Our Favorite Fascinating Facts About Antarctica (With Photos!)

Antarctica

So Antarctica is an incredible place. Just spectacular. Beautiful in so many ways. And it’s so unique and fascinating we could go on and on and on about the all stuff we’re learning about it. But at the risk of boring you to tears, we’re keeping it simple. So here are our top ten things to know about Antarctica… and we bet there are at least a few in here that will surprise you! Check it out:

The coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was minus 128.56 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 89.2 degrees Celsius), registered on July 21, 1983, at Antarctica’s Vostok station.

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So yes. It’s cold. But honestly not nearly as cold as we thought it would be. Matter of fact – get this – it was literally colder across much of the U.S. during our trip to Antarctica. But here’s the kicker – we spent our time on and around the Antarctic peninsula, which is like the tropics compared to much of the rest of the continent. The air temperature and water temperature both hovered around 32-34 degrees Fahrenheit, and it never actually felt that cold except for when it was raining. And unfortunately it rained on us a lot.

And the fact that it rained on us is itself highly unusual, because believe it or not Antarctica is classified as a desert. Actually, it is the largest desert on the planet! Yup. Strange but very true. It is actually the driest place on earth. So dry, in fact, one area of Antarctica called the McMurdo Dry Valleys hasn’t seen a drop of rain in more than two million years! And we thought the drought in Texas was bad…

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So who owns Antarctica? Depends on who you ask, and what parts of the continent you’re talking about. But on the whole, it’s generally agreed among most nations of the world that Antarctica doesn’t belong to anybody. In fact the Antarctic Treaty System signed 50 years ago pretty much guarantees that. Still, a handful of countries including Australia, Argentina and the United Kingdom lay claim to parts of the continent. And we’re thinking about claiming a part for ourselves. We’ll call it: Nikandustyia. Why not?

Tourism in Antarctica is said to have begun in the 1950s, and these days roughly 40,000 people visit the White Continent every year. That number is definitely growing, but Antarctica still isn’t Disneyland by any stretch of the imagination.

Photo Courtesy: NASA

The Antarctic ice sheet covers more than 5.4 million square miles and contains roughly 70 percent of all the fresh water on the planet. And surprisingly the ice sheet is actually growing. Just last year, the amount of sea ice surrounding Antarctica reached a new record. There’s some healthy debate as to what that actually means (as it relates to global warming and such) but suffice it to say Antarctica’s not melting away anytime soon.

It’s actually true that only about 10 percent of an iceberg is actually visible above water, thanks to the density of pure ice versus that of seawater. So, yeah. Feel free to keep saying “that’s just the tip of the iceberg” whenever appropriate. And be confident knowing you’ve got science on your side.

Shades of blue on an Antarctic iceberg

Sure, icebergs are generally white. But we saw lots of icebergs emitting this crazy bright blue color. We mean bright blue. Very simply put, that’s evidently because the ice gets so tightly compressed over time that it absorbs every color of the spectrum except for blue. And the result is just incredible.

There are typically between 1,000 and 5,000 people living on Antarctica at any given moment, depending on the time of year. For example Vernadksy Station is staffed by a team of twelve people, primarily Ukranian scientists. And Vernadksy is one of several such outposts around the continent. And yes, there are probably aliens down there somewhere too. But they’ve been shy when it comes to reporting for the census. So far, anyway.

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Antarctica is the most inhospitable place on the planet of course, but it’s still home to some very unique and crazy cool wildlife. Different types of penguins, of course… but you’ll find more than penguins lurking in the cold Antarctic waters.

Cheers guys!

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