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10 Fascinating Facts About Antarctica

Angela loves researching new facts, especially those about science and history. She feels that knowledge is essential in growth.


1. Antarctica is the highest, driest, coldest and windiest continent on Earth

Highest - Antarctica's average elevation is well above other continents at 2,500m. The height of the South Pole is 2,830 m. For comparison's sake, Australia's average elevation is only 330 m. Antarctica does not hold the record for the highest point, just the highest mean elevation.

Driest - Its average rainfall is less than a half-inch at 10 mm (0.4 in), classifying it as a polar desert. This is far below any of the other continents, so there is very little precipitation despite being made up of mostly ice.

Coldest - This one probably comes as no surprise since it is mainly made of ice and covers the south pole. It is not uncommon for temperatures to reach −128.6 °F (−89.2 °C) in the winter.

Windiest - Wind speeds in Antarctica can be up to wind speeds can reach 200 mph.

2. Antarctica holds most of the world’s fresh water

Being made up of mostly ice, it is probably not a surprise they have an abundance of freshwater. You can find estimates ranging anywhere between 60 to 90 percent of the world's freshwater supply. This vast range is due to it being merely a guestimate as they calculate the ice sheet that covers 14 million km² (5.4 million square miles). The deepest known portion of the ice is 4.5km (2.7 miles) thick, which means an icy spot about half the height of Mount Everest.

3. Less than 1% of Antarctica Permanently Ice-Free

Despite Antarctica being so vast, a tiny bit is ice-free. A more significant portion of land is uncovered during the summer, but most of those get covered in ice in the wintertime. Some areas are ice-free in the summer, including many regions we visit on the Antarctic Peninsula. Only .4 percent of the continent never gets covered in ice.

4. There is no Antarctic time zone

Since longitudinal lines are what give us our time zones, and they all meet in the South Pole, which is right in the center of Antarctica, it makes times zones tricky there. They also have six months of light in the summer and six months of darkness in the winter. So even if there were time zones, time would be hard to gauge without the typical night and day to indicate time.

Since it is not inhabited, the only people there are visitors, and they often use the time zone from the country they belong to.


5. Antarctica Has Several Volcanoes - Two Active

Mount Erebus, located on Ross Island, is its second-highest volcano and is also considered the Earth's southernmost active volcano. It is very unique due to its severe cold. Twisted ice statues form due to the gases that seep out of the vents from the volcanic center, where it briefly melts and refreezes.

The other active volcano is on Deception Island. They have attempted to have a whaling station and other scientific stations to do studies, but these endeavors have been thwarted due to the volcano's activity. The most recent eruption was in 1969.

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6. One of Its Lakes Flows Blood Red Water

Many call this lake Blood Falls because of the bright red color of its water. The water is red due to oxidized iron and salt in the water—the iron in the water rusts, giving the water a blood-red appearance. Blood Falls can be found near Taylor Glacier. This was first observed in 1911, and scientists did not discover the root cause until 2017.

6. Antarctica Was Discovered in 1820

Being the only continent without an indigenous population, humans did not begin exploring it until its discovery in 1820. It was discovered by two Russian ships, the Vostok and Mirnyi, under Captain Fabien Gottlieb von Bellinghausen. He was doing a two-year exploratory expediting around the world when he landed on the continent on January 28, 1820. This remains the first recording sighting of the landmass.

7. 53 Countries Have Signed a Treaty for Peace on the Continent

Since its discovery in 1820, there existed considerable debate on who owned the land since all countries wanted to claim it if any country made any great discoveries.

Tensions rose until December 1959, when 12 countries signed the Antarctic Treaty, which states that the continent is to be governed as a place for peace and scientific research. More and more countries have signed the treaty, with at least 53 countries currently having signed the treaty. All of which meet to discuss the treaty annually, discussing human activity on this continent. The treaty has strict commercial fishing sealing guidelines and bans mining or mineral exploration.

9. There Are No Trees on Antarctica

Due to the extreme cold, there is very little life in Antarctica. There have been no found trees or shrubs. They have discovered two flowering plants, over 1000 species of fungi, 700 species of algae, 100 species of mosses, 25 species of liverworts, and over 300 species of lichens. They have also found at least 67 living insects.

The flowering plants include the Antarctic hair grass and the Antarctic pearlwort. There are various types of insects ranging from spiders, beetles, flies, and mites.

10. There Are Fish That Survive the Extreme Cold of Antarctica

Fish in Antarctica often have a unique protein thought to be an 'anti-freeze' protein that helps their blood not freeze in the polar ocean. This protein allows the fish to drop their temperature to sub-zero temperatures and not freeze, enabling them to survive. Some fish found there are crocodile icefish, Antarctic dragonfish, barbled plunderfish, and spiny pluderfish

Antarctica is a unique arid area that we are still discovering today. Due to a treaty to protect this great land, progress may be slow but safe.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Angela Michelle Schultz

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