The YouTube video showed a ferocious blast of super-frigid air howling through an opened door at the South Pole. Watching in the TODAY studio, Ann Curry’s eyes widened as the cold realization set in that when TODAY goes to the ends of the earth, that’s where she will be.
“Are you crazy?” she exclaimed as her TODAY co-hosts Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira teased her about her upcoming trip. “I can’t believe it. I hate to be cold. I’m cold here.”
Kidding aside, Curry’s trip will be part of broadcast history. On Nov. 5 and 6 TODAY will for the first time will broadcast live and simultaneously from locations that circle the globe from north to south. It’s part NBC Universal’s “Green is Universal” initiative that takes an unprecedented look at Planet Earth.
While Curry is in Antarctica, Lauer will be on the very top of the planet reporting from the Greenland ice sheet while Al Roker will check in from an endangered 'cloud' forest on the equator in Ecuador. Vieira will connect the global dots from the TODAY studio in New York.
Curry has been around the world on assignment for TODAY, and has been in many dangerous locations. Just last week, she scored an exclusive interview in Karachi, Pakistan with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto just days after suicide bombers attacked her motorcade, killing some 140 people and injuring up to 500 more.
But it is the desolate South Pole, where not even penguins live, has her worried.
“I’m really nervous,” Curry said.
But it’s not because of the danger inherent in the world’s most extreme and unforgivingly cold climate. Rather, she said, it’s because of the extraordinary technical demands of broadcasting live from the South Pole, which is beyond the reach of communications satellites. Instead, Curry will broadcast via a broadband connection that hasn’t been attempted by the TODAY show before.
“Of all the places I’ve been – Pakistan, wherever – this is probably the one I may not be able to get on television because of the circumstances,” Curry said. “It’s a great, big, exciting adventure.”
Curry is actually leaving this weekend on her journey, which will take her via Los Angeles, New Zealand and then via miltary transport to McMurdo Station, the American Antarctic base on the edge of the continent. After reporting from McMurdo, she will go on to the South Pole.
Antarctica is the coldest, driest, windiest and least populated place on earth. There are no permanent inhabitants, and those who live in bases there are almost exclusively scientists and their support crews.
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Weather changes in the Antarctic are being watched more closely than ever for clues to how the warming of the planet will affect global climate.
Earth in peril
Lauer’s location is no less important to science. Glaciers cover 81 percent of Greenland, the world’s largest island. But those glaciers have been melting at an accelerating rate just as the ice cover on the Arctic Ocean has also been melting. The water from the melting ice has been contributing to a rise in ocean levels.
The endangered cloud forest that Roker will investigate is at an elevation of 7,000 feet and connects with the Amazonian rain forest, which is under increasing pressure from human development.
Lauer, Roker and Curry will broadcast live from their destinations on Nov. 5 and 6.
Throughout the entire week, the show will take an in-depth and comprehensive look at the health of the global ecosystem. Where is life thriving? Where is it challenged by climate change? How are modern human explorers advancing our understanding of regions previously shrouded in mystery?
Lauer teased Curry that the real danger is that she might not be able to get back from the South Pole.
“We’ll see you in May,” he joked.
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