Antarctica is the Earth’s southern most continent and has no indigenous inhabitants. While many explorers speculated over the existence of a “southern land,” the continent’s presence was not confirmed until the 1820s. Following World War II, the continent saw an increase in scientific interest and research. In more recent years, a number of countries have established seasonal and year-round research stations and camps.
Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth, and its topography is 98 percent thick ice. It is the fifth largest continent, slightly smaller than 1.5 times the size of the United States. There are more than 30 species of flying birds that live in Antarctica.
• Most common penguin: Adélie
• Highest elevation: Mount Vinson,16,050 ft
• Coldest temperature ever: 129.28° F
• Strongest wind: 199 mph
The white continent is also home to five species of penguins. Plus another four species of these amazing flightless birds live on sub-Antarctic islands.
Antarctica has made headlines recently because scientists keep a close eye on the continent due to its impact on climate and the oceans.
On March 18, scientists recorded the temperature at Concordia Research Station as 11.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The normal high temperature for the day is around -56 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning last month’s recording was close to 70 degrees warmer than normal. Vostok, a Russian research base, also logged a record high temperature that day—zero degrees Fahrenheit, which is 63 degrees warmer than the average for the day.
A few days before these high temperature were recorded, an ice shelf in Antarctica nearly the size of Los Angeles DISINTEGRATED as well. The Conger Ice Shelf, which was approximately 460 square miles, collapsed around March 15.
Antarctica may be remote and far from warm and sunny Arizona, but what happens there impacts the rest of the world. One estimate is that if all of the continent’s ice melted to water, it would be enough to raise the world’s oceans by 190 feet.