Assessment 1 of 0

6th Grade Assessment – Unit 1 – RI.6.2, RI.6.3, RI.6.5, RI.6.8, L.6.4a

Justice February 2, 2015

Directions: Read this article. Then answer questions 1 through 5.


Snow Way

by Beth Geiger


Where will you find the world’s best spot for stargazing? Many astronomers would say the

South Pole. The sky is always clear there, and during the winter it’s always dark.

Astronomers flock to the South Pole, as do scientists who study climate, the atmosphere,

and polar ice. To accommodate them, the U.S. National Science Foundation

5                  (NSF) built an outpost, called the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Getting people and supplies to the station is not easy. Military transport planes do it

when weather permits. Therefore, the NSF is building a “highway” to the pole. The project is one

of the most unusual road-construction projects ever undertaken.


                      Top of the Bottom

The Antarctic highway, called the South Pole Traverse, will not be a typical

10                  thoroughfare. “Everyone knows what a road looks like,” said Peter West, an NSF spokesman.

“What we are working on is not that at all, by any stretch of the imagination.”

When completed, the traverse will be a 1,600-kilometer (1,000-mile) path of groomed

snow and ice, marked by green flags. It will cross floating ice, gaping crevasses (cracks in the

ice), deep snow, treacherous mountains, and frozen nothingness.

15                             The traverse is not a typical road, because

Antarctica is not a typical continent. Ice—

4,570 meters (15,000 feet) thick in some places—

covers 98 percent of the continent. Antarctica is

the world’s coldest desert and receives only about

20                   5 centimeters (2 inches) of precipitation (rain or

snow) annually. The thick ice is the buildup of

millions of years’ worth of snowfall.

A few high peaks in the Transantarctic

Mountains poke through the ice to form islands

25                    of rock called nunataks. East of the Transantarctic

chain is the polar plateau—the flat top of the

bottom of the world. On the plateau lies the

Amundsen-Scott Station.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 8.15.38 PM

Antarctica’s ice doesn’t stop at the edge of the continent. Thick slabs of floating, slowly

30                     shifting ice, called ice shelves, fringe the continent. The biggest, the Ross Ice Shelf, is the

size of France and is hundreds of feet thick.


                          Ice Route

The traverse begins at McMurdo Station, the main U.S. base on the continent. From

there, it heads across the Ross Ice Shelf.

Floating, shifting ice might seem like dangerous ground for heavy truck traffic. Why

35                        not go straight over the land instead? Traveling across the Ross Ice Shelf keeps the journey at

the relative warmth of sea level for as long as possible. At higher elevations on land,

temperatures can get so cold that they cause machinery to malfunction. The shelf also

makes for relatively easy cruising. “It’s really smooth and flat,” said Erin Pettit, a University of

Washington geologist who works in Antarctica.


                          Frigid Summers

40                                   Building the traverse has been a daunting job. A hardy five-man crew works only during

the Antarctic summer (December to March). Even then, temperatures remain well below

freezing. “At first, it is strange for anybody to work in the cold-cold like that,” said project

manager John Wright. “But you learn to deal.”

The first summer, the crew members tackled their most chilling challenge: yawning

45                       crevasses in the Ross Ice Shelf that can swallow a tractor in the blink of a frozen eyelash.

The crevasses, which can be 30 meters (100 feet) deep, might not be so dangerous if they

were visible. But most of them lurk under covers of snow called snow bridges. Many

people have fallen through snow bridges to icy deaths.

The nastiest crevasses on the route are in a shear zone about 48 kilometers (30 miles)

50                        from McMurdo. There, ice within the shelf moves at different rates, stretching and cracking

into a maze of crevasses. To cross that area safely, the team members probed the ice ahead

with radar. Whenever they found a crevasse, they used a bulldozer to fill it in with snow.

Then they inched across.

During the last construction phase,

55                         the crew worked for 66 straight days.

After filling crevasses in the shear

zone, the team bogged1 down in a

260-kilometer (160-mile) stretch of

deep snow on the shelf. The biggest

60                         surprise, remembers Wright, was any

good day. “We had two last year,” he said.


bogged: to sink or get stuck

                                                                                                            Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 7.57.54 PM


7th Grade ELA – Pre-test Assessment 6