With temperatures sometimes so low, ice in certain areas doesn’t even melt at the South Pole. Even though most of it is ice and doesn’t have much vegetation or animals, it is quite a dangerous place. Because the ozone layer is severely damaged over the South Pole, you risk getting eye cancer if you go there without wearing a pair of sunglasses. Not just that, your sunglasses shouldn’t have steel in it and if they do, then the metal shouldn’t touch your skin since your skin could get burned.
But don’t confuse the South Pole with the magnetic south pole of the Earth. The South Pole is located at the center of southern hemisphere while the magnetic south pole is constantly changing. Interestingly, there is also a ceremonial South Pole that is located just 180 feet away from the geographic South Pole. It has a small metal ball on top of a bamboo pole and is surrounded by the flags of countries that have signed the Antarctic Treaty.
The South Pole experiences pitch black darkness from May to August. It is much colder than the North Pole because it is located at an elevation and is a continent, whereas the Arctic Pole is just a mass of floating ice.
Here are 15 facts about the South Pole you might have never hear about.
15. It was discovered in 1820
Russians were the first ones to discover Antarctica in 1820 but didn’t land there. It was a year later in 1821 that American Captain John Davis who first set foot on the continent. Since the map wasn’t made until the late 19th century, no one could reach the center of the South Pole. In 1911, the first ones to reach the South Pole was Norwegian Roald Amundsen and his team. The first person to fly over the South Pole was US Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd.
It was not until 1956 that another journey was made to the South Pole. The famous Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station was established between 1956-57 and is still very active in researching this remote region.
14. Antarctica is the best place to find meteorites
It is very easy to find black meteors on the icy blue snow. Meteors fall everywhere on earth; those which fall in the waters are lost. It is easy to search for meteors in Antarctica because they are well-preserved since cold temperatures have preservative effect.
Most often, these meteorites get covered with ice and become a part of one of the many ice glaciers of the South Pole. Even though meteors are easy to find, they are difficult to collect. The surface gets hardened due to wind and becomes hard as ice and if cracked, you might fall in the ridge and die.
13. A waterfall in Antarctica resembles blood
For those who faint at the sight of blood, this waterfall in Antarctica isn’t blood but an ancient iron-rich water that slowly oozes out of the Taylor Glacier and into Lake Bonney. Now you would be wondering how is there water in Antarctica if it is the coldest place on earth? That’s because this red water is three times saltier than seawater. The addition of salt to water lowers its freezing point.
12. Only penguins inhabit the South Pole
Not all species of penguins reside at the South Pole. Most of the species are found in the temperate region. The larger birds such as emperor penguins are native to the South Pole. However, there are no penguins at the North Pole because of the presence of bigger predators such as polar bears and arctic foxes.
Interestingly, there are no polar bears in the South Pole. This means that penguins are the only animals living on land in the South Pole. Also, to reach North Pole these penguins would need to migrate through hot water, which would kill them. It is said that prehistoric penguins were as huge as modern humans.
11. Ice In The South Pole Doesn’t Melt
The South Pole is adversely affected by ultraviolet rays but the ice still continues to grow. Ever wondered, why? That’s because the South Pole is much colder than the North Pole. During winters, at sunset, the temperatures go as low as -45 degree Celsius. The highest temperature ever recorded at the South Pole was -12.3 degree Celsius on December 25, 2011.
Recently, scientists at University of Washington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have explained that the water currents in the southern hemisphere bring old waters from below to the top. The cold temperature freezes it and therefore, ice is never seen melting at the South Pole.
10. The horrifying Antarctica sea creature
There is a very amusing fish in the waters surrounding the Antarctic, which is completely void of red blood cells. It is called the ice fish and looks very ghostly. The ice fish often called a white crocodile fish, didn’t look this…well ghastly. It lost its red blood cells over time but survived.
The fish has colourless blood and white and soft gills (fishes usually have brown or red gills full of blood supply). Researchers believe that due to the high level of oxygen in the water of Antarctic, gills and skin of fish turned super thin.
9. Seasons in Antarctica are opposite to that in the north
Since Antarctica falls in the southern hemisphere, it experiences seasons opposite to that in the northern hemisphere. When it is winter in the north, during October to February, it is summer in Antarctica. When it is summer in the north from April to August, it is winter in Antarctica.
This is not only seen in Antarctica but also in Australia, New Zealand, and other countries which are on the other side of the equator. Since it is located at the extremity of the Earth, it experiences only two seasons – winter and summer.
8. It has no permanent residents
Antarctica belongs to no nation, that means no one can colonize it, which rules out the chance of any permanent residency. The only people who live there are scientists and researchers, but not permanently. Only 1,000 to 5,000 scientists and researchers live there every year. Around 36,000 people visit Antarctica every year. Tourism is only possible during the summers even though there are some very brave people who go there during the winters.
Antarctica has no commercial industries, gardens, amusement parks, or hotels. It is just a bare piece of land completely covered in snow. And if you are planning to go and stay in Antarctica forever, well that might not actually be a possibility for you.
7. Antarctica Belongs To Nobody
Seven nations have claimed sovereignty over Antarctica but no one owns it just yet. These seven countries are: Norway, New Zealand, Australia, France, Great Britain, Chile and Argentina. Their territorial claims haven’t been approved by other nations of the world, so they own it illegitimately.
These territorial tensions will only increase the global pressure on Antarctica. 53 countries have signed the Antarctic Treaty and are continuously researching on the land. They all meet once a year and take measures for the following year. However, all these countries are rich. For example, South Africa is the only African country that has signed the treaty. This is unfair for the poorer countries who might benefit from owning a part of Antarctica.
6. Antarctica is a desert
We often think a desert to be all sand, camels, and extremely hot and that’s because we think most deserts are covered with sand, but not Antarctica. The continent is a cold desert. Interestingly, only 20% of earth’s desert are covered with sand, while 80% are covered in ice.
Antarctica is called a desert because it receives very little rainfall or snowfall, which is a crucial factor considered while defining a desert. More specifically, it is a polar desert, that means it receives less than 25 cm of rain every year and the average temperature is always below 10 degree Celsius.
5. The South Pole Contains 61% Of Earth’s Fresh Water
Ice covers 98% of Antarctica. The Antarctica ice mass is the largest piece of ice and covers an area of 14 million kilometers square. It contains 61% of the Earth’s fresh water, which is almost 58 meters of sea level rise. In 2013, it was observed that as ice in the Arctic region is melting, water around Antarctica is increasing.
Because of this, many nations have thought about drifting a glacier from Antarctica to their country. In 1977, Abdulla Alshehi, a Saudi Arabian Prince wanted to end his country’s water issues and formulated an ambitious plan of bringing an iceberg to United Arab Emirates. He said that since one iceberg contains 20 billion gallons of water, it would solve issues of drinking water for at least 5 years.
4. Non-native vegetation cannot be taken to the Antarctica
It would be difficult for a non-native plant to survive in the frigid condition of the South Pole. The primary reason for not allowing non-native vegetation in Antarctica is because the plants and soil stuck on it can bring in new germs and microorganisms which could possibly damage the native ecosystem.
Unknowingly, small animals and insects such as bees, bugs, and ants come in along with visitors but luckily none have been able to establish colonies. Special care is taken to avoid colonization of rats as they are known to cause havoc around the world.
3. One of the biggest icebergs that broke away from Antarctic was as big as Qatar
In July 2017, an ice sheet as big as Qatar broke away from Antarctica. The iceberg was four times the size of London and seven times the size of New York. Named Larsen C, the iceberg was 6300 kilometers big, making it one of the world’s largest ever. It wasn’t a sudden incident because scientists were constantly studying the growing crack on the iceberg. Rapid climate changes since 2014 caused the crack to expand even faster.
2. The mystery behind the ozone layer over South Pole
When every news report started talking about ozone layer depletion over the South Pole, everyone blamed the increase in greenhouse gases and pollution. Though, it may be one of the contributing factors, it is not the main reason behind it. Extreme cold temperature is causing the rapid depletion.
Even though the depletion started due to CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) gas reacting with ultraviolet light releasing chlorine, which in turn reacts with ozone to produce chlorine monoxide and diatomic oxygen. This process occurs mostly in the stratosphere where there are a lot of ice crystals. So, if there was no ice, there wouldn’t have been any depletion.
1. Lowest temperature ever recorded was -89.2 degree Celsius
The lowest air temperature of -89.2 degree Fahrenheit was recorded on July 21, 1938, in Antarctica, recorded at the Vostok Station. The altitude of that place is 3900 meters above sea level. We all know that Antarctica is the coldest place on the planet, but this temperature is beyond imagination.
Antarctica is so cold that ice barely melts there. It is very difficult for life to exist there. However, most animals found there have adapted to it and changed their body temperatures to adjust to the harsh climate. What would happen if humans could do that?
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