Antartica: The Coldest Land on Earth

Antartica: The Coldest Land on Earth


Earth’s southernmost continent and the coldest continent on Earth, the Antarctica is the geographical south pole of the globe surrounded by southern ocean. Etymologically the word means opposite of Arctic which means the North Pole whereas the word Antarctic defines as the South Pole. It is one of those continents with approximately 14,000,000 km square area, which is 1.3 times compared to Europe and the fifth largest amongst the continents on the land of earth. Antarctica is a continent which is almost double in size of Australia and with an approximate population of only 5,000 habitants which are majorly researches situated sparsely across the very less inland available.

The temperature at Antarctica has reached to as low as -89 degree Celsius degree. Animals which can adapt to cold are major residents of this ice covered region such as penguins, fungi, algae, nematodes and seals. The southern waters of the three oceans Indian, Atlantic, and the pacific surround the continent. The Transantartic Mountains, between the Wedell Sea and the Ross Sea, divide the continent into two hemispheres the western and the eastern according to the Greenwich Meridian. The western hemisphere is hotter than the eastern hemisphere because of its lower elevations.


Antarctic ice sheet covers about 98% of the South Pole continent which is almost 91% of the world’s ice and about 70% of the fresh waters of the world. A rise of 60m would occur if all this eyes were to be melted..!

The highest peak, at 4892 m, in Antarctica is the Vinson Massif located at Ellsworth Mountains. Frequent Volcanoes, lava flow and giant eruptions have been observed at various mountains of the continent over the recent years. Lakes are found in large numbers of approx 70 in the continent’s ice sheet region where the water flows from one lake to another in large quantity. A largest of its kinds, sub glacial lakes , Vostok Station is found beneath the Antarctic continent’s ice sheets and it shares its characteristics with the moon of Jaipur, Europa, through which it is believed that their exists life on the moon.

In comparison to the Arctic, the Antarctic is colder for majorly three reasons. Firstly, the covering of the Arctic ocean over the north polar zone of the Arctic which prevents typically high temperatures, Secondly , Antarctica is above the sea level for about 3 km which has a direct relation with the temperature decrement because with the elevation in troposphere region the temperature decreases. The third but the less impactful parameter is the Earths position in comparison to the sun during the winter i.e. perihelion which is the closest and farthest during the summer i.e. aphelion which makes the temperature hotter in the summers at the continent Antarctic.

Snow petrel exclusively breeds in Antarctica with a few terrestrial vertebrates and other invertebrates like the lice, rotifers, krill and springtails. The sea life comprises of the fur seals, Blue whales, Penguins,  orcas and colossal squids. The major variety of the penguins like the emperor penguin, adelie penguin, rockhopper penguin, chinstrap penguin, gentoo penguin and the king penguins are only found in the Antarctic habitant family. In both Polar Regions more than 235 marine animals dwell in about more than 12,000 km space.

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About 400 lichen forming and 750 non lichen forming fungi are found in the Antarctic which makes a total of 1150 species of fungi of well adapted themselves in this ice clad region of the Earth. Plant growth is inhibited in this region due to factor like lack of sunlight, lack of moisture, poor soil quality and extreme freezing temperatures. Bryophytes comprise of the flora of the region largely with about 100 mosses and 25 liverworts. In the coastal region phytoplankton, snow algae, diatoms, protists are largely found. Bacteria were also found by scientists in a report on February 2013.

Antarctica is a politically neutral continent with no government of its own where a few countries have signed the Antarctica Treaty. In 1959 the treaty was duly signed by 12 countries which include Russia, U.K, Australia, U.S, Argentina and Chile. Greenpeace international established its own scientific station in the Ross sea called the World Park Base for research of the environmental effects over human beings, animals and the natural vegetation. The treaty doesn’t allow any country to take part in any military activity in the continent and the mining of any natural element is prohibited because of the lack of abundance of the element to be exploited. A small scale tourism and fishing near the coast are the only two major economical activities in the continent since 1957 except the research base programs.


At Mc Murdo Station there are about 4,000 researches in the summers whereas in the winters it is only 1000 due to the extremely elevated temperature of the region. Researchers from about 28 countries visit the ice clad region from different backgrounds like glaciologists, oceanographers, physicists, biologists, meteorologists and also geologists. The ozone layer which is in the atmosphere above the Antarctica has been an important goal of studies since 1970’s. In 1972, David Henry Lewis from New Zealand, was the first person to sail to Antarctica in a sloop ice bird (10-meter steel sloop)

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