Antarctica is a continent lying in the southernmost part of the South Pole. The climatic conditions are always at an extreme by being the coldest, windiest, driest and the highest continent out of the 7 continents in the world. They have an average about 4000 people in summer and 1000 people during winter each year. This is the fifth largest continent with an area of 14000000 square kilometers.
Very few would know that Antarctica is basically a desert with an annual rainfall of only 200 mm. Some amazing and really interesting facts about this unique continent are highlighted as under:
Yes, Antarctica had come to the spotlight, only in the year 1820, until then the existence of this continent was totally unknown. The confirmation of it being a continent and not just an archipelago, came up 20 years later, in the year 1840.
It’s Windy !!
The fact that winds in some places of the continent can reach up to 320 km/hr, makes Antarctica the windiest continent of the world.
The continent’s vegetation is composed of lichen, algae and mosses. There are whales, penguins and seals which live in and around Antarctica. The Emperor Penguin is the only warm-blooded animal to remain on the continent through the freezing winter.
Human Beings In Research Stations
The existence of people, only on the research stations in and around the continent. People are in the form of scientists who carry out research activities on those stations.
Antarctica Is An Icy Continent
Almost whole of the continent is covered by ice. The Antarctic Ice Sheet happens to be the largest single mass of ice on Earth’s surface. According to the research done by the scientists, they believe that if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet were to melt, that would raise global sea levels by about 16 feet.
Economy Of Antarctica
The Continent of Antarctica runs its economy on offshore fishing and tourism, both of which are based abroad. Scientific undertakings, rather than commercial pursuits are the human activities predominant in Antarctica.
People of Antarctica pretty much eat the same kind of food, like potatoes, chicken, beef, ice cream, which people of Australia have at home.
The research stations over there are heated to around 18 degrees Celsius, so normal clothes like jeans and t-shirts are worn by the people staying in Antarctica. If someone needs to work on the ice during summer, then they would require wearing long woolen underwear, shirts and trousers, with a windproof layer on top.
Stores A Significant Amount Of Fresh Water
70% of Earth’s fresh water and almost 90% of the planet’s freshwater ice comes from Antarctica.
Despite a major part of the continent being covered in ice, yet it holds one of the world’s biggest mountain ranges, Gamburtsev Mountains, stretching out more than 750 miles. The highest peaks of the mountain ranges are estimated to be around 9000 feet, which is about one-third the height of Earth’s highest mountain above sea level, Mount Everest.
Lake Beneath The Ice
Another amazing fact of the fourth largest continent is that a freshwater lake named Lake Vostok is buried under 2.5 miles of frozen water. This lake is almost the size of one of the great lakes of North America, Lake Ontario. Moreover, this Lake Vostok is one of the 200 different water bodies, that have been discovered under the ice.
Ross Ice Shelf
Ross Ice Shelf is the largest Ice Shelf of Antarctica, measuring close to 197000 square miles or taking up 3.7 percent of Antarctica. The height of this Ice Shelf is between 15 and 50 meters.
The Great Divide
The Continent of Antarctica gets divided into the East and West by the Transantarctic Mountains. This mountain range is the longest on Earth, stretching up to 3500 kilometers. James Clark Ross was the first person to have sighted the range way back in 1841, due to which the range was later named in his honor as Ross Ice Shelf.
Presence Of Active Volcano
To imagine that an ice-covered continent would have an active volcano would be a little too far-fetched. Antarctica’s Mount Erebus is an active volcano, located on the southernmost part of the planet and it is also one of Earth’s lava lakes, in existence for a very long time.
No Sunrise Due To Earth’s Tilt
One of the most interesting facts about this continent is that the Sun does not rise in the continent of Antarctica, from Spring to Autumn. This happens due to the Earth’s tilt which ultimately results in the continent remaining dark throughout the winter season.
Sun Does Not Set In Summer
As the sun does not set in summer months, so the continent goes on to receive more sunlight than equator within this time frame. Earth tilts approximately by 23 degrees.
Dedication Towards Peaceful Research
The continent of Antarctica is dedicated towards peaceful research. This result of which The Antarctic Treaty was signed on 1st December 1959, after secret negotiations had gone on between 12 countries for more than a year. The 12 countries were Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. The total number of parties to the Treat has gone up to 53, though only 29 of them have the right to participate in decision-making at these meetings while the other 24 are allowed to attend these meetings.
Researchers Are Present All The Year Round
Researchers are present all the year round in Antarctica, with almost 4000 researchers in the prime summer research season, while falling to the figure of a mere 1000 people for carrying out research activities during the winter.
First Child To Be Born On The Continent
In the year 1979, i.e. 39 years ago, in the month of January, the first child was born on the southernmost continent, named Emile Marco Palma. The South American country of Argentina, had sent Palma’s pregnant mother to the continent, for claiming a portion of Antarctica.
The explorer and meteorologist, Felicity Aston, of British origin was the first person to ski across the continent of Antarctica. She had traveled 1084 miles in a span of 59 days between late 2011 and early 2012.
As per the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, around 20000 tourists had visited the Antarctic Peninsula.
The location of the continent is unique in the sense that Antarctica lies entirely within the Antarctic Circle, around 66 degrees South Latitude.
Nematode – An Animal Found In Abundance
A tiny worm, named Nematode is the most abundant land animal in Antarctica, outnumbering even the penguins.
Lack Of Diversity
In extreme cold deserts of Antarctica, the soils are the least diverse habitats on Earth in terms of fauna.
Areas Compatible To Those On The Planet Of Mars
Antarctica has areas that are so compatible to those on the red planet of Mars that NASA used those areas to test equipment for space missions. The scientists had availed duplicates of some of the Phoenix spacecraft’s instruments plus other methods in the dry valleys of the Antarctic, where cracks on the south polar ice sheet leave windswept rocks completely exposed.
No Rain Or Snow For The Last 2 Million Years
It’s tough to note that one of the driest places on earth is a place in the South Pole. Yes, McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica is one of the extreme deserts, which includes many features including Onyx, Antarctica’s longest river and Lake Vida. One of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, named The Friis Hills in Taylor Valley have not seen a drop of water in 14 million years. The Dry Valleys are so named due to their lack of snow or ice cover and extremely low humidity.
Antarctica is the only continent without reptiles or snakes. The reason behind this is that the reptiles and snakes are cold-blooded animals hence they don’t possess the ability to generate heat on their own. So, it becomes impossible for them to survive as they try to keep themselves warm by absorbing sunshine.
No Work With Wisdom Teeth And Appendix
This has to be one of the most astonishing facts, anyone could ever wish to know about a particular place or region. No one is permitted to work in Antarctica, until and unless they have removed their wisdom teeth and appendix.
Chile’s Civilian Town
Antarctica has a civilian town of Chile, named Villa Las Estrellas, located on President Eduardo Frei Montalva Base, which is a military base on King George Island. The town is complete with a school, hospital, hostel, post office, internet, TV and mobile phone coverage. This place has a summer population of 150 and a winter population of 80.
No Time Zone
Antarctica is the only continent without a time zone. Daylight Saving Time does not operate in the region. The bases and stations around Antarctica tend to follow either the time related to their home territory or the supply line from which they are fed.
Largest Territory Holder
Australia claims to hold the largest territory holder in Antarctica, with an area covering 5.8 million sq km.
Iceberg Larger Than Jamaica
The largest iceberg ever measured is Iceberg B-15 and it’s bigger than Jamaica with a surface area of 11000 square kilometers. The iceberg got carved out from the Ross Ice Shelf of Antarctica in March 2000 and broke up into smaller icebergs, the largest of which is named Iceberg B-15 A.
Land Of The Meteorites
Almost 90% of all the meteorites ever discovered, have come from Antarctica. Meteorites become easier to locate in the region partly due to the contrast between dark rocks and white ice sheets. Moreover, there are dry deserts in Antarctica where the chances of corrosion drop significantly, which means more rocks and more pristine samples.
Antarctica has 20 airports but the place lacks in providing developed public access airports and landing facilities. The airports are subject to severe restrictions as well as limitations resulting from extreme seasonal and geographic conditions.
There is only one insect native to Antarctica, the Belgica Antarctica. With a length of 2.6 mm, it is the largest terrestrial animal on the continent as well as its only insect. The insect leads most of its life in larval form, frozen in ice.
Waterfall Red As Blood
An extreme desert would be the last place for someone to find a waterfall but in the McMurdo Dry Valley of Antarctica, a bright red, about five-storey waterfall pours slowly out of the Taylor Glacier into Lake Bonney. The amazing thing is not just about the fact that there is a waterfall in the frozen world of Antarctica but it is also astonishing for people to note that the waterfall is bright red, as if to say that blood is running from a cut in the glacier.
World’s loneliest ATM
The banking conglomerate of Wells Fargo installed two ATM machines, back in the year 1998 at McMurdo Station, the largest science hub on the continent. The population of McMurdo ranges between 250 and a little more than 1000.
Continent Was Once Covered In Rich Green Forests
Antarctica was once a green and beautiful place, where furry mammals including possums and beavers used to live there. The continent’s weather also used to be tropical in nature. 55 million years ago, the continent contained more than 1000 parts per million carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere.
Marathons Staged Despite The Chilly Weather
Each year, a 100K run, a half marathon and a marathon take place in Antarctica despite the weather, where an average windchill temperature hovers around -20 degrees Celsius.
The Banana Belt
“The Banana Belt” is the other name for Antarctica Peninsula, which gets visited by the tourists due to its moderate climate as compared with the rest of the continent. This helps people to get some sort of respite from the extremely cold climate.
The wife of Norwegian Whaling Captain, Caroline Mikkelsen was the first woman ever to set foot on the continent in the year 1935.
Highest Point In Antarctica
At 16, 362 feet, Vinson Massif is the highest point in Antarctica.
So, we can see that there are numerous interesting facts in the continent of Antarctica to fascinate people from all over the world.