These amazing aerial photos of Antarctica offer a rarely-seen view of the frozen continent. They were taken during a Nasa survey of polar ice. Now in its eighth year, the space agency's Operation IceBridge airborne laboratory allows scientists to study the effects of climate change on sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets.

Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
A tabular iceberg floats near the coast of West Antarctica as seen from a window of a Nasa Operation IceBridge planeMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
The shadow of Nasa Operation IceBridge plane is cast onto a section of the West Antarctic Ice SheetMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
An iceberg floats near the coast of West Antarctica as seen from a window of a Nasa Operation IceBridge planeMario Tama/Getty Images

Getty Images photojournalist Mario Tama joined the scientists on a DC-8 research plane during a 12-hour return trip from southern Chile to West Antarctica. He told IBTimes UK: "Nasa's IceBridge team were incredibly kind to allow me onboard with them. I was concerned my presence would annoy or disturb their work, so I did my best to stay out of their way and only shoot through the few windows that were without distortion."

Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
Two of the Operation IceBridge plane's engines are seen as it flies off the coast of West AntarcticaMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
Ice crevasses are viewed near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a Nasa Operation IceBridge planeMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
A mountainous area of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is viewed from a window of a Nasa Operation IceBridge planeMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
Ice floats near the coast of West AntarcticaMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
A section of ice near the coast of West AntarcticaMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
Mountains rise near the coast of West AntarcticaMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
Ice floats near a rocky area of the West Antarctic coastMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
An aerial view of sea ice surrounding Bransfield island, off the northeast end of the Antarctic PeninsulaMario Tama/Getty Images

Operation IceBridge flights are conducted over Antarctica every October-November and over Greenland in March-May, giving an unprecedented three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice. IceBridge's research aircraft are fitted with sophisticated scientific instruments and precise imaging equipment, allowing Nasa to better understand the processes that connect the polar regions with the global climate system.

Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
IceBridge Project Scientist Nathan Kurtz looks out from a window of a Nasa Operation IceBridge plane over AntarcticaMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
Members of the flight crew work inside the cockpit of the Nasa Operation IceBridge DC-8 research planeMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
Geoscientist David Gallaher steps out of the cargo hold after checking on an instrument inside the Nasa Operation IceBridge planeMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
A member of the flight crew records details during the operationMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
A flight crew member works inside a Nasa Operation IceBridge DC-8 research plane as it heads from Antarctica towards ChileMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
Mission scientist John Sonntag works inside a Nasa Operation IceBridge DC-8 research plane over AntarcticaMario Tama/Getty Images

Over the course of the mission, IceBridge has gathered data on the thickness and shape of snow and ice, as well as the topography of the land and ocean floor beneath the ocean and ice. These surveys have allowed scientists to determine that the West Antarctic ice sheet may be in irreversible decline. Its glaciers have lost hundreds of metres of solid ice as the influx of warm ocean water beneath ice shelves led to widespread melting.

Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
Newly-formed sea ice floats near the coast of West AntarcticaMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
Sea ice is seen off the western coast of AntarcticaMario Tama/Getty Images
Operation IceBridge Antarctic sea ice
Sea ice floats near the coast of West AntarcticaMario Tama/Getty Images

Tama told IBTimes UK: "It was an incredible privilege to watch these folks in action and document scenes of West Antarctica that have that may never have been recorded by a photojournalist before." For more information about Operation IceBridge, visit: www.nasa.gov/icebridge.