It is cold. And there is a lot of ice, a lot of it is melting, scientists tell us. That’s pretty much what the average person knows about the vast, cold continent of Antarctica. Oh, and Metallica played a concert there once.
That’s a very vague perspective on a place that is just fascinating. Antarctica may be the bottom of our planet, but when we humans came across it in 1820, it must have made quite an impression. Since then, the place has been mostly visited by scientists, which makes it difficult for normal people to know their way around Antarctica. That’s why we’re here to tell you more about our cool neighbor at the South Pole.
0. Antarctica is technically a desert
When you imagine a desert, imagine nine times out of ten a sunburned sea of golden sand dunes. The Sahara, the Mojave, maybe even the Gobi. We know they are hot and sandy and there is not much rainfall. However, if we take a closer look at the scientific definition of “desert” we find that only one of these adjectives applies.
Yes, a real desert simply describes a region with very little rainfall. 250 millimeters per year, to be precise. These include rain, fog, and in Antarctica, Snow. And while all deserts appear to have some sort of extreme temperature level, it’s interesting to note that most of the world’s deserts are found in cold climates. And Antarctica is the largest desert in the world.
9. It has active volcanoes
Similar to deserts, we tend to associate volcanoes with a particular geographic landscape. The fleeting, oozing giants we’ve seen on National Geographic are usually in tropical locations near the coast. There are a few exceptions, like Mt. St. Helens in Washington state, but by and large we like to think we know where volcanoes like to hang their hats.
But actually we want to refute this idea a mountain of Erebus. The world’s southernmost volcano claims Antarctica as its home and is quite active, with a permanent 1,700-degree lava lake in its sticky center. It is also noteworthy for being one of the few volcanoes in the world that is constantly active rather than resting for a while and then erupting. And the mountain. Erebus is not an anomaly: scientists have found the largest volcanic region on earth in Antarctica Over 91 have been found so far under the huge ice sheets at the western end of the continent.
8. It is one of the most politically peaceful places in the world
One thing people are good at is destroying a new place once explorers first walk in it. Perhaps it’s because of the tribal affiliation of our race, but especially when other countries are involved there is usually a lot of arguing about who the new discovery belongs to.
Despite all odds Twelve of the world powers agreed in 1959 that the continent of Antarctica should be used for scientific purposes and that there would be no militarization whatsoever. Those nations included the United States and the Soviet Union, deeply embroiled in the Cold War at the time. So it is no small matter that they agreed on this. The Antarctic Treaty also ensured that neither weapon tests nor nuclear waste disposal nor mineral exploration were conducted. So during a couple of countries have a claim Most of the time on the research side, the continent basically doesn’t belong to anyone.
7. There is a waterfall that runs red as blood
It might be strange to imagine that there was a waterfall in Antarctica because you’d think that running water would be virtually impossible in a place that is constantly frozen. Millions of years ago sea levels rose and flooded part of Antarctica with a huge salt lake. Glaciers formed over this lake, which preserved it in a kind of aqueous suspension.
This lake, encapsulated by glaciers, is now three times saltier than sea water. And that’s why it doesn’t freeze. So there is a waterfall that slowly flows out of the subglacial lake has not been exposed to air in ages and does not contain oxygen. When this water is finally exposed to the air, it rusts almost immediately, covering the wintry white ice with a blood-red stain. Of course, the waterfall is called Blood Falls because life is dark and there is no hope.
6. Antarctica has a single ATM and seven churches
Unsurprisingly, in an area where you freeze to death before enjoying, basic amenities and services won’t be immediately available. But there is one area that does trade and that is at McMurdo Station, the largest research area in Antarctica. There are bars, shops and post offices that can accommodate several hundred people. And there, like everywhere else in the world, money is needed. And here Wells Fargo came in and installed an ATM. While it only spends American money, it is still used in stores and can be exchanged for other currencies nearby.
Just like money, belief is a currency of its own for people, no matter where in the world they are. And in Antarctica, because of the sheer, hopeless cold, you may reach for the sky more than anywhere else. Around the icy continent There are about seven churches to serve those who want to serve their God. One such church, called the Church of Snow, was actually engulfed in flames. Twice.
5. You can’t research there when you have your attachment
Researching Antarctica is quite a brave undertaking. They basically deal with being driven away from the rest of the civilized world and, depending on the time of year, not being able to walk at all. So there are certain criteria that you must meet if you agree to these conditions.
First, if you are a doctor working in the Australian Research Zone, you Your attachment needs to be removed before you go down there. The reason for this is that in the incredibly harsh winters there is only one doctor on call and it is impossible to get her to a medical facility. A Russian doctor found himself in exactly this situation in 1961 and removed his own appendix, so the Australians decided not to get involved in this situation. Wisdom teeth are another thing that they are pretty careful about – if it looks like it might be an impending problem, they are usually asked to have them removed. The Antarctic winter and urgent medical care aren’t best friends.
4. Fires are a real danger there
When forest fires hit the headlines, Australia or California usually burns. You wouldn’t imagine an ice sheet without vegetation, would you? Something like that. While real forest and bush fires don’t matter in Antarctica, the risk of fires burning out of control is very real.
There is little rainfall down there and the winds can be fierce. These two conditions are perfect for fires to get out of control. Early British expeditions found this out the hard way when a simple burning bed killed almost all of the crew. And there is a long list of other fires including the church that we mentioned earlier. Several research stations fell victim to uncontrollable flames in 2001 and 2009. One disgruntled visitor actually set fire to it to be flown from the godforsaken continent.
3. Antarctica has no time zones
Knowing time zones is very beneficial, especially when planning a kick-off to a soccer game or the season finale of your favorite show. You also wonder who and for what purpose created these arbitrary imaginary lines. But we live with them so it’s just a normal part of life now.
In a place like Antarctica, where the summer days are permanently sunlit and the winter days are shrouded in darkness, The concept of time zones doesn’t really apply. The longitudinal lines with which time zones are “marked” converge anyway as soon as they reach the southernmost pole. So there is nothing that can separate time anyway. The fact that nobody really lives there and therefore does not necessarily need to know what time it is makes it even more difficult to get home. So when you are down there you can rest assured that every time you want to start you can use and move on from there.
2. There are regions that have not received any precipitation for over 2 million years
We found that Antarctica is a really dry place as it hardly receives any snow. It’s also quite interesting that the opposite was the case in Antarctica 90 million years ago was lousy with rainforests. However, these days it’s just a dry, windy sheet of ice, but we don’t think anyone can tell how dry things are down there.
In Antarctica, there is a region called the dry valleys that didn’t even smell water from the sky in over 2 million years. There are indeed winds that are incredibly humid, but the sheer force combined with gravity makes them all but useless for generating precipitation.
1. The continent doubles every winter
Antarctica seems like a colossal piece of land, but in reality it’s usually the size of the United States and Mexico combined. While this is big, without anyone actually visiting, the size is often misinterpreted. At any given time, there are roughly a thousand scientists scattered across the frozen tundra. Perhaps it is the small number of people that makes size harder to understand at all times.
It’s also difficult because the size of Antarctica is constantly changing. and in a dramatic way. When winter hits and the real cold and frosts begin, Antarctica takes on more frozen mass and expands by 40,000 square miles Every day. The continent doubles at the end of every winter and topographically becomes the largest desert in the world. As summer approaches, the ice that Antarctica was trying to claim for itself breaks apart and moves into the sea to melt. But as soon as those wicked winters strike again, the continent begins to expand again.
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