When you think
of Antarctica you likely think of a barren wasteland, filled with
snow and ice, and without much life. This is the image that most
people have, but it isn’t entirely correct. As one of the seven
continents, it actually has a lot more diversity than you would
think. Covering over 5,400,000 miles, it hold a number of fascinating
features and is more accessible than most people would think.
Everything from the knowledge that people live there year round to
the fact that there is actually native vegetation is likely shocking
to most people. Here are five of the most interesting facts about the
southern most continent in the world.
1. Antarctica Actually Has Lots Of
While most people know that this
content is surrounded by the sea, they don’t know that it actually
contains almost 50% of the fresh water on earth. However, this
doesn’t mean that it is accessible, as most of the content is frozen
throughout the year.
However, stations that have been
created by humans actually melt down the ice, creating melt holes and
lakes, that are then able to be used by humans and non-humans alike.
Once the water has been melted, it is usually circulated back into
the hole or lake, making it larger, before being whisked away to
heated storage tanks that ensure easy access for anyone at these
research stations. There is also a Dam near Macquarie station that
feeds fresh water into tanks at that station. There are even
plumbers and tank cleaners that are employed and live in the
Antarctic full time!
2. Antarctica Has A Marathon Held
Within Its Shores It might sound a bit strange when someone
says that they have run a marathon or a half marathon on all seven
continents, but there is a good chance that they are telling the
truth. Every December the Antarctic Ice Marathon is help about 100
miles inland in Antarctica. This marathon is the only footrace held
on this continent, but not the only race. The marked course is almost
27 miles in length, takes place in negative 20 degree weather, and
takes approximately 3 days to complete, including the time to fly to
and from the course. The actual running is done over the course of a
single day, during which time a half marathon is also held.
Contestants are housed together, provided with food, and water, and
the entry price even covers the flight to and from Chile.
3. Antarctica Has A Red “Blood”
While you don’t usually think of
running water when you think of the southern continent, there is a
waterfall that is not only flowing for the majority of the year, but
also looks like it is made of blood. The colouration of the waterfall
has actually stained the ice and the rock near the falls, making it
so that the area appears to be permanently bathed in red. This
striking sight is caused by the oxidization of iron in the saltwater,
a similar phenomena to the orange or red color of rust. The high
levels of iron and salt are actually the reason that the water is
able to flow rather than freezing as well.
4. Antarctica Is Actually A Desert
When we think of a desert, we usually
think of the Sahara desert, the sandy, barren, and hot desert of
Africa. However, the Antarctic is also a desert, because of the lack
of rainfall in the area. A desert is any area that receives less than
10 inches of rain in a year. Antarctica receives 2 inches or less
each year, making it one of the driest deserts in terms of
precipitation. However, the permanent layers of ice and snow, as well
as the oceans surrounding the arctic mean that it isn’t arid or as
barren as the other deserts in the world.
5. Antarctica Actually Has Active
Volcanoes Beneath The Surface
Volcanoes are generally thought of as
extremely hot places that wouldn’t generally allow for giant sheets
of ice to be over them, but Antarctica actually has at least 138
different volcanoes underneath the ice. Of these volcanoes, only two
are currently active – Mouth Erebus and Deception Island, but
almost all of them have the potential to be active. Mount Erebus
actually has a boiling lava lake, but is also covered in glaciers.
Without being told it was there, most people would not even believe
that the area had a volcano.
Antarctica is hiding so many amazing
things and there is so much left to be discovered as well. Because
the temperatures on this continent can drop so low, there is a very
limited time frame for research to be done each year. However, new
discoveries are being made all the time, and with more funding and
technologies such as drones, solar batteries, and improved thermal
clothing, we can only expect to learn more about it in the years to