1. The Most Extreme Place on Earth
Antarctica is an incredible place, and the most extreme on Earth. It is the highest, driest, windiest, emptiest, and coldest place on the planet, with an ice sheet covering all but 2.4 percent of its 14 million square kilometers. This ice sheet is so vast that it is the largest single mass of ice on Earth, and it is estimated to contain 90 percent of the world's fresh water. Antarctica is a place of extremes, and its unique environment makes it a fascinating place to explore.
2. The South Pole: A Legendary Journey
In 1911, a team of intrepid explorers achieved the remarkable feat of becoming the first people to ever reach the South Pole. Led by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the team endured extreme temperatures and treacherous terrain to make history and become the first to ever set foot on the icy continent of Antarctica. Amundsen and his team's incredible journey to the South Pole is still remembered today as one of the greatest feats of exploration in human history.
3. Opposite Seasons to the North
In Antarctica, the seasons are the exact opposite of those in the northern hemisphere. From October to February, the continent experiences summer, while winter covers the remaining months of the year. This is due to the fact that Antarctica lies in the southern hemisphere, meaning that the sun is directly overhead during the summer months, and the days are longer and warmer. Conversely, during the winter months, the sun is lower in the sky, and the days are shorter and colder.
4. First confirmed sighting of Antarctica
In 1820, the first confirmed sighting of Antarctica was made, marking the first time that humans had laid eyes on the vast, icy continent. This momentous event was made possible by the Russian expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev, who were the first to spot the continent from their ships, the Vostok and Mirny. This discovery opened up a new world of exploration and research, and since then, Antarctica has become a major focus of scientific study.
5. 70% of world's fresh water found in Antarctica
The Antarctic ice cap is home to an incredible 70% of the world's fresh water, making it one of the most important sources of freshwater on the planet. This vast expanse of ice covers an area of almost 14 million square kilometers, making it the fifth largest continent in the world. The ice cap is up to 4.8 kilometers thick in some places, and contains enough water to raise global sea levels by around 58 meters if it were to melt completely. This makes it an essential part of the global climate system, and its preservation is of paramount importance.
6. Antarctica is a continent governed by an international agreement
Antarctica is a unique continent in that it is not governed by any one country. Instead, it is regulated by the Antarctic Treaty, an international agreement between countries that have a scientific or economic interest in the continent. This treaty ensures that Antarctica is used for peaceful purposes only, and that its environment is protected. It also sets out rules for the management of the continent's resources, and for the protection of its wildlife.
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7. The Continent Without Any Residents
Antarctica is the only continent on Earth without any permanent residents, however, up to 1,000 people may be found wintering over at various research stations throughout the year. These research stations are often staffed by scientists and other personnel who are conducting research on the continent's unique environment and wildlife. The harsh winter conditions make it difficult for people to stay for extended periods of time, but the research conducted at these stations is invaluable to our understanding of the continent and its inhabitants.
8. Home to a Wide Variety of Wildlife
Antarctica is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including penguins, whales, seals, and even fish. However, there are no land mammals, and no native peoples have been discovered living there. The waters of Antarctica are rich in krill, which is the main food source for whales. Scientists have yet to uncover any evidence of native peoples living in Antarctica, making it one of the most isolated places on Earth.
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9. The Coldest, Drier, and Windiest Place on Earth
Although the Arctic is home to iconic species such as Eskimos and polar bears, the Antarctic is a much different environment. This icy continent is the coldest, driest, and windiest place on Earth, and is home to a variety of unique wildlife, including penguins, seals, and whales. The Antarctic is also the only continent without any native human population, making it a truly unique and isolated place.
10. 50M Yrs Ago, Much More Hospitable
Around fifty million years ago, Antarctica was a vastly different place than it is today. Instead of the icy tundra we know today, the continent was home to a temperate climate, lush evergreen forests, and a wide variety of animals. This was a time when Antarctica was teeming with life, and the continent was a much more hospitable place than it is now.