Antarctica is unlike any other place on the planet! Did you know that Antarctica is the highest, windiest, driest and coldest continent in the world? These are just some of the most interesting facts about Antarctica!
The Antarctic is without a doubt a region of extremes and one of the most fascinating continents. It has no permanent residents, harsh weather conditions, and huge icebergs high from skyscrapers. That’s before you even think of the amazing marine life that dwells in its cool waters.
A trip to this huge frozen desert will undoubtedly be an amazing trip! It allows you to follow in the footsteps of legendary explorers like Ernest Shackleton and more. There are many fascinating stories about the mysterious continent of Antarctica. Read on to find out all the fun facts you should know about Antarctica.
Some fun facts about Antarctica
A trip to Antarctica is becoming increasingly popular, affordable, and accessible. In the 2018-2019 season, more than 56,000 people visited Antarctica, 53% more than in 2014.
Antarctica is a desert
How could Antarctica be a desert with all that fresh water stored in the ice sheet? This has to be one of the most interesting facts about Antarctica! Most people associate deserts with dunes and scorching heat, but a desert doesn’t have to be dry and sandy. A desert is named for the amount of rainfall in the form of rain, fog, mist, and snow. Any area with extremely little or no annual rainfall is considered a desert.
That being said, the average annual rainfall at the South Pole for the past 30 years has been just over 10 mm, or 0.4 inches. Although rainfall is higher along the coast, average rainfall across the continent is low enough to qualify Antarctica as a polar desert.
Consequently, despite being covered in ice, Antarctica took 45 million years to reach its present thickness due to the lack of rain. As already mentioned, Antarctica is not only a desert, but also one of the windiest, highest and coldest places on earth!
Antarctica is the largest freshwater reservoir in the world
The Antarctic ice currently contains 90% of the world’s total ice capacity and 70% of fresh water. If all of the ice melted, there would be enough water to raise the earth’s sea level by 200 feet!
The ice sheet that covers Antarctica is the largest in the world. It covers 14 million square kilometers or 5.4 million square miles. This includes all mountain ranges, gorges and plateaus in Antarctica.
Only 1% of Antarctica is always ice-free. Other areas are ice-free in the summer, when tourists visit the Antarctic Peninsula. Summer in Antarctica lasts from December to March.
The thickest part of the Antarctic ice sheet is 4.5 km or 2.7 miles long. Compared, that’s about half the height of the mountain. Everest! If the thickest ice sheet in Antarctica alone melted, sea levels would rise 60 meters or 200 feet.
Antarctica has not always been an icy continent
Antarctica was not always frozen solid; The continent rested over the South Pole for almost 100 million years without freezing. Then, about 34 million years ago, the climate changed dramatically.
The warm climatic conditions in the greenhouse, which had been stable since the dinosaurs became extinct, cooled off suddenly. This formed an “ice house” on the poles, which still exists today.
When you consider that Antarctica has the coldest measured land temperature in the world. It was recorded by Russia’s Vostok Station in July 1983 at -89.2 ° C (-128.6 ° F). It is hard to imagine that the continent was once a warm, subtropical paradise.
According to researchers, temperatures in Antarctica reached 17 ° C (62.6 ° F) around 40 to 50 million years ago. Scientists have also discovered fossils showing that Antarctica was once covered in lush forests and was home to dinosaurs!
Discovery of the Antarctic
Antarctica was first discovered towards the end of January 1820. This was achieved during a two-year expedition worldwide from two Russian ships: the Vostok and the Mirnyi. Both ships were under the command of Captain Fabien Gottlieb von Bellingshausen on a discovery mission for the Russian Empire.
On January 26, 1820, Bellingshausen’s ships were the first to cross the Arctic Circle since Jame Cook almost 50 years earlier in 1773.
There is no time zone for Antarctica
Here’s one of the weirdest Antarctic facts for you! In Antarctica, the question of time is complicated. Antarctica is not officially divided into time zones as it is mostly uninhabited. The South Pole in Antarctica is the point where all of the Earth’s longitudes meet at one point. Longitude lines are the ones that show us the different time zones around the world. This means that theoretically every time zone can be used there.
However, there are a handful of research camps, each keeping the local time of their own country. Some stations follow the time zone of the country they operate or serve, while others follow the times of nearby countries.
The summers in Antarctica are 6 months of uninterrupted daylight and the winters are 6 months of darkness. Without the usual day and night markings, the time seems a little strange. For travelers, however, they usually stay in the time zone of the port of the country of departure.
North is everywhere
You are at the southernmost point on the planet when you are at the South Pole. It doesn’t matter which direction you look and look; every path points north.
The question is why do we call the Antarctic Peninsula West Antarctica while the area directly south of Australia is called East Antarctica. The basis for this is the prime meridian. It is an imaginary line that crosses Greenwich from the North Pole to the South Pole. Everything on your left is west and everything on your right is east as you stand on the South Pole and face Greenwich.
Antarctica is the fastest warming region in the world
The Antarctic Peninsula is warming faster than many other parts of the world. The west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming regions on earth in the past 50 years. In fact, temperatures have risen 3 ° C all over the Antarctic Peninsula!
This has led to some changes, such as where and when penguin colonies form and ice forms in the ocean. It also means that plant life has a longer growing season.
There are active volcanoes in Antarctica
There are several volcanoes in Antarctica, two of which are still active. Mount Erebus is the southernmost active volcano in the world and the second highest in Antarctica. This ice-capped volcano on Ross Island is known for its ice waterfalls and twisted ice sculptures that form around gases emerging from vents near the crater.
In 1908 a team led by the Australian Edgeworth David and Douglas Mawson succeeded in the first ascent of Mt. Erebus. They reached the steaming crater after a strenuous and bitterly cold climb for five days.
Deception Island, a volcanic basin in the South Shetland Islands, is home to the second active volcano. It was previously home to a successful whaling station and then a research station, but was abandoned after the last eruption in 1969.
It’s a fascinating place to see old whale bones and the slowly eroding oil tanks of the old refinery. Deception Island is also a great place for travelers to take part in the Polar Plunge because of its hot pools.
A blood-red waterfall flows there
A five-story waterfall slowly pours from the Taylor Glacier into Lake Bonney in the McMurdo Dry Valley in Antarctica. For too many years, the cause of the red color was unknown, but scientists announced in 2017 that they had discovered it.
The flowing water from inside the glacier came from a salty, oxidized, iron-rich subglacial lake. The iron in this water flow rusted when exposed to oxygen, which gave the water its remarkable red color. Hence the name Blood Falls.
The Antarctic is governed by a separate treaty
Antarctica was the only continent without an indigenous population when humans first discovered it in 1820. Several countries quickly tried to make claims on the continent. Of course, that created a lot of tension.
Antarctica is now governed by an international treaty system known as the Antarctic treaty system. This treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries whose scientists were stationed in or near Antarctica.
Seven countries with territorial claims were among the first to sign the Antarctic Treaty. These were Australia, Argentina, France, Chile, New Zealand, Great Britain and Norway.
In 1961 the Antarctic Treaty came into force. Many other countries have since agreed. The Antarctic treaty system makes all decisions by consensus, with cooperation and agreement on the most important issues.
The Antarctic treaty system now includes strict rules for commercial fishing and seal hunting, as well as a total ban on mining and mineral discovery.
Diamond dust in the air
Diamond dust is one of the phenomena of Antarctica. What is diamond dust? It’s a type of rain made up of small, elongated ice crystals that slowly fall and appear to float in the air.
Sunlight makes ice crystals shimmer in the air and creates a sparkling effect that is reminiscent of millions of minutes floating diamonds. Halos, sun dogs, and pillars of light are great visual effects caused by diamond dust.
Icy border of the Antarctic
We hope you enjoyed some of the fun facts about Antarctica. There are thousands of prettier and funnier facts that don’t show the true beauty and diversity of this cold continent!
You can of course experience it for yourself if you want. Antarctica is fast establishing itself as the ultimate adventure tourism location.
The few travelers who are fortunate enough to travel to Antarctica and explore its vast expanses return home forever changed, an encounter so amazing that it touches them deeply.
Would you like to travel to Antarctica and see it for yourself? Read our Antarctica travel guide for some travel tips!
Planning resources for the Antarctic