60 Fascinating Facts About Antarctica

Back in 2013, Metallica made history as the first band to perform on all seven continents, including Antarctica where they played for an audience of just 120 people.

When people think of Antarctica, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the extreme cold, and they’re not wrong – it’s the coldest place on Earth. However, there’s so much more to this icy continent than just its temperature. Here are 60 interesting facts about Antarctica that you probably didn’t know.

Antarctica is the only continent without permanent residents or citizens. The people who do live there, such as scientists, typically stay for three to six months at a time for research purposes.

Unlike the Arctic, Antarctica has no polar bears. This is because bears did not inhabit the South Pole after Pangea broke apart.

Over 70% of the population in Antarctica are Christians, followed by a combination of atheists and people who prefer not to disclose their religion.

The Drake Passage is a dangerous waterway that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and is notorious for its violent storms and strong winds that have claimed the lives of many sailors. It’s named after Sir Francis Drake, an English explorer whose ships were used to discover the connection between both oceans.

Antarctica was once part of Gondwana, a supercontinent that included South America, the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Madagascar, India, and Australia, before the formation of Pangea.

The Greek word for Antarctica is “antarktikos,” which means “opposite of the Arctic.”

Antarctica is home to the largest desert on Earth, which is double the size of the Sahara. The polar environment is considered a desert due to its lack of rainfall and snowfall.

One of the most striking features of Antarctica is Blood Falls, a waterfall that looks like it’s flowing with blood. The waterfall is caused by a trapped saltwater lake in the Taylor Glacier that’s rich in iron, which turns red when it reacts with oxygen.

Due to the harsh climate, most types of plants, such as trees and bushes, cannot survive in Antarctica. However, there are some exceptions, like mosses, liverworts, and two native flowering plants: Antarctic hair grass and Antarctic pearlwort.

The movie “South of Sanity” is the only movie to be filmed entirely in Antarctica. It was directed by Kirk Watson, a mountaineering expert who works at Halley Research Station.

Argentina and Chile once competed for territorial claims in Antarctica by sending pregnant women to their research stations to give birth. In total, 11 babies were born in Antarctica as a result of this competition, but their efforts were ultimately in vain due to the Antarctic Treaty.

In 1978, Emilio Marcos Palma became the first person to be born in Antarctica at Esperanza Base to Silvia Morella de Palma.

Every year on December 1st, Antarctica Day is celebrated to commemorate the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959. The treaty states that the continent should only be used for peaceful purposes and prohibits the establishment of military bases and the testing of military weapons, unless they’re being used for scientific research.

The Antarctic Treaty System has an agreement to safeguard the environment of Antarctica, prohibiting mining and waste disposal on the continent. Antarctica has 70 research stations, with the largest being McMurdo Station, built by the United States in 1955, serving as a scientific research center and logistics hub. These stations have wastewater treatment plants to clean sewage and wastewater, with solid waste transported back to the US by cargo ships. The feces of penguins, known as “guano,” contain nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, which induces a euphoric effect when inhaled. Doctors stationed in Australian Antarctic research centers are required to have their appendixes removed due to the absence of medical facilities. Antarctic fish possess proteins that act as an antifreeze to enable their survival in the frigid waters. Adolf Hitler dispatched an expedition to Antarctica to obtain whale oil, essential for manufacturing margarine and lubricating weapons. Fossils of creatures like birds, frogs, and dinosaurs, dating back over a hundred million years, can be found in Antarctica. McMurdo Station had a small nuclear reactor called PM-3A from 1961 to 1972, which was decommissioned due to its expensive maintenance and environmental consequences. Condoms were shipped to McMurdo Station in 2008 to prevent pregnancy, as the station’s clinics had limited resources to handle pregnant women. During Antarctica’s winter, the sun does not rise for months due to the continent’s tilt away from the sun, while during summer, it never sets due to the opposite tilt. Sharks cannot survive in the frigid waters of Antarctica, except for a species of sand tiger shark called striatolamia macrota, whose teeth were found on Seymour Island. Individuals working in Antarctica are awarded medals, like the Antarctica Service Medal, created by the US Congress in 1960, which can be earned by working under the US Antarctic Program for at least ten days. British citizens working in Antarctica for over a year are still required to pay income tax, known as the British Antarctic Territory Tax, which is 7% of their monthly salary.

Beer brewing is prohibited in Australian Antarctic research stations, but Ian McLean, a satellite equipment caretaker, became known as the “brewer master” after making beer in numerous research stations during the 1990s and 2000s. To prevent hypothermia, people in Antarctica regulate their body temperature by properly layering clothes. Elon Musk announced in September 2022 that his satellite internet provider, Starlink, can be accessed in all continents, including Antarctica. The “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration” refers to the 25-year period between 1897 and 1922, during which various nations sent expeditions to explore Antarctica, resulting in inspiring survival stories and painful memories of death. John Davis was the first man to step onto Antarctic land in 1821, while John King Davis was one of the captains of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition who was known for making wise decisions during dangerous situations. Aurora and Quark Expeditions, founded in 1991, are among the travel companies that allow people to explore Antarctica. In 2017-2018, 51,707 tourists visited Antarctica, a significant increase from the 38,478 visitors in 2015-2016. Traveling to Antarctica is expensive, with Antarctica21’s January 2022 expedition priced between $4,995 and $14,995 USD per person, depending on the itinerary. The Antarctic Ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases, resulting in ocean acidification that negatively affects marine life and human food supplies. Antarctica has the largest ice sheet, covering 5.3 million square miles, out of the only two ice sheets in the world, the other being Greenland.

Airlines typically avoid flying over Antarctica due to whiteouts that can hinder pilot visibility. However, on October 6, 2021, Qantas Airways broke their own record for the longest commercial flight in its history by flying non-stop for 17 hours and 25 minutes from Argentina to Australia, crossing over Antarctica and the Pacific Ocean. Despite being almost the size of the United States and Mexico combined or twice the size of Australia, Antarctica is home to only two active volcanoes, Mount Erebus and Deception Island, among its 138 total. Numerous Antarctic explorers have discovered plant fossils in the 19th and 20th centuries, with Norwegian whaler Carl Anton Larsen being one of the first to find petrified wood on Seymour Island in 1892. Antarctica’s pristine air quality makes it an ideal location for researchers to study the effects of natural and human-caused environmental changes. Killer whales are among the continent’s most famous residents, with roughly 70,000 residing there to hunt seals and penguins. Antarctica is also home to several species of whales, including the enormous blue whale, as well as the first gym franchise to reach all seven continents, Anytime Fitness, which opened a gym in Antarctica in 2020. Finally, the Endurance, a ship that sank in 1915 under the leadership of Ernest Shackelton, was discovered after 106 years by the Endurance22 expedition team on March 9, 2022.

Every year the Antarctic Ice Marathon takes place with a pre-prepared 26.2-mile course that includes snowmobile support, aid stations and medical personnel. This marks the end of the Antarctica facts, and we hope that you have learned something new about the coldest and most stunning place on Earth. From the discovery of fossils that show Antarctica was not always frozen to the appearance of a glacier that resembles a blood waterfall, this continent reminds us that we still have much to discover about our planet.

FAQ

1. What is Antarctica?

Antarctica is the southernmost continent on Earth, located at the South Pole. It is the fifth largest continent, covering an area of 14 million square kilometers. It is also the coldest continent, with temperatures as low as -89°C (-128°F).

2. Who discovered Antarctica?

The first sighting of Antarctica is credited to Russian explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen in 1820. However, it was not until 1895 that the first person, Norwegian explorer Carsten Borchgrevink, set foot on the continent.

3. Is there any life in Antarctica?

Yes, there is life in Antarctica, although it is mostly limited to small organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae. There are also a few species of insects, birds, and marine animals that inhabit the continent.

4. Are there any permanent settlements in Antarctica?

Yes, there are a few permanent research stations in Antarctica, operated by various countries such as the United States, Russia, and Australia. These stations are used for scientific research and are usually staffed by small teams of scientists and support personnel.

5. Why is Antarctica important?

Antarctica is an important area for scientific research, particularly in the fields of astronomy, climate science, and oceanography. It also plays a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s climate and sea levels.

6. Can you visit Antarctica as a tourist?

Yes, it is possible to visit Antarctica as a tourist, although it is a highly regulated and expensive activity. Tourists must obtain special permits and travel with approved tour operators.

7. How is Antarctica protected?

Antarctica is protected by the Antarctic Treaty, an international agreement signed in 1959 that designates Antarctica as a scientific preserve and bans military activity on the continent. The treaty has been signed by 54 countries and is considered one of the most successful environmental agreements in history.

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