Friday, November 9, 2012

10 Facts about Antarctica

10. Land claims

So far eight countries have laid claim to pieces of Antarctica, with three countries having overlapping claims. Despite this, not all of Antarctica is claimed. In fact the largest amount of unclaimed land in the world, Marie Byrd Land, is here.

9. Population

While there is no permanent population on the continent at any given time, there can be anywhere between 1,000 to 5,000 people on the continent, and this doesn't just include scientists and other people who work at the research stations, it also sometimes includes their families. There are even schools at some bases, and as of 2009, eleven children have been born there.

8. Meteorites

Due to the ice sheets, meteorites here are the easiest to find there then anywhere else in the world. Also because of the environment, meteorites there are also well preserved.

Perhaps the most famous and controversial meteorite found there is the ALH84001, which back in 1996 scientists announced it may contained microscopic life from Mars.

7. Industry

Currently there are only two types of industries that exist for Antarctica: Fishing and tourism, the latter which has been going on since 1957 and is usually done by boat and focuses mainly on scenic locations.

Both industries are also controversial. Illegal fishing sometimes yields five to six times much fish as legal, and there has been calls for greater regulation on tourism down there for years.

6. Antarctican dollar

There are Antarctican dollars, and they are in the same denominations as the American dollars, but here's the catch: They're not legal tender anywhere. This includes Antartica.

Antartican dollars are just collectors items produced by the Antarctic Overseas Exchange Office, and can be purchased through their website. The proceeds from the sales fund groups undertaking research and humanitarian projects on the continent.

5. Cold Desert

Despite the fact that most of the land mass is covered in ice, the interior of Antarctica is actually considered to be a desert due to the low precipitation, which is always in the form of snow, and very low humidity. In fact it's one of the driest places on the planet, and cracked lips and dry skins are constant problems for the scientists and explorers there.

4. Ice sheet thickness

The average ice sheet thickness varies depending on which side you are on.

On east Antarctica the average thickness is 2.6 kilometers, while on west Antarctica the average thickness is almost 1.8 kilometers thick, and on the Antarctic Peninsula it's only 0.6 kilometers thick.

3. Mount Erebus

There are several active volcanoes on Antarctica, and Mount Erebus is one of the most active, with the last eruption occurring in 2012.

Mount Erebus is also the site of the worst plane crash in Antarctica. In 1979 Air New Zealand Flight 901 crashed into Mount Erebus, killing all 257 people on board.

2. Penguins

While there's not a lot of biodiversity on Antarctica, there is one thing that the continent has a lot of: Penguins.

There are several species of penguins that inhabit or breed on the continent, including the Emperor Penguin, which is the largest penguin species on the planet.

1. A land known before it was known

Despite the fact that the continent wasn't discovered until 1820, speculation about the existence of Antarctica had been around for centuries. In fact speculation of the continent's existence was around since the 1st century AD, and many European maps from several centuries ago showed what at the time was only a hypothetical land mass, despite the fact that no one knew of it's existence.

Due to several earlier maps showing a near accurate outline of the continent there is also some speculation that the continent may have been discovered centuries earlier then what it was, but that it's existence had been lost over time.

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