This continent has always held a special fascination for me and if it weren’t so cold and difficult to reach it would have been on my travel itinerary long ago. For me this continent holds a special kind of beauty of endless mountains and valleys covered in many layers of snow and ice, beneath which many years of the earth’s mysteries and history lie buried. Antarctica is the windiest, highest, coldest and believe it or not partially the driest continent on earth!
There are said to be 40 permanent scientific bases and approximately 80+ research stations on the continent today. Scientists are drilling as deep as 3.500 meters into the ice and collecting and studying information with regard to past wildlife, atmosphere and atmospheric changes,glaciers and ice build up among many other interesting subject. Believe it or not, the layers of ice and glaciers hold many buried mysteries and unanswered questions.
This mysterious continent was allegedly first discovered in 1820. At first, it was believed to be a group of islands but 20 years later was confirmed to be a mostly solid land mass with a few islands surrounding it.
Due to the harsh weather conditions that prevail, there is not exactly an abundance of wildlife. However you may be surprised to know that there are 5 species of penguins, many species of whales, 5 different species of seals, albatross as well as numerous other seabirds, krill, colossal squid and at least 4 varieties of known invertebrates which live on land. Surprised? I was…..
13 Fun Facts about Antarctica:
- The Antarctic, including its islands and floating plains of ice, is the fifth largest continent with an area of 14 million square kilometers, which is approximately 1 ½ times the size of the USA.
- Its ice sheet, which covers 90% of the land is the largest mass of ice on earth.
- The average thickness of the ice is approximately 1.6 kilometers.
- The coldest temperature recorded at Antarctic’s Vostok station was in 1983 when it fell to – 89.2 degrees Celsius.
- Despite there being so much ice, The Dry Valleys area is among the driest place on earth. The humidity is extremely low and there is almost no snow or ice cover at all.
- 3000 meter high mountains which run across the interior of the continent are covered with 4 meters of snow.
- There are an estimated 200 freshwater lakes (liquid) buried under the ice the largest of which is called Lake Vostok at a depth of 3.7 km.
- Wind speeds of up to 320 kilometers per hour have been recorded.
- Mount Erebus is the earths’ southernmost active volcano.
- In 1979 a child was born in Antarctica when Argentina sent a pregnant mother to Antarctica in an effort to claim a portion of the continent.
- No less than 80+ research stations exist on Antarctica comprising of 30 countries who operate them according to the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs
- The nematode worm is Antarctica’s most abundant land animal
- There are huge sand dunes of up to 70 meters high and in excess of 200 m wide and these are located in the McMurdo Dry Valleys.
Today, much controversy surrounds this continent but we won’t get into that now, that is another chapter all on its own. However if that statement aroused your curiosity, there are many articles and videos on the internet to start your exploration. However, my advice to you would be to dig a little deeper and read more than just one article. You may be amazed at what you may find! but one thing is for sure, there will be more questions than answers!
Sources: Livescience , Wikipedia and photos from Pixabay