All About Antarctica: Home to Penguins, Krill, Seals and More!

Antarctica is an amazing place to study for a number of reasons. It is sometimes referred to as, ‘the Frozen Continent’ because the greatest percentage of the land is a sheet of ice. In fact, about 98 percent of Antarctica is made up of ice. The climate is extremely cold, dry, and windy. Though no human makes a home in Antarctica, scientists are stationed there to study the environment as well as the animals that live there. Some of the animals that call the region of Antarctica home are seals, whales, penguins, and other types of birds as well as krill oil and other sea life. These animals and plants have special adaptations that allow them to live in the Antarctic climate. The following information introduces more facts about the history, geography, climate, and wildlife inhabitants of this incredible continent.

History

The history of Antarctica began a long time before any explorers discovered it. In fact, humans didn’t explore Antarctica until the nineteenth century. Antarctica was once attached to a continent called Gondwana. When Gondwana broke apart millions of years ago Antarctica found its place at the South Pole. Some of the first individuals to explore Antarctica were James Cook, Roald Edmundson, Robert Falconer Scott, and James Weddell. These courageous explorers risked their lives to learn more about Antarctica and its environment.  

Geography

The ice sheet of Antarctica measures in at fourteen million square kilometers. It claims the title of the largest span of ice in the world. The small portion of Antarctica that is not covered with ice contains mountains such as the Transantarctic mountain range. Scientists are able to study the rocks found in the dry valleys of Antarctica in order to piece together the continent’s geologic history. Frozen lakes can also be found in the dry valleys of Antarctica. There have been discoveries of algae beneath the surfaces of some of these lakes. Volcanoes are also present in Antarctica. Mount Sidley and the active volcano of Mt. Erebus are two examples.

Climate

The below freezing temperatures of Antarctica make it a harsh climate for humans. The average temperature in Antarctica is around -50 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. It may move up to around -20 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime. Other weather conditions in Antarctica include whiteouts. A whiteout in a blizzard means that the blowing snow prevents any object from casting a shadow and only dark objects may be seen. The seasons in Antarctica are opposite of the seasons in this part of the world. For instance, summer in Antarctica begins in December. In addition, the climate of Antarctica sometimes produces very strong winds.

Animal/Plant Life

There are several interesting types of wildlife living in and around Antarctica. The swimming and diving penguins are some of the most recognizable inhabitants of the continent. The Emperor penguin and the Adelie penguin are two great examples. Penguins have a number of predators to watch out for on Antarctica. Leopard seals and Orcas look for penguins to eat. In addition, a marine bird called the skua is known to steal a penguin’s chicks or eggs to eat. Aside from the penguins, Antarctica also is home to petrels and albatrosses. There are many seals that live in Antarctica including the Weddell and the Leopard seal. Some of the whales of Antarctica include the blue and killer whale. Krill is also an inhabitant in the Antarctic. Krill are small plankton that are the food source for whales, seals, birds, and other fish. Some of the plant life of Antarctica includes moss, lichen, and fungi. Certain types of algae have been found growing in the lakes of Antarctica. All of the animals and plants that live in or around Antarctica have adapted to existence in the harsh climate of the continent.  

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