The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)
Earth’s Frozen Continent
It may be steamy hot where you are this summer, but at the “bottom” of the world, in Antarctica, it’s the dead of winter. Let’s visit our southernmost continent.
A frozen landscape
Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent, with an area of about 5.4 million square miles, but its size changes depending on the season. In the winter, more sea ice along its coasts makes it bigger.
The continent is home to the South Pole, one of two points on Earth’s axis of rotation.
It is surrounded by three oceans. Just about all of Antarctica (more than 99%) is covered with ice. The ground is too cold for anything to grow except lichens, mosses, algae and some grasses.
There are some mountains, and there are two active volcanos. It is usually very cold, but just about 2 inches of snow fall there each year — the air is too dry for much snow to form. Still, huge blizzards happen when the high winds pick up snow on the ground.
Scientists have discovered subglacial lakes and rivers — waterways under the thick sheet of ice.
Living on Antarctica
Antarctica does not belong to any one country. It is governed by the Antarctic Treaty System, which prohibits military activities and nuclear waste disposal, among other things. The treaty supports scientific exploration and protects the continent’s ecology.
Several thousand people live in Antarctica at any one time. They are scattered at about 100 research stations across the continent.
Antarctica was the last continent to be discovered. Although some ships spotted ice shelves and came close to land there, the first confirmed landing was in 1895. Other explorers traveled to the magnetic South Pole and the geographic South Pole in the early 1900s.
There are no indigenous, or native, people in Antarctica. There are, however, many species of animals.