Antarctica

The continent of Antarctica is the most unique, strange and intriguing of the seven continents of the world. Antarctica has its own geographical boundaries which change throughout the year, making the continent have no actual boundaries which can be measured. It also boasts of several other distinguishable qualities which make it known as the most unique continent out of all the seven sister continents.

Antarctica Quick Facts

Land Area: 5,405,000 (mi²) / 12,949,940 (km²)

Population: 4,912 (2016) – No Permanent Citizens

Largest City: McMurdo Station

Number of Countries: None

Unique Geographical Features:

  • South pole
  • Ross ice shelf

Antarctica is also known by most as the South Pole. Located at the southernmost top part of the planet has caused it to get this name.

History

The history of the continent of Antarctica relies mostly on theories of how this continent came to be known. It was believed that a land called Terra Australis existed at the southernmost part of the Earth. The term “Antarctica” literally means ‘the opposite of the Arctic’, which lies at the northernmost part of the globe, also known as the North Pole.

The term Antarctica was coined back in the 2nd century AD by Marinus of Tyre. Since then, several expeditions have been attempted to the mysterious South Pole, although many of these have resulted in injuries and even death.

The obsession with finding out more about this mysterious land continue even presently, as explorers and researchers continue to visit this foreign land to find out as much as their can about it.

Geography

Antarctica’s geographical boundaries are one of the reasons why this continent is considered to be so unique and intriguing. There are no permanent geographical boundaries of this continent, as the borders keep changing in size throughout different seasons. What is most surprising is that these changes are very dramatic, and not just small changes which can be neglected. During the summer months, the continent of Antarctica is said to be about half the size of the land of the United States. However, during the winter months, as the snow and ice on the land start increasing, the size of the continent expands to double of this!

Antarctica Map

Antarctica Map

Climate

Located at the southernmost tip of the globe makes Antarctica an obvious victim to harsh, cold climatic conditions. About 98% of the entire continent of Antarctica is covered in ice, and it is said that about 70% of the entire Earth’s fresh water is frozen in this continent; inaccessible to man.

Population

This is another point which makes the continent of Antarctica just so unique and mesmerizing; due to the extreme weather conditions in this continent, it has citizens! This means that there are no human beings who live on the continent of Antarctica full time, although people do visit this strange land for part-time work purposes, research and even to just look around! However, most of these visitors visit Antarctica during the summer and do so strictly for research purposes.

As there is no human inhabitation on this continent, there are also no countries, no government and no form of currency that Antarctica can call its own.

Antarctica has over 60 different research stations on the land where several researchers work on a part-time basis, however, even taking into account all these humans, the total population of Antarctica would not be anywhere above 4000 to 5000 people at any given time.

Economy

There are two main activities that have dominated the economy of Antarctica. These activities are sealing and whaling. Fur seals were hunted for their short and dense fur. This fur was then used to make women’s winter coats. However, this activity led to the population of fur seals declining drastically. By the year 1822, fur seals become almost extinct on the continent due to excessive hunting activities.

Commercial Whaling was also an extremely important activity in Antarctica, although, now, it has completely ceased.

Currently, fishing is the largest economic activity which is pursued in Antarctica. The Antarctica Toothfish, the Krill, the Mackerel Icefish and the Patagonian are the fishes which are hunted in this continent. While there are several laws which protect these fishes, overfishing can cause a serious problem in Antarctica, even driving these species to extinction.

Language

The most commonly spoken language in Antarctica is Russian, although, English is also widely spoken on this continent. As there are no permanent residents on this continent, neither are there any cities or countries, there is no official language as such on the continent of Antarctica.

Tourism

Tourism has existed on the continent of Antarctica for 5 decades now, however, due to the harsh climatic conditions of the continent, the tourism has been limited to small-scale expeditions only. Members of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators consist of about 95% of the entire tourism which Antarctica enjoys. Most tourists visit Antarctica by ship, and this icy continent is seeing a steady increase in its tourists every single year.

There are no commercial flights or aircraft which are allowed to land on this icy continent, although most flights to Antarctica simply fly over it, but never landing on it. There are strict visiting guidelines which must be followed to ensure that there is no threat imposed to the continent, however, the threat levels have been rising, causing a great deal of environmental and political issues on this continent.

Wildlife

While there are no human inhabitants on this strange, icy continent, Antarctica enjoys its share of wildlife. Penguins and albatross can be seen roaming about freely in this icy land that they can call their own. There are also 6 varieties of seals and 9 varieties of whales to be found living peacefully on this continent. However, most of this wildlife can be found thriving near the shores, as the other parts of the continent are simply too cold and harsh for any species to survive in.

Things to See

Even though this icy continent is too hostile for being an abode to most humans, there are several utterly magnificent sights to see in this icy abode. Some of these are:

  • The South Pole Station– built in short installments, the South Pole Station officially was inaugurated in 2008, and full time research began only in 2011. This is where most of the research takes place in this continent which lets us know so much about this mysterious, ice land.
  • Cape Evans– this dainty little hut is where Robert Scott, the explorer stayed during his devastating Terra Nova expedition.
  • Shackleton’s Hut– Another hut built during an expedition by about 15 travellers, Shackleton’s Hut is much smaller than Cape Evans, however, the cosy, homey feeling created in this hut by their residents can still be felt. Although all of Shackleton’s men made it alive out of the continent, unlike the doom of the Terra Nova expedition, they seem to have left the hut in a hurry. The evidence of this can be seen by the way the residents have left the hut with some of their belongings still intact.
  • Ceremonial South Pole– The pride of Antarctica, this is a red and white barber pole with a chrome cap as a crown; where the glorious flags of the 12 Antarctic signatories can be found swaying brightly in the cold, Antarctic winds.
  • Lemaire channel– This steep but utterly magnificent channel can be seen sandwiched between the mountains of the Peninsula and Booth Islands.

Interesting Facts

  1. Antarctica is technically the world’s largest desert!- although it is the coldest driest and windiest desert.
  2. The highest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica is simply 14.5 degrees Celsius.
  3. 70% of the world’s fresh water in frozen in this icy continent.
  4. Certain parts of the continent have not experienced any rain or snow for at least 2 million years.
  5. Antarctica changes its geographical borders throughout the various seasons.
  6. Antarctica is the only continent without any reptiles.
  7. You can work in Antarctica only if your appendix and wisdom teeth have been removed.

Antarctica might still be considered to be quite an icy mystery to most; however, this unique continent holds a glory of its own which makes it so special and intriguing so most people. Antarctica holds within it some of the world’s greatest beauties, sights, landmarks and creatures of the world. Those who can manage to visit this strange land have immense bravery and certain memories to bring back for the rest of their lives! Know more about the fun facts about Antarctica.