Anatomy of Antarctica *Video*

One of the perks of my expedition to Antarctica was the lectures that were given by the on-board naturalists and scientists. Really fabulous stuff, including insights on the wildlife we would be seeing, the history of South Pole exploration, photography tips, and geology (my favorite!)

One of the things I learned is that the “continent” of Antarctica isn’t really a concentrated land mass, but a series of islands that is covered by ice to form one large land (or ice) mass. This interesting tidbit got me to do a little more research on the famous White Continent.

What is Antarctica Exactly?

  • 98% of its surface is covered in ice
  • Contains 70% of the world’s fresh water
  • Driest, highest, windiest, and coldest of all the continents
  • Has its own ocean, referred to as the Southern Ocean, that moves in 1 direction (west to east) and mixes the southern ends of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans
  • Only 2% of its surface has any sort of vegetation

Trio of Territories

Antarctica is also divided into 3 separate areas: East, West and Peninsular Antarctica:

East Antarctica: East Antarctica is also referred to as Greater Antarctica and comprises 2/3 of the continent. This eastern side is nearly completely covered in permanent ice and is considered the coldest place on Earth.

West Antarctica: West Antarctica is separated from it eastern neighbor by the Transantarctic Mountains. It contains the icy waters of both the Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea (and their corresponding ice shelves) and is covered by a giant ice sheet, appropriately named the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (which is showing signs of diminishing).

Peninsular Antarctica: Part of West Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost part of the mainland and extends about 1300 km out from the Weddell Sea. Really a series of bedrock islands, the Peninsula is held together by pack ice on the surface and a grounded ice sheet under the water’s depths. Most tour ships ply the waters around the peninsula and most research stations are found here.

Impressive Antarctica

All this is just context to what is a spectacularly barren and beautiful place. Here is my first view of the White Continent (along with my sniffles and shivering):

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: First View of Antarctica

Interested in more mountain-inspired posts? Check out these articles:


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 and is filed under South America.

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