Description of Antarctica
Antarctica is the land of extremes. The continent is the driest and the coldest on the planet Earth. It also has an average elevation that is higher than any other on earth. It is the 5th largest continent of the planet and is the most southern. The continent is the home of the South Pole and has barely been touched by humans. The frozen land offers scenery that is simply breathtaking. This natural scenery is only broken up by a few scientific bases. There are a few thousand scientists who live in the area “permanently.” People who choose to visit Antarctica will typically need to be brave enough to go across rough seas. You must be willing to get aboard an ice strengthened vessel. If you choose to brave the boat ride you will be rewarded with breathtaking views as well as unique wildlife.
There have been several countries that have claimed various areas of the continent. However, the land is governed by the Antarctic Treaty of 1958. This treaty established the continent as an area for peaceful and cooperative research. There are no real cities on the continent, but instead there are about 24 or more research stations that have a total population ranging from 1000 people to about 4000 people. This depends on the time of the year that it is. The research centers are used for scientific purposes only and there is no support for tourism provided. There are laws of the nation that apply to the operation of each research station.
There are typically three versions of private travel to the area. The first is through a commercial sea voyage. These voyages will offer visits to the shores of the continent and this is the most popular form of travel to the area. There are also special mounted land expeditions available. This form of travel to the country will take a lot of preparation as the land is quite difficult to navigate. The third way to visit the continent is by air. There are around 80 companies that are a part of the International Association for Antarctica Tour Operators. This is a membership organization that regulates any non-research travel that is done in the region. In the summer season of 2005 and 2006 it is estimated that about 26,250 people visited the continent or the waters that surrounded it.
One of the most notable things about Antarctica is that it is the only continent in the world that does not have any significant amount of plants, and there are not native amphibians, reptiles, or land mammals. Many people think that this is where polar bears live, but that is actually at the North Pole. The shore line of the continent is a nesting ground for several types of migratory birds as well as penguins. The southern ocean that surrounds Antarctica is home of many types of marine animals and fish, including whales.
The ice fools most people, but in reality the continent is one large desert. The moisture of the area is all in its extremely cold seawater as well the huge shelves, packs, and sheets of ice that cover almost all of the continent and the surrounding waters. There is very little snowfall that occurs here and not very much rain.
For tourists the only time that visitation is allowed is during the austral summer season. This season lasts from November through the month of March. This is when the ice melts enough that access is allowed. The temperatures on the coast can rise to highs of 14 degrees Celsius and 57 degrees Fahrenheit. During this time there are 24 hours of daylight. During the winter months the sea is impassable. The temperatures during the winter months are as low as -40 degrees Celsius/Fahrenheit. During the winter the land is almost always dark.
These temperatures are the averages for the coastal regions and islands that are typically visited by tourists. The interior temperatures, such as those near the South Pole are even harsher with the highs of the summer only reaching about -15 degrees Celsius or 5 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winters the lows can reach -80 degrees Celsius or -112 degrees Fahrenheit.
The continent is divided into several regions. The Antarctic Peninsula is the principal destination of the continent. It is located near Tierra del Fuego and the impressive topography that includes the Antarctic Andes. Here you will find the hot springs of the island. In addition, this is the area that has the most research stations.
East Antarctica is the icy desert wasteland of the continent. It makes up the majority of the continent and is the least known to tourists. There are some interesting destinations in these regions including the south pole of inaccessibility and the Mawson’s Huts.
The Ross Sea is the main destination for cruise ships that leave New Zealand and Australia. This area has some of the most impressive sites of the continent. There is the volcanic Ross Island as well as the large Transantarctic Mountain Chain.
The South Pole is sitting upon ground that is stationary. There is a permanent research station located here as well as a ceremonial pole.
Western Antarctica is mostly barren and empty. There are no research stations here, except for the one located on the Brunt Ice Shelf. The highest and the lowest points are located in this region. You can go on a guided climb to the highest point if you are up to it.
For those who choose to visit Antarctica, there are several primary destinations that you will want to go to. If you are planning to work on the continent you will be going to one of the research bases that are located throughout the area. The most popular destinations for other tourists are the Ross Sea or the Antarctic Peninsula if you visit by ship. The other destinations of the continent are only reachable by people who have extreme motivation and funding for the expedition.
Some facts about Antarctica
Gallery of Antarctica
Antarctica video guide
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Climate of Antarctica:
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