Antarctica is a lonely, Ice-clad continent surrounding the South Pole. Antarctica has captured the imagination of many people due to its pristine beauty, huge Ice caps and Penguins!
Photo Credit: 23am.com
Some interesting facts about Antarctica:
1. Antarctica is the fifth largest among the seven continents and it is as large as India+China.
2. During Winter, the ocean surrounding Antarctica freezes for around 1500 KM, effectively doubling its size.
3. Antarctic Ice Cap stores about 70% of worlds fresh water.
4. You can see the midnight sun (during summers) and continuous darkness for months (during winters)
5. Glaciers are found around Antarctica and they are large rivers of moving Ice. A small portion of Ice, called Iceberg splits from the mainland and floats in the ocean. The Icebergs can be as large as a city with 10% of Ice visible over the water. They are freshwater, not sea water ice.
6. Temperature in winters can reach up to -70/80 Deg C. Only 2% of land in Antarctica is ice free.
7. Antarctica is the world’s most windiest continent and wind speeds might exceed 200 Km/h at times.
8. Penguins (which are found in Antarctica) have a layer of fat in their body to protect them from extreme cold. Penguins can remember / recognize their family even in a large herd of hundreds of penguins.
9. Seals are actually mammals that have adapted to the sea – Some of them (elephant seals) can grow up to 15 feet long and can weigh up to 4 Tonnes.
10. There are no trees or shrubs in Antarctica. Under the sea, there is a lot of plankton that supports life forms like star fish, whales, etc.
People didn’t know the existence of Antarctica till maybe around 18th Century. The Greeks had previously predicted that there should be a land mass around the South Pole to balance out the land mass in the North pole (Arctic region, which was known earlier).
But it was only in the early 19th Century that Captain James Cook crossed the Antarctic circle with his ship. Since the southern ocean as too ice clad, he had to abandon his mission just before 80 miles of reaching the continent. A short time afterwards, Captain Bellinghausen became the first person to see the continent.
During the early 20th Century, a Norwegian called Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South pole. Almost during the same time, Robert Scott (Great Britain) reached the south pole just days after Amundsen but while going back, all his crew (including himself) died due to lack of food and extreme weather conditions. The dairy that he maintained throughout the journey is very famous.
The Antarctic treaty (1959) agreed upon by many countries, discourages any territorial claims on the continent and it to be a neutral continent of peace and science. Many countries have setup a permanent base in Antarctica for conducting scientific experiments. The (temporary) human population of Antarctica can go up to 40,000 visitors in summer and 1,500 in winter. There are no permanent residents of Antarctica.