229 images Created 31 Mar 2020
The Antarctic is almost a geographic opposite of the Arctic. It contains a land mass, known as the continent of Antarctica, surrounded by ocean whereas the Arctic is ocean surrounded by land (Greenland, North America, Russia, etc.). During the winter, up to 18 million square kilometers (6.9 million sq.miles) of ocean is covered in sea ice, but by the end of summer, only about 3 million sq.km/1.1 million sq.miles) of sea ice remains. The Antarctic ice shelf deflects some of the sun's rays away from the Earth, keeping temperatures liveable. The Antarctic region includes not only the continent of Antarctica, but also the Antarctic Peninsula and hundreds of islands including the island of South Georgia. The oceans in the Antarctic support masses of the world's sealife - including 15 species of whale and dolphin, 5 species of penguin, 6 different species of seal and more. The nutrient-rich water of the Antarctic waters encourage the vital blooming of phytoplankton, microscopic, single-celled plants that drift near the ocean's surface and live off of carbon dioxide and the sun's rays. Plankton is the vital and main staple in the diet of krill, which in turn is the main diet of all baleen whales, seals, and literally hundreds of different animals. Baleen whales, such as a humbpack or single blue whale, for example, eat up to a staggering 8,000 pounds of krill every day for a four month period in order to accumulate blubber for warmth after the summer. The Ross ice shelf in the Antarctic is the size of France being the largest single mass of ice on Earth. Antarctica is the windiest continent on the planet. The famous katabatic winds can reach up to 200 mph (320 km/h). Most people don't realize that Antarctica is a desert. It only receives two inches of precipitation on average a year. South Georgia island, is the most important penguin and seabird breeding area in the world. It is an Antarctic island and has been referred to as an Antarctic oasis because of the huge numbers of penguins and seals that breed there. One of the most famous explorers, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men on The Endurance, became trapped in pack ice between South Georgia and Antarctica. They finally made it to Elephant Island. Shackleton and 5 of his men, left the rest of the crew at Wild Point on Elephant Island, and sailed a lifeboat to South Georgia, hiked across spiky mountains and steep cliffs until reaching a whaling station called Stromness. All of Shackleton's men were saved. Shackleton was buried in South Georgia, in Grytviken, and his grave is there today.