The next time someone says they don’t understand why anyone would take an Antarctic cruise, here’s some interesting trivia that might change their mind. We hope you enjoy our 10 winning facts about Antarctica to disarm every opponent.
1. NASA uses the Antarctic to test space gear
The coasts of Antarctica are usually quite mild (during the summer, anyway), but the interior is a different story. Head inland and you’ll feel the temperatures start to plummet. Precipitation all but disappears, and the land is almost entirely free of vegetation. Not so great for luxury travellers, but a fantastic place for a space agency to simulate the inhospitable conditions of outer space.
For example, NASA’s recently announced mission to Mars: What better place to acclimate their future space pioneers than in the Antarctic? There the off-world settlers will get used to living in a harsh environment while testing the gear that’ll keep them alive on the Red Planet.
2. Antarctica and the South Pole aren’t the same
“Antarctica” actually refers to the continent as a whole, while “South Pole” designates a specific geographic location: the axis point on which the Earth spins, with a latitude of 90° and an undefined longitude usually referenced as 0°.
3. Antarctica has the world’s most southern active volcano
Despite the frigid cold surrounding it, Mount Erebus is still brimming with liquid fire. This volcano is the only known location of currently active “lava lakes,” where the magma doesn’t solidify.
4. Antarctica should be higher
Antarctica wants to be taller, but it’s weighed down by a massive ice sheet that covers the continent. It’s estimated that without this ice, Antarctica would rise 500 meters over the next 10,000 years.
5. Antarctica has 24 time zones – and none
Time zones, except for the occasional local anomaly, always extend north and south. This means that all the time zones that reach the bottom of our planet terminate in Antarctica.
As you can imagine, trying to keep track of what time zone you’re in while moving around Antarctica can get pretty difficult. Added to this, Antarctica’s seasons create daylight-twilight conditions (or midnight sun conditions) depending on whether it’s winter or summer.
As a result, researchers living on the continent generally decide what time zone they’d prefer to be in – they usually go with their home time zone – then stick with that. So when you take an Antarctic cruise, feel free to make up your own mind when it’s cocktail hour.
6. The coast isn’t as cold As you think
During the summer cruise season, the Antarctic coasts can be quite pleasant. Temperatures there average around the freezing mark, so it may very well be warmer in that part of the Antarctic than at your home if you’re coming from a northern winter climate.
Additional trivia: The highest temperature recorded in Antarctica was 17.5°C (63.5° F) on the Antarctic Peninsula, on 24 March, 2015.
7. More sun reaches the Antarctic than the equator
To be precise, more sunlight falls on the Antarctic than the equator only during the summer months. (The rest of the year generally evens this out.) This is due to the fact that the sun doesn’t completely set in many (but not all) parts of the Antarctic for roughly half the year. It should also be noted, however, that during the other half of the year, most of Antarctica is dark.
8. “Antarctic” means “opposite of the Arctic”
The name is handed down from ancient Greece, when philosophers and mathematicians (who knew about the Arctic’s existence) figured out there had to be something on the other end of the Earth, too.
9. Antarctica makes big bergs
Icebergs are just smaller chunks of ice that have calved from glaciers. Since Antarctica is entirely covered by a sheath of ice, it generates a lot of bergs that break off into the sea.
Just how big do these bergs get? In mid-July 2017, an iceberg measuring 5,800 square kilometers (2,240 square miles) snapped off from the Larsen C ice shelf in the Antarctic Peninsula and began drifting north. That’s over twice the land mass volume of the country of Luxembourg.
10. The seas are alive with the sounds of whales
The waters of such a cold continent might seem like they should be bereft of life, but Antarctic seas actually have a robust ecosystem. In fact, cold waters hold more nutrients than warm waters.
Foremost (in size) in this cold-water ecosystem is the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth: the blue whale. Blue whales are estimated to gulp down 4,000,000 krill in a single day, which in terms of volume is roughly equivalent to what you’ll eat over the next four years.
Matt Schwachofer is the Online Marketing Manager at Oceanwide Expeditions.If you would like to be a guest blogger onA Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.
Matt Schwachofer is Online Marketing Manager for Oceanwide Expeditions. Oceanwide Expeditions organizes Polar expedition cruise programs to the Arctic and Antarctica for guests who want to actively enjoy the spectacular scenery, explore nature and wildlife of some of the worlds most stunning and pristine shorelines, above and below the oceans, at sea and on land.
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