you’re on.




T Houses of Parliament are the best he ment buildings in London. T n. hey use very strong materials. We hoped very much to see the Queen in London, but she i never th t h is v there.

1 ‘The UK has no extreme environments’. What is your opinion about this statement? Give reasons for your answer. 2 a Read the diary of a Maasai warrior in London, on the opposite page (C). Notice the things that he found strange about the city. b Think of other things that a newcomer to a city might find strange, e.g. underground trains. c Now write your own guide for someone coming to a city for the first time, trying to explain the things that they would find strange. Give at least five ideas. For example: ‘In the city the trains travel underground, because e the ground there is not enough space on the ground . ground”. Discuss + You Learn 2 learn 3 Do you think the city don’t is an extreme always environment? Think of have to believe something to r, five arguments in favour, argue that it is true. Thinking or five varguments about the opposite argument he against. Then debate the often helps you to understand . question with a partner.

I miss meat and blood very much. T here is milk here but blood is better because it gives energy. English tea with sugar is good and we tried Coco Pops. T he nicest food is croissants. T weather here is strange. From a window he it looks warm but outside it’s very cold. It’s better when we’re running or in the shower. (...) When the shower is hot it is really hot, and when cold, really cold. T is true. his





I prefer my home in Tanzania to here. It’s a more natural life without all these buildings. (...) We can live in the West but I miss the village.





Everybody in England is friendly and smiley. T is common in Maasai culture his – the one difference is they are white. And people here depend on money; back home we don’t buy food.

I am excited to get the marathon done and get clean water to save lives. We have a dam that we share with wild animals so every morning the children go to get water; it’s dangerous for them. Some have lost their lives. Next week we will drill and get clean water for top life.





Going to extremes
1 a Write a list of all the sports you can think of, starting with the ones in the photos, which require an extreme environment. b In each case, suggest the best type of environment to do the sport. For example Surfing needs a beach with big waves. 2 Look carefully at map A. a Describe the distribution of surfing beaches on the map. Which parts of the British Isles have most surfing beaches? Which parts have fewest? b Try to explain the distribution of surfing beaches. Why do some parts have many while others have few? (The information beside the map will help you.) 3 Now try some other extreme sports. Find a good location on map B where you could go: a rock climbing b white-water rafting c caving. Learn 2 learn In each case, give a six+ It may be a long figure grid reference time since you used on the map and say grid references. It is why you chose this good to practise your location. Remember geographical skills often to mention any map so you don’t forget them. symbols that helped your decision. t k d 4 Plan a surfing trip for next weekend. a Go to the Magic Seaweed website at http://magicseaweed.com. Click on Surf reports for UK and Ireland and you will see a map, like map A. b Choose a location on the map for a surfing trip. It could be the one nearest you. Click the location on the surf reports map. Find the forecast for next weekend for this location. What will the conditions be? Will it be good for surfing? c If not, find another location, somewhere in the British Isles, with better conditions for surfing. What will the conditions be like there?

1: Introducing extreme environment
es A Surfing in the British Isl
Surfing needs good waves. Good waves depend on: Swell is the size of the waves out at sea. The largest swell usually follows a storm. Wave size is affected by the strength of the wind, how long it blows for and the distance at sea over which it blows (the fetch). The larger the swell, the better the surf. Local wind direction affects the quality of the waves. • Onshore winds (blowing from sea to land) make the waves break too quickly. • Offshore winds (blowing from land to sea) hold up the waves and create the best waves for surfing. Beach gradient affects the way the waves break near the shore. Too steep and the waves break too quickly. Too shallow and the waves lose all their energy. The ideal beach is a gently sloping one.



What environments in the UK may be considered extreme? In the UK we may not have any deserts or glaciers, and our mountains are not very high, but there are still adventures to be found. The number of people who do extreme sports in the UK has grown dramatically in recent years. In each case, the secret of the success of these sports is a suitable extreme environment.

Scotland Atlantic Ocean North Sea Northern Ireland Irish Sea Ireland England Wales

Surfing [photo from the UK]

English Channel

Surfing beach

Not to scale

Rock climbing

t for B Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales – a good environmen

extreme sports

Rock climbing [photo from the UK]



White-water rafting




Caving [photo from the UK]


70 72










Crown copyright © 100000 249 y g

Based on 1 : 50,000 map. Scale reduced.

White-water rafting [photo from the UK]



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