When you think
of Antarctica you likely think of a barren wasteland, filled with
snow and ice, and without much life. This is the image that most
people have, but it isn’t entirely correct. As one of the seven
continents, it actually has a lot more diversity than you would
think. Covering over 5,400,000 miles, it holds a number of
fascinating features and is more accessible than most people would
think. Everything from the knowledge that people live there year
round to the fact that there is actually native vegetation is likely
shocking to most people. Here are five of the most interesting facts
about the southern most continent in the world.
1. Antarctica actually has
lots of fresh water
While most people know that this
continent is surrounded by the sea, they don’t know that it actually
contains around 60% of the fresh water on earth. However, this
doesn’t mean that it is accessible, as most of it is frozen
throughout the year.
However, stations that have been
created by humans can actually melt down the ice, creating melt holes
and lakes, that are then able to be used by humans and non-humans
alike. Once the water has been melted, it is usually circulated back
into the hole or lake, making it larger, before being whisked away to
heated storage tanks that ensure easy access for anyone at these
research stations. There is also a Dam near Macquarie station that
feeds fresh water into tanks at that station. There are even plumbers
and tank cleaners that are employed and live in the Antarctic full
time! Check out this
site to learn more.
2. Antarctica has a marathon held
within its shores It might sound a bit strange when
someone says that they have run a marathon or on all seven
continents, but there is a good chance that they are telling the
Every December the Antarctic Ice
Marathon is held about 100 miles inland in Antarctica. This marathon
is the only footrace held on this continent, but not the only race.
The marked course is almost 27 miles in length, takes place in
negative 20 degree weather, and takes approximately 3 days to
complete, including the time to fly to and from the course. The
actual running is done over the course of a single day, during which
time a half marathon is also held. Contestants are housed together,
provided with food, and water, and the entry price even covers the
flight to and from Chile.
3. Antarctica has a red “blood”
While you don’t usually think of
running water when you think of the southern continent, there is a
waterfall that is not only flowing for the majority of the year, but
also looks like it is made of blood.
The colouration of the waterfall has
actually stained the ice and the rock near the falls, making it so
that the area appears to be permanently bathed in red. This striking
sight is caused by the oxidization of iron in the saltwater, a
similar phenomena to the orange or red color of rust. The high levels
of iron and salt are actually the reason why the water is able to
flow rather than freeze as well.
4. Antarctica is actually a desert
When we think of a desert, we usually
think of the Sahara desert, the sandy, barren, and hot desert of
Africa. However, the Antarctic is also a desert, because of the lack
of rainfall in the area.
A desert is any area that receives less
than 10 inches of rain in a year. Antarctica receives 2 inches or
less each year, making it one of the driest deserts in terms of
precipitation. However, the permanent layers of ice and snow, as well
as the oceans surrounding the arctic mean that it isn’t arid or as
barren as the other deserts in the world.
5. Antarctica has active volcanoes
beneath the surface
Volcanoes are generally thought of as
extremely hot places that wouldn’t generally allow for giant sheets
of ice to be over them, but Antarctica actually has at least 138
different volcanoes underneath the ice. Of these volcanoes, only two
are currently active – Mouth Erebus and Deception Island, but
almost all of them have the potential to be active. Mount Erebus
actually has a boiling lava lake, but is also covered in glaciers.
Without being told it was there, most people would not even believe
that the area had a volcano.
Antarctica is hiding so many amazing
things and there is so much left to be discovered as well. Because
the temperatures on this continent can drop so low, there is a very
limited time frame for research to be done each year. However, new
discoveries are being made all the time, and with more funding and
technologies such as drones, solar batteries, and improved thermal
clothing, we can only expect to learn more about it in the years to