Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole, is a virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass. Most cruises to the continent visit the Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches toward South America. It’s known for the Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbor, striking, iceberg-flanked passageways, and Port Lockroy, a former British research station turned museum. The peninsula’s isolated terrain also shelters rich wildlife, including many penguins.
FACTS & FIGURES :
- Antarctica is the 5th biggest continent and 10% of the earth's land area.
- Antarctica's total area is 14 million km 2 In summer, there is another 2.5 million km 2 of sea ice, which increases to 19 million km 2 in winter, more than doubling the size of Antarctica!
- Only 2% of the land is not covered in ice.
- Ice slowly builds up over millions of years at the rate of 50 to 900 mm/year. There are about 24 000 000 km 2 of ice altogether.
- Antarctic ice which at its thickest reaches 5 km in depth, comprises almost 70% of the earth's fresh water. If it all melted, sea levels would rise between 50 and 60 m.
- Antarctic glaciers are giant rivers of ice that flow slowly towards the sea.
- Due to its ice cap Antarctica is the highest continent, averaging 2300 m above sea level.
- The highest peak is Vinson Massif at 4900 m.
- Antarctica has the lowest recorded temperature; -90°C at Vostock in 1983. Inland, temperatures range from -70°C in winter to -35°C in summer. Corresponding figures for coastal regions are -30°C and 0°C.
- Antarctica is so cold because up to 80% of incoming solar radiation is reflected back into space by ice and snow. The other 20% is largely absorbed by the atmosphere or reflected by clouds.
- Antarctica is the windiest place on earth with gusts up to 327 km/hr having been recorded.
- Antarctica is the driest place on earth. In some places like the Dry Valleys, it has not rained for thousands of years.
- 270 million years ago, Antarctica was part of Gondwanaland and probably covered with tundra, marsh and forests, explaining why coal and petrified wood can still be found today. There are also likely to be reserves of oil.
- Antarctica is the least known of the earth's land masses; fewer than 200 000 people have ever been there.
- Antarctica is the world's finest laboratory. Scientists from all over the world come to study, among others, such things as the organisms that live in this unspoiled ecosystem, the consequences of climate change and clues to the origins of the universe.