Welcome to the world’s freezer, Antarctica!
The beautiful continent of Antarctica is Earth’s southernmost continent and it contains the geographic South Pole.
It’s hard to imagine a place more remote than Antarctica. A continent surrounded by the Southern Ocean, with few inhabitants apart from transient explorers and researchers, it is as barren and isolated as our imaginations can conceive.
Antarctica Facts for Kids
- The ice sheets in Antarctica are 2160m thick.
- It is the fifth-largest continent in the world.
- Its surrounded by the Southern Ocean.
- Wind speeds can reach 350KM per hour making it the windiest place on earth.
- 90% of the ice in the world is found in Antarctica
Research stations in Antarctica
It is a harsh place to live, but there are 70 research stations with people from 29 different countries. All these countries have signed the Antarctic Treaty with researchers and explorers agreeing to maintain the natural environment and cooperate with each other.
Ultimately, the Treaty’s goal is to help preserve the continent’s natural state for future generations to appreciate and to promote greater international cooperation.
Climate of Antarctica
The coldest recorded temperature ever seen on Earth was in 1983 at Vostok Station, Antarctica. It was a rather cold −89.6 °C. If you compare that to the lowest temperature ever recorded in New York, which was -52 °C in 1934, you can only imagine how cold it was down there.
Animals on Antarctica
Only a few species live on the Antarctic continent. Seals and whales live in the Southern Ocean.
Emperor penguins are the tallest and heaviest of all species of penguins. They can grow to over 130 cm/48″ tall and weigh up to 45 kg. A penguin’s diet consists of krill, fish, and squid. There are thousands of penguins in colonies on Antarctica. It is home to about 5 million penguins.
Adélie penguins live only in the Antarctic, on the pack ice the borders the continent. Estimates put their population at around 700,000. They are easy to spot by the white ring around their eyes. They can easily propel themselves 100 meters underwater using their stiff wings. Only Adelie penguins, along with the Emperor penguin, live in Antarctica all year long.
Leopard seals are named for the spotted pattern on their dark, sleek fur. Males can weigh up to 600 pounds and have sharp teeth and claws. Females are also very heavy, at around 100 pounds, but they have a more rounded head and lack the male’s thick whiskers.
Leopard seals spend much of their time hunting among the ice floes in frigid Antarctic waters.
They are the only seals that hunt other mammals for food.
They migrate far and wide in search of food.
Crabeater seals don’t eat crabs. They primarily eat krill.
Somehow the name crabeater was a mistake by whale and seal hunters years and years ago, but for whatever reason, the name stuck.
There are an estimated 15 million Crabeaters worldwide. The male and female are roughly the same sizes.
This is the world’s largest animal. They feed on krill and communicate by making a loud series of vocal sounds. A fully grown adult can reach a length of over 100 feet and weigh in excess of 200 tons.
An orca (also called a killer whale ) is an apex predator.
Their diet consists mainly of fish and squid, like other odontocetes. However, seals, seabirds, and whales far bigger than themselves are also targets.
The ‘killer whale’ belongs to the dolphin family. They have a striking white belly and a glossy black back, so it’s hard to miss this animal if it’s close by. Females grow to seven meters (23 feet), while males can grow up to nine-and-a-half meters (31 ft).
This large seabird enjoys spending most of its time in flight, making it easy to spot with its long wings. With a wingspan of up to 3.5 meters, Wandering Albatrosses are great gliders it can fly without flapping their wings for several hours at a time.
Besides preying on fish and jellyfish, they eat penguins and seals carrion.
Despite Antarctica’s harsh weather, Petrels are extremely resilient. Although they spend a lot of time at sea come inland is to nest.
This bird is often seen in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, where it feeds on fish and squid.
More Antarctica Facts
1. Antarctica is the Earth’s southernmost continent and it is the fifth-largest continent in both area and population.
2. Antarctica is an icy wasteland, with average temperatures of -57°C and lower in different locations. With three-quarters of the land permanently covered in ice.
3. There are no trees because of high winds and very low temperatures in autumn and winter. The average temperature ranges from 0-2°C in summer to -50°C in winter (with wind chill), meaning that there is no green on Antarctica!
4. The continent is the world’s fifth-largest. It’s not an island either; it is part of a larger landmass called the South Atlantic or Scotia Arc.
5. The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest on the planet. It covers 14.2 million square kilometers in total area. The layer of ice sheet is so big that if it melts, the oceans would rise by 58 meters and potentially flood one-third of the Earth’s surface.
6. It has only two seasons: winter and summer. Six months of daylight in the summer and six months of darkness in the winter
7. It was named by the Greeks as “land of ice and snow” in 25 BC.
8. In 1773, John Byron and James Cook became the first to cross the Antarctic Circle – that’s a marker of latitude at the South Pole where it meets the Equator.
9. There are no permanent human settlements because there are no crops to harvest, no livestock.
10. The Antarctic Treaty was signed on 1st December 1959 and is the only international treaty that bans military activity – it forbids nuclear explosions, mining, territorial claims, mineral resource development, and any other activity which causes harm to Antarctica. 48 nations are parties to the Antarctic Treaty, but only 29 countries presently control decision-making.
11. During the Antarctic winter (which begins in April), emperor penguins start breeding on the thick Antarctic ice.
12. A research station is only mandated on Antarctica if they receive approval from five countries – these are France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, and Australia!
13. Antarctica is a desert that has little precipitation and is entirely covered by a frozen surface.
There are no trees in Antarctica because of high winds and very low temperatures in autumn and winter. The average temperature ranges from 0-10°C in summer to -60°C in winter (with wind chill), meaning that there is no green on Antarctica!
Polar regions have seasons. Well, they have two: summer and winter.
In actual fact, Antarctica is a polar desert.
Now, this might surprise you…as Antarctica gets very little rain, it is actually considered a desert. How weird is that, an ice desert?
At the Equator, sunlight strikes directly (right angle). At the poles, there is less owing to a progressively lower angle of incidence. Therefore, less sunlight is spread over a greater area as compared to the Equator.
Even though this is one seriously icy planet, there are some plants and animals that have amazingly adapted to the cold and now call this place home, like seals and penguins.
People don’t actually live in Antarctica, but you do find a couple of thousand people who work in research stations. They’re certainly going to have to dress up warm.
About 90% of the ice on Earth is found here. Hardly surprising thinking about how cold and icy it is!
For the ice continent, this is amazing. There are dry valleys, which are the driest places of Earth. There’s not much humidity and hardly a flake of snow or ice cover. Wow!
Get your wind gear ready if you’re going here. Antarctica is the windiest continent and those winds can reach speeds of up to 320 km per hour. If you think about planes reach speeds of up to 880 km per hour. The speed of the winds is over one third of the speed of a plane!
This is cool. Antarctica provides 70% of the planet’s fresh water and 90% of the freshwater ice.
There is a mountain range on Antarctica called Gamburtsev Mountains (that’s quite a mouthful) and some of their peaks rise to 3,000m and stretch 1,200 km across the centre of the continent. They are completely buried under 4,800m of ice.
Underneath all that ice there is also a lake called Lake Vostoc filled with freshwater buried under 3.7km of solid ice. It’s about the size of Lake Ontario.
Antarctica is home to one of the longest mountain ranges on Earth. It is called the Transantarctic Mountains and is 3,500 km long! These mountain ranges divide the continent into East and West.
The highest point on Antarctica is the Vinson Massif at 4,987 meters. Wow, that’s tall!
No one knew that Antarctica existed until it was first spotted in 1820. Only 20 years later was it actually proven that it was a continent and not a group of islands.
Want to know who reached the South Pole first? Well, it was a Norwegian explorer by the name of Roald Amundsen. He beat Robert Falcon Scott, an English explorer, by planting the Norwegian flag on 14th December 1911. Do you think you’d be brave enough to travel there?
There is as much ice on Antarctica as there is water in the Atlantic Ocean. Wow!
We hope you find these facts useful, and maybe you can ace that next Geography quiz with all this cool information.
Antarctica is the southernmost continent on Earth and it’s surrounded by the Southern Sea.