Plate tectonics indicate that Antarctica was
joined to Australia about 200 million years ago. The continent
separated and drifted south.
The Antarctic Convergence is where the
cold water of the south and the warmer water of the north
meet. The water churns and many fish are drawn from the
bottom, creating an area ideal for fishing. The churning
is affected by the strong easterly and westerly winds.
About 90% of the world’s ice is in
Antarctica. There are more than 80 different kinds of ice.
When the Antarctic sea ice starts to grow in the winter,
it eventually doubles the size of the continent, adding
20 million square kilometers or an area about 1.5 times
the size of the USA.
Only about 2% of the Antarctic land mass shows
through the ice.
The average thickness of the ice sheet
is about 2,200 meters (about 1-1/3 mile).
At its thickest point, the ice is 4,776
meters (about 3 miles).
The average temperature in
the summer is -30° Celsius (-22° Fahrenheit) and in the winter
about -60° Celsius (-76° Fahrenheit).
If all of the ice were removed, Antarctica would rise
about 1,000 meters (about half a mile).
If all of the ice on Antarctica melted, the oceans would
rise 60 to 65 meters (200 to 210 feet) everywhere. Think
about what would happen to cities like New Orleans that
are currently at sea level.
More than 70 freshwater lakes are known to lie beneath
the Antarctic ice sheet. Lake Vostok is buried 2.5 miles
below the ice. (Not all of the lakes are freshwater lakes.)
There are only two “seasons.” Daylight
lasts six months of the year, followed by six months
darkness. Our summer is their winter and our winter is
About 90% to 95% of the sunlight that reaches
Antarctica is reflected off of the ice. This compares
to 30% to 40% for grassland and 10% to 15% for forests.
The Antarctic ice sheet holds over
70% of our planet’s fresh water.
There are three South Poles. The Geographic South Pole (also
known as 90 degrees South) is the place where the longitude
lines on the map radiate out. The South Magnetic Pole is
where the compass points straight up. The South Geomagnetic Pole moves
because of the fluid in the center of the earth.
The tallest mountain in Antarctica is the
Vinson Massif, which is 4,897 meters high (about 16,000
Mt. Erebus on Ross Island is an active volcano and
has been continuously active since 1972.
Antarctica has no trees or bushes. It is home to about
350 plant species consisting of lichens, mosses and algae.
Icebergs are made of fresh water and break off
in pieces. One-eighth of the iceberg is visible and seven-eighths
is underwater. Perhaps the largest iceberg broke free from
Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf before March 2000.
The ozone hole, which hovers over Antarctica,
is caused by manmade chlorine- and bromine-containing pollutants
in the atmosphere, destroying stratospheric ozone.