A continent on its own, evoking mystery for its lack of activity in it, how much do we actually know about Antarctica? If you ask a regular person what they know, chances are they might spout how they know about penguins residing there or er, the fact that it’s one of the seven continents.
Antarctica isn’t the news much for the lack of population there but scientists and researchers generally observe the continent with hawk-eyed scrutiny for historical, archaeological, geological and scientific facts.
From all the research conducted there, here are some possibly bizarre/interesting facts about the continent that might further intrigue you into knowing more about Antarctica:
#10: Structurally and geologically, it resembles the Andes
Like the Andes, Antarctica was formed by an uplift of the sea bed sediments during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. There is evidence of volcanic activity despite the fact that the continent is essentially covered by a thick layer of ice.
While some rocks found there were formed 3 billion years ago, there are some modern day rocks such as sandstone, limestone and shales during the Devonian and Jurassic periods to form the Transantarctic mountains.
#9: Antarctica contains valuable minerals like coal and iron ore
The Prince Charles Mountains contain significant deposits of iron ore. There are valuable offshore resources in Antarctica such as oil and natural gas fields in the Ross Sea. Exploitation of all mineral resources in banned until 2048 under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
#8: Antarctica is politically neutral
While it is typical of human nature is be greedy and want to expand their land and call dibs on resources and compete, many nations had fingers in the pie named Antarctica but it was established in 1959 that Antarctica is politically neutral.
Antarctica has no existing government, no military activity but is an established area for the conduction of scientific research and environmental protection.
The Madrid Protocol bans all mining in Antarctica, designating the continent as a ‘natural reserve devoted to peace and science’. Greenpeace International formed its own research station in Ross Sea to observe the impacts of environmental effects on humans in the continent.
#7: The ozone hole grows over Antarctica
The ever growing ozone layer hole was observed by scientists in 1985, and increases annually. Ozone layer depletion has caused a cooling in the stratospheric layer and can lead to the intensifying of westerly winds leading to a polar vortex.
The ozone layer depletion has paved way for increased sea-ice offshore the continent.
#6: Antarctica contains 70 percent of the Earth’s fresh water in the form of ice
And the ice is 2.8 kilometers thick so we’ve got to start finding alternatives when we begin running out of water. The weight of this ice has depressed bedrock by 600 meters.
#5: Antartica was at the center of Gondwanaland
Over 200 years ago when all the continents were adjoined, Antarctica was at the center of Gondwanaland surrounded by India, Africa, Australia and South America.
#4: Antarctica is home to several unique species, both flora and fauna
Yes, contrary to what most people think about Antarctica being frightfully cold to the extent that it cannot hold human life for too long, there are several species endemic to the area that you wont find elsewhere in the world.
About 1150 species of fungi have been recorded from Antarctica, of which about 750 are non-lichen-forming and 400 are lichen-forming.The flightless midge Belgica antarctica up to 6 millimetres (0.2 in) in size, is the largest purely terrestrial animal in Antarctica.
The emperor penguin is the only penguin that breeds during the winter in Antarctica, while the Adelie penguin breeds farther south than any other penguin. The rockhopper penguin has distinctive feathers around the eyes, giving the appearance of elaborate eyelashes. King penguins, chinstrap penguins, and gentoo penguins also breed in the Antarctic.
#3: Antarctica is a research hub
According to Wikipedia: “Each year, scientists from 28 different nations conduct experiments not reproducible in any other place in the world. In the summer more than 4,000 scientists operate research stations; this number decreases to just over 1,000 in the winter. McMurdo Station, which is the largest research station in Antarctica, is capable of housing more than 1,000 scientists, visitors, and tourists.”
#2: Antarctica contains meteorite sightings
According to research “The first meteorite was found in 1912, and named the Adelie Land meteorite. In 1969, a Japanese expedition discovered nine meteorites. Most of these meteorites have fallen onto the ice sheet in the last million years. Motion of the ice sheet tends to concentrate the meteorites at blocking locations such as mountain ranges, with wind erosion bringing them to the surface after centuries beneath accumulated snowfall.”
#1: Antarctica was a a hypothesized land
Historically, navigators and sailors tried their best to reach Antarctica to find the sightings of the land they knew was even below Australia.
In January 1773, explorer James Cook came as close as 75 miles to the continent but retreated in the face of ice.
The first person to sail single-handed to Antarctica was the New Zealander David Henry Lewis in 1972, in a 10-metre steel sloop called Ice Bird.