12 Interesting Facts About Antarctica
The Southern Pole has always been a popular topic of discussion among scientists and the commoners alike for decades. Whenever we hear someone say “Antarctica,” the first image that engulfs our minds is a thick white sheet of ice spread as far as our mortal eye can see. This is what we have seen on the Internet and other information sources for years. On the contrary, the majestic continent houses much more fascinating features than those ice sheets we have imagined for so long. Here are 12 interesting facts about Antarctica which might few have ever heard of:
1 In the roots of the Greek language, “Arctic” means “the land of bears” and “Antarctic” means “the land without bears.”
The term “Antarctica” literally means the opposite of “Arctic,” hence, it can be called “the land without bears.” However, the word “bears” does not mean the beautiful beasts of the animal kingdom, but the constellations—the Great Bear and the Little Bear. These constellations which are part of the ancient Greek mythology are visible only in the Northern Hemisphere. Hence, Antarctica is named as the “land without bears.” Interestingly, even the great Polar Bears don’t exist in Antarctica! They, too, are found only in the Arctic region! (1, 2)
2 Antarctica is the place where all the longitude lines meet, and hence, the South Pole has no specific time zone of its own.
As all the longitude lines converge at the South Pole, Antarctica holds all of these lines. Hence, any time zone can be used on the continent. Though choosing timezones sounds exciting, it can be quite confusing. Since no one lives in Antarctica permanently, this is not a major problem. For practicality’s sake, time zones on the Antarctic continent are based on the territorial claims. However, the scientists and other researchers who spend time in this part of the Southern Hemisphere can choose the time zone which suits them best. (1, 2)
3 Almost the whole of the Antarctic continent is covered in an ice sheet with a thickness between one mile to 2.96 miles.
Those visions of ice sheets while thinking about Antarctica are actual realities, and the fact that almost the entire Antarctic continent is covered by ice is a testimony to it. But an ice sheet as thick as a mile, or in some cases, almost three miles, is simply unbelievable. This thick coat of ice is what makes the Antarctic region the most difficult place for life to exist. Over 90% of the world’s ice, which is around 29 million cubic kilometers, is frozen in Antarctica. And, if all the ice in Antarctica melts, the level of all the oceans will rise by almost 60 meters! (1, 2)
4 The largest animal of Antarctica, an insect called “Belgica Antarctica,” is one of the smallest animals in the world, just about 2mm long!
Contrary to the popular belief about penguins, seals, and some mysterious land creatures inhabiting Antarctica, the largest terrestrial animal native to Antarctica is an insect which is only two mm in length. This is primarily because the harsh environment of the Antarctic region is impossible to survive in for almost any terrestrial being. Though penguins and seals are spotted at times on the shores, they don’t really live there; they just visit! Even the seabirds we see in the documentaries on television or the Internet are mere visitors and not purely native to Antarctica. The reason why the Belgica Antarctica survives the harsh climate is that it burrows itself one cm under the ice sheet and can survive in it for well over 10 months, and it can survive even if 70% of its body water is lost! (1, 2, 3)
5 There is a volcano in Antarctica named Mt. Erebus, which is the most active one in the South Pole and is covered in crystals that get ejected out of the mountain in the form of glassy, volcanic bombs.
Mt. Erebus is the most active volcano in the southern hemisphere and is the current eruptive zone of the Erebus Hotspot. Though covered with glaciers throughout the year, Mt. Erebus is still pretty hot and holds a lava lake, and it occasionally erupts spitting the crystals grown in the magma for years. Well, if you can collect these crystals and make jewelry out of it, you might earn a lot of money, but be careful as the Mt. Erebus is the most explosive volcano in Antarctica. (1, 2)
6 Antarctica houses one of the saltiest bodies of water on this planet by the name of “The Don Juan Pond,” and this pond maintains its liquid state even in the coldest days of the South Pole.
Although almost everything liquid freezes in Antarctica, the Don Juan Pond manages to maintain its fluidity. Even in winters when the climate in the South Pole drops to a staggering -50° C, the salty lake continues to remain in the liquid state. The lake survives the harsh weather because of its salinity. The Don Juan Pond is the saltiest lake in Antarctica, with a salinity level of over 47%. This lake has the highest amount of dissolved solid substances in the world. Just to compare, the salinity level of this lake is 18 times more than the oceans and 1.3 times more than the Dead Sea. (1, 2)
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