Antarctica is the southernmost region on Earth. It is one of the remotest places and the least visited place on the planet. The extreme weather and logistic problem make Antarctica as one of the difficult to visit places on the planet. But, the amazing facts about Antarctica is going to blow your mind and may make your plans for visiting the island.
Is Antarctica an island or a continent?
Scientifically, Antarctica is both an island and a continent.There are two divisions of Antarctica namely the eastern and westernAntarctica. The Transantarctic Mountains divide Antarctica into two divisions.The eastern side of Antarctica is larger than the western side. The westernside of the land is mostly a group of islands.
It is located around the South Pole and it is one continent thatmost people would love to visit. Antarctica is covered in snow and ice for mostof the year. This place has a unique charm and mystery to it unlike any other.
The place, despite being a remote location, has been exploredrelatively well.
At the same time, however, there is much about Antarctica that wedon’t know as yet.
Out of what has already been understood, given in the list are tenamazing facts about Antarctica.
10. The Antarctic Region was First Discovered by James Cook, in 1773
Early Western theories about Terra Australis, a vast continent in the south pole of Earth led to the discovery and expedition for Antarctica. The first time that the Antarctic region was discovered in 1773 by a European explorer named James Cook.
This, however, doesn’t mean that James Cook discovered the Antarctic. On the contrary, he discovered the region around Antarctica called the Arctic Circle, which included the vast iceberg filled waters, the surrounding islands and so on. Bellingshausen and Lazarev of a Russian expedition are the first explorers to discover Antarctica officially in 1820.
9. There is an Ozone Hole in Antarctica
One of the most pressing issues of our time has been that of theozone layer being depleted by chemicals like CFC.
The release of this gas has been shown to deplete theozone layer, and allow for the harmful solar UV radiation to reach the surfaceof the earth.
While CFC is banned everywhere, the problem has beenrather persistent because of the CFC already in the atmosphere.
And, the destruction of the ozone layer has been the mostextensive in Antarctica, where the loss of ozone gas has been more thananywhere else on earth. The ozone hole in Antarctica was first discovered byscientists belonging to the British Antarctic Survey. Discovery of a new largeozone layer came as a shock to the scientific community. The reason for a largeozone hole above Antarctica is due to extensive and unique atmosphericconditions in the region.
8. The Ozone Hole is Currently Recovering, Thanks to Environmental Conservation Efforts
If you read the previous point and are scared about theozone hole, you don’t have to be.
The process has started to steadily reverse, ever since the use ofCFC was banned. In the near future, it is possible that the ozone holewill no longer be there anymore.
Do note that this doesn’t mean that the ozone hole is gone. On thecontrary, the destruction is still going on, as CFC will last in the atmospherefor a very long time. At the same time, however, the rate of ozone destructionis no longer happening at the rate that it used to.
7. Antarctica is the Only Place in the World Where You Can Find Emperor Penguins
Emperor penguins are those large and iconic penguins, which you often see in photographs.
It is their natural habitat in Antarctica. It is here that theyare born, mate, raise their chicks and everything else. The extremetemperatures of Antarctica do nothing to the emperor penguins which can adapttemperature as extreme as −40 °C (−40 °F). These animals also havesome amazing abilities like diving deep, trekking a long distance and adaptingto low levels of oxygen. Increasing climatic changes and decreasing foodavailability has made these birds endangered.
So if you are visiting Antarctica, this is something you shouldn’tmiss out on.
6. Antarctica Belongs to Nobody
Despite being a large continent, similar in size to Australia, itbelongs to nobody.
This is why it is sometimes called as ‘No Man’s Land’.
But this doesn’t mean other countries haven’t claimed parts of it. Various countries have claimed parts of it, like the UK, France, Argentina, Australia, Chile, etc. In 1959, 12 countries working in Antarctica signed a treaty known as the Antarctic Treaty which governs the territorial integrity of the island.
5. There are No Permanent Human Settlements in Antarctica
This has to do with the previous fact that Antarctica belongs tonobody.
Given that Antarctica doesn’t belong to any country, there hasn’t been a permanent human settlement in Antarctica for a very long time due to extreme conditions. There are no commercial locations or towns. Research stations are the only temporary settlements in Antarctica.
4. Most of the Permanent Settlements in Antarctica are Those of Research Stations
Antarctica is void of any permanent settlements. Nobody is allowed or possible to settle in the region as nobody owns Antarctica. While this is certainly true, it doesn’t mean that Antarctica is entirely uninhabited. On the contrary, there are plenty of research stations all around Antarctica, established by various countries including the USA, China, Russia, India, and Germany. Over 40 countries have their research stations in Antarctica. These stations are either made with ice or rock. Several types of research such as the origin of continents, global warming, climate changes, pollution, and sea level rise, etc. take place here.
So, research stations are the only real ‘permanent settlements’existing in Antarctica. People living in Antarctica are mostly scientists,support staff, field officers, and research personnel. And, most importantlythe people living there are not permanent inhabitants as they are oftenreplaced.
3. The Tallest Peak in Antarctica is Called Vinson Massif
As much as people might want to think that Antarctica is just avast flat region, it isn’t the case.
There are plenty of valleys, mountains, and massifs in Antarctica,although many of them remain buried under the ice to a large extent.
And just like the highest points on other continents like Mount Everest or Denali, Antarctica also happens to have its own tall peak. It is called Vinson Massif and is located in a very remote part of Antarctica, situated close to the South Pole. Mount Vinson of the Vinson Massif is the tallest peak which stands at 4,892 meters (16,050 ft.).
2. Antarctica Wasn’t Always a White Desert
Today, most people consider Antarctica to be a white desert.
Covered in the snow for much of the year, the continent is seen as being nothing more than a barren wasteland. Over 350 million years ago, during the beginning of the Devonian period, the island was still not having any snow. But, around the end of the Devonian period, Antarctica was under snow.
But that wasn’t always the case a very long time ago. On thecontrary, the continent had a time in history, where there was much greeneryaround.
This has been shown by the discovery of various fossils and otherremains, during archaeological digs in the region.
1. Antarctica Was At One Time Connected to Australia
Today, the continent of Antarctica is very much aseparate and distinct entity unto itself.
But that wasn’t always the case, a very long time ago. Around 300 million years ago, it was part of a larger supercontinent by name Pangaea, which was a combination of all existing continents, connected to one another. In other words, there was a time in world history, when all the continents were together.
In fact, Africa, India, and Australia were sharing their borders with Antarctica during this period. Around 175 million years ago, the supercontinent Pangaea began to break apart into multiple continents or large chunks of land masses. Multiple rifting resulted in the breakage. Pangaea is the first modern map or reconstruction of the supercontinent.
It is for this reason that the southern part of Antarctica fitscomfortably around the Antarctic coastline.
As a whole, Antarctica is one of the most interesting and desolateof all places on earth.
Located very far away from civilization, it is a frozen snowymystery with much to offer anyone interested in it.
And indeed, with the growth of tourism and the scientificspirit, the continent of Antarctica will continue to excite andsurprise people for generations to come for a very long time.