Antarctica: 90 Degrees South Western Reserve Public Media


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Did You Know?

On December 1, 1959, the Antarctic Treaty was signed by 12 nations and became effective in 1961. Since then, 28 other nations have become signers. The treaty bans military activity and nuclear testing in Antarctica. It also allows nations to conduct scientific research and ensures free exchange of information between countries.


Some Records

  • The coldest temperature ever recorded was at the Russian station Vostok in Antarctica: -88° Celsius (-126° Fahrenheit).

  • Winds can reach over 300 km per hour (186 miles per hour).

  • Antarctica is the largest desert in the world. Only about 4 cm of rain fall each year in the form of snow. No rain has fallen in the part of Antarctica called the Dry Valleys for over two million years.

  • The longest glacier in the world in the Lamber-Fisher Ice Passage. It is 515 km (320 miles) long and 40 km (25 miles) wide.

  • The largest iceberg ever recorded was 12,000 square miles, the size of Belgium. It broke free in 1956. Perhaps an even larger one broke free from Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf sometime before March 2000.


About the Continent

  • 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 twoseasons.” Daylight lasts six months of the year, followed by six months of darkness. Our summer is their winter and our winter is their summer.

  • 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 feet).

  • 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.


About the Animals

  • There are no polar bears in Antarctica — or any other land mammals (other than researchers and other human visitors).

  • There are no flying insects in Antarctica — they’d get blown away. There are flea-like creatures that hop from place to place among the penguins.

  • Antarctica is home to a group of fish called ice fish. They have no hemoglobin in their blood to carry oxygen. Oxygen dissolves better at low temperatures so they have no need for it. Their blood is white.

  • Dog teams are no longer used in Antarctica to protect the seals from disease (canine distemper, parvovirus, etc.).

  • Dinosaur fossils and other fossils have been found in Antarctica. They are believed to have been deposited about 200 million years ago when Antarctica was much farther north (warmer) and connected to Australia, India and Africa.



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