Antarctica or the “White Continent” is known for its unaltered splendor and surreal glacial landscapes.
However, being one of the unique places in the world, this region is full of mysteries and surprises.
Below, we’ve put together a top 10 things you didn’t know about the frozen continent.
1. It has an active volcano
At first glance, it could be an island like any other, but the fact that it is not completely covered in snow should catch your eye… Mount Erebus, whose peak forms Ross Island, is the southernmost active volcano on the planet. It last erupted in the late 1960s.
2. There are no time zones
As Antarctica is largely uninhabited and under international rule, the continent is not officially divided into time zones. Research stations choose which time zone to use: the one of the country that funds them or the one of the country closest geographically to their base.
3. It is the largest desert in the world
A desert is defined as an area where less than 254 mm of rainfall falls per year. On average, Antarctica receives less than 50 mm. No snow or rain has been seen in parts of this continent for more than 2 million years! Being the driest continent in the world, Antarctica is the largest desert on the planet. The Sahara should be careful!
4. Argentina has sent a pregnant woman there hoping to use childbirth as a way to claim part of the continent
The incident took place in 1977. The boy, Emilio Marcos Palma, was born there a few months after the arrival of his mother. He is known as the first man born on this continent. The Antarctic Treaty already guarantees the international governance of the territory, but Argentina hopes that the citizens born there will claim its territory. Between 1978 and 1983, 8 Argentine babies were born in Antarctica.
5. It is not always polar cold
You may think that the temperatures are well below what you can tolerate. But cruises to Antarctica take place between November and March, during the summer in the southern hemisphere, and sail mainly to the northern part of the continent. In this area of the peninsula, temperatures vary between -2 ° C and 2 ° C in summer. If you want to venture further south in the middle of winter, then woe to you. The coldest temperature in the world was recorded there in 2010: -92 ° C.
6. There is a Chilean village in Antarctica
This civilian settlement, which is also a research station, bears the wonderful name of Villa Las Estrellas (“City of Stars”). It is located on an island 120 km from the center of the peninsula. Populated with 150 people in summer and 80 in winter, Villa Las Estrellas has a primary school, a gym, a post office and a hospital.
7. It has 300 unfrozen lakes
You might think that fresh water would freeze in such a cold climate, but Antarctica has about 300 lakes. How is this possible? They are underground and benefit from a temperature above 0 ° C due to the heat released from the ground.
8. It is the only continent where there are no reptiles
Because they have cold blood, reptiles depend on the heat sources in their environment to warm themselves. They cannot survive in a frozen region like Antarctica. So penguins can sleep peacefully: there are no snakes to bother them.
9. Antarctica is home to about 90% of the Earth’s ice
Antarctic ice represents 75% of the fresh water on our planet. There are rocks and earth beneath all this ice, the continent being twice as big as Australia. Some of the icebergs are huge in themselves: one that is bigger than Jamaica has been discovered. At 11,000 km2, it is the largest iceberg ever measured.
10. You will never see the same thing twice
In Antarctica, each month offers different experiences. November is the beginning of summer: the icebergs are particularly massive, and the birds on the mainland are in the mating season. In December, the penguins lay eggs and at the end of December and January, the eggs hatch. In February and March, whale watching is more common. Antarctica is not open to visitors for the rest of the year: it is often dark and the temperatures are too low to bear.
The “white continent” remains a realm of mysteries, where much remains to be discovered.