Ten Antarctic Facts

Here are my top ten Antarctic Facts!

  1. Antarctica is 14,000,000 km2 in size: this makes it the world’s fifth-largest continent, after Asia, Africa, North America and South America.

    How does the size of Antarctica compare with the size of Britain? Note both countries are drawn to the same scale

    How does the size of Antarctica compare with the size of Britain? Note both countries are drawn to the same scale

  2. 10 children have been born in Antarctica, to Argentinian and Chilean parents.
  3. There are 82 scientific bases in Antarctica, supporting a total continent-wide population of around 4000 people in summer and 1000 people in winter (not counting people on ships).

    Base Prat

    The Chilean Base Prat on Greenwich Island, South Sandwich Islands

  4. The area south of 60 degrees South is designated by the Antarctic Treaty is a scientific preserve, and military activity is banned. The treaty came into force in 1961 and is currently signed by 50 countries. The treaty encourages scientific cooperation and does not recognise, dispute nor establish sovereign claims.

    Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, with the ceremonial South Pole and the flags for the original 12 signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty

    Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, with the ceremonial South Pole and the flags for the original 12 signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty. Picture by the US Antarctic Program, National Science  Foundation.  From Wikimedia Commons.

  5. Antarctica is entirely surrounded by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and this current helps keep Antarctica cold.

     Antarctica. An orthographic projection of NASA's Blue Marble data set (1 km resolution global satellite composite). "MODIS observations of polar sea ice were combined with observations of Antarctica made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s AVHRR sensor—the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer." Image was generated using a custom C program for handling the Blue Marble files, with orthographic projection formulas. Source: Wikiemedia Commons

    Antarctica. An orthographic projection of NASA’s Blue Marble data set (1 km resolution global satellite composite). “MODIS observations of polar sea ice were combined with observations of Antarctica made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s AVHRR sensor—the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer.” Image was generated using a custom C program for handling the Blue Marble files, with orthographic projection formulas. Source: Wikiemedia Commons

  6. The largest land animal in Antarctica is a wingless midge, Belgica antarctica, which is less than 1.3 cm long. All the other, larger, animals in Antarctica are considered marine animals, meaning that they feed and live largely in the ocean. This includes seals and penguins, Antarctica’s most famous residents. In addition, Antarctica is the only continent with no indigenous species of ant.

    Belgica Antarctica, a wingless midge that's the largest land animal in Antarctica. The larger female is at the top of the picture.

    Belgica Antarctica, a wingless midge that’s the largest land animal in Antarctica. The larger female is at the top of the picture. From Wikimedia Commons.

  7. Antarctica holds enough ice to raise global sea levels by 58 m if it all melted. It contains 26.5 million km3 of ice. The Antarctic Ice Sheet has an average thickness of 2126 m, and the deepest part is Bryd Glacier, the base of which lies 2870 m below sea level. The thickest part of the Antarctic Ice Sheet is Astrolabe Subglacial Basin, where the ice is 4776 m thick. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets combined hold 99% of all the world’s fresh water.

    Antarctica's subglacial topography, with main mountain ranges shown.

    Antarctica’s subglacial topography, with main mountain ranges shown.

  8. Ice flow in Antarctica concentrates meteorites in certain places. They show up well against the white snow, and their dark colour encourages them to melt out. ANSMET continues to search out meteorites. Over 16,000 have been collected since 1976.

    Ice flow in Antarctica concentrates meteorites.

    Ice flow in Antarctica concentrates meteorites. From NASA, Wikimedia Commons.

  9. The Geographic South Pole in Antarctica  is the axis of the Earth’s rotation. It is directly opposite the North Pole, but whilst the North Pole is in the Arctic Ocean, the South Pole is on a huge ice sheet. The South Pole is at 2835 m above sea level and lies 1300 km from the nearest open water (in the Bay of Whales). The Antarctic Ice Sheet is 2700 m thick here. The South Magnetic Pole is where the Earth’s geomatnetic field lines are pointed vertically upwards. The South Geomagnetic Pole is the point where the axis of a best-fitting tilted dipole (like a bar magnet) placed at the centre of the Earth intersects the Earth’s surface in the southern hemisphere.

    1: South Geographic Pole, 2: South Magnetic Pole (2007), 3: South Geomagnetic Pole, 4: South Pole of Inaccessibility

    1: South Geographic Pole, 2: South Magnetic Pole (2007), 3: South Geomagnetic Pole, 4: South Pole of Inaccessibility. United States Government, Wikimedia Commons.

  10. The South Pole in Antarctica may be hard to get to, but not as hard as the South Pole of Inaccessibility.  This is the most remote place in Antarctica, being furthest from all coastlines. It is 878 km from the South Pole, 3718 m high (different means of measurement do place the South Pole of Inaccessibility in slightly different places).

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