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10 interesting facts about Antarctica

The average annual rainfall in Antarctica for the past 30 years has been only 10 mm (0.4 in).

1. Antarctica is a desert!

How can Antarctica be a desert with that fresh water in the ice sheet?

When most of us think of a desert, we think of sand dunes and high temperatures, but technically a desert is not necessarily hot or sandy, it just depends on how much precipitation falls in the area, be it rain, snow, fog, or. fog A desert is any area with very little annual rainfall. 

The average annual rainfall in Antarctica for the past 30 years has been only 10 mm (0.4 in). 

Although more precipitation falls towards the coast, the average rainfall on the continent is low enough to classify Antarctica as an arctic desert. 

So, even though Antarctica was covered in ice, it took 45 million years to reach its current thickness because there was very little rain.

Besides being one of the driest continents on earth, Antarctica is also the coldest, windiest and highest continent. 

2. Antarctica has the freshest water in the world

From 60 to 90 percent of the world's freshwater is trapped in the huge ice sheets of Antarctica. 

The Antarctic Ice Sheet is the largest ice sheet on Earth, covering 14 million square kilometres (5.4 million square miles) of Antarctic ridges, valleys and plateaus. 

This means that only 1% of Antarctica is permanently ice-free. 

Some areas are ice-free during the summer, including many of the areas we visit on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Antarctic ice is 4.5 km (2.7 miles) thick at its deepest point, which is half the height of Mount Everest! 

If everything were to melt, the global sea level would rise by about 60 meters (200 feet). 

3. The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming regions on Earth

The Antarctic Peninsula is warming faster than most regions on Earth. 

In fact, it is one of the fastest-warming regions on Earth. 

Over the past 50 years, the average temperature on the Antarctic Peninsula has increased by 3 degrees Celsius (37.4 degrees Fahrenheit), five times the global average increase.

This led to changes in, for example, where and when penguin colonies and sea ice formed. 

This also means that the green algae of the Antarctic Peninsula have a slightly longer growing season.

4. It was as hot in Antarctica as in Melbourne

With a temperature recorded on Earth in Antarctica of -89.2 °C (-128.6 °F), it is hard to imagine Antarctica as a warm temperate paradise. 

But Antarctica wasn't always a frozen landlocked in the grip of a giant ice sheet. 

In fact, Antarctica was once as hot as Melbourne is today. 

Researchers estimate that 40-50 million years ago, the temperature in Antarctica reached 17 degrees Celsius (62.6 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Scientists have even found fossils that show that Antarctica was once covered in lush forests and dinosaurs lived there!

5. There are active volcanoes in Antarctica

There are several volcanoes in Antarctica, two of which are active. 

Mount Erebus, the second-highest volcano in Antarctica, is the southernmost active volcano on Earth. 

This ice volcano is located on Rossa Island and has unique features such as ice fumaroles and twisted ice sculptures that form around gases escaping from vents near the crater.

In 1908, a team led by Australian scientist Edgeworth David, including Douglas Mawson, made the first ascent of Mount Erebus.

The second active volcano is located on Deception Island, a crater in the South Shetland Islands. 

Once a thriving whaling station and later a scientific station, it was abandoned after a recent eruption in 1969. Today, it is a fascinating place to visit on some Antarctic Peninsula cruises.

6. There is no Antarctic time zone

The issue of time in Antarctica is complex. In Antarctica, the lines of longitude that represent the different time zones around the world meet at the same point. 

Most regions of Antarctica have 6 months of continuous daylight in summer and 6 months of darkness in winter. 

The time is slightly different without the usual day and night signs. 

Scientists working in Antarctica are usually in their own time zone, which can cause problems. 

For example, in the Antarctic Peninsula, you can find stations from Chile, China, Russia, England and many other countries. 

With so many neighbouring stations maintaining their home time zone, you can imagine that trying to share data and resources without waking each other up in the middle of the night can be a bit chaotic!

For travellers with Aurora Expeditions, we usually stay in Ushuaia unless we are travelling to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Then we adjust to their local time. 

7. It is a glacial lake of blood-red colour

In 1911, a strange phenomenon was observed on a remote glacier east of Antarctica. 

The lily-white snow of Taylor Glacier has been turned deep red by water flowing from deep within the glacier. For years, the source of the red colour remained a mystery, but in 2017 scientists announced that they had discovered its cause. 

The water that flows from inside the glacier comes from a subglacial lake rich in salt and oxidized iron, and the iron corrodes when exposed to oxygen, giving the water a reddish colour called Blood Falls.

8. All the way north!

If you stand at the South Pole, you are at the southernmost point on Earth. No matter which direction you look, every direction is north. 

Why do we call the Antarctic Peninsula West Antarctica and South Australia East Antarctica? 

It is based on the prime meridian, an imaginary line passing through Greenwich, England at 0° longitude. 

If you stand at the South Pole and go to Greenwich, everything to the left will be west of the South Pole and everything to the right will be east of the South Pole. 

9. Diamond dust floats in the air

Although there is little rain in Antarctica, there are many weather wonders, and diamond dust is one of them!

Diamond dust consists of tiny ice crystals that are blown by moist air near the Earth's surface. 

It looks a bit like snow fog. 

As the ice crystals hang in the air, sunlight dazzles them, creating a dazzling effect that looks like a million tiny diamonds. 

Diamond dust is also responsible for beautiful optical phenomena such as sun dogs, halos and light poles.

10. Antarctica has its own treaty

When people first saw Antarctica in 1820, it was the only continent without indigenous peoples. 

Several countries quickly made claims to the continent, causing considerable tension. 

Although some countries consider Antarctica their property, others strongly disagree. While tensions rose, everyone agreed that a peaceful solution was needed. 

In December 1959, 12 countries signed the Antarctic Treaty, an unprecedented international agreement to jointly manage the continent as a reserve for peace and science. 

Since then, 41 other countries have signed the agreement and participated in annual meetings where decisions are made on how to manage human activities in Antarctica. 

All decisions in the Antarctic Treaty system are made based on consensus and cooperation consensus as central foundations. 

Today, the Antarctic Treaty system has been expanded to include stricter guidelines such as a total ban on commercial fishing, sealing, mining and mineral exploration.

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