THE STATISTICS never fail to confound: 90 per cent of the planet’s fresh water is trapped in the 14 million square kilometres of Antarctic ice sheet – roughly 24.5 million cubic kilometres of fresh water. Since Antarctica’s link with
South America was broken 20 million years ago, the ice has grown, snowflake upon snowflake, transmuted over geological time to glacial ice. Gravity moves this ice towards Antarctica’s coasts, where super-cooled salt water freezes, thaws and freezes, year on year, nearly doubling the surface area of Antarctic ice at its most northerly point. One time-scale is geological, the other seasonal. One is a freshwater phenomenon, the other marine. Together, they are the story of Antarctica’s ice.
ANTARCTIC CONTINENT PERMANENT ICE SHEET: 14,000,000sq.km PACK ICE EXTENT IN SUMMER: + 3,000,000sq.km PACK ICE EXTENT IN WINTER: + 20,000,000sq.km SIZE OF AUSTRALIAN CONTINENT: 7,700,000sq.km