1. Emperor penguins are badass.
They are the only warm-blooded animal to remain on the Antarctic continent during the insanely cold winters.
2. But petrels are the real king bird.
The iconic emperor penguin most commonly comes to mind when people think about Antarctica. However, there are actually more petrels on the continent than penguins.
3. Antarctica is hella cold.
It’s the coldest place on earth, to be more specific. The annual average temperature is -58° F. And the lowest temperature ever recorded there was -128.5° F, in 1983.
4. It’s not only cold down there, it’s also super dry.
On average, Antarctica experiences 10 centimeters of precipitation a year. There are some valleys where It hasn’t rained in over two million years.
5. Antarctica is a relatively new place, to humans.
The first confirmed Antarctica sighting didn’t happen until 1820, after the invention of the battery, the photograph, and the soda fountain.
6. The word “Antarctica” literally means “opposite the bear.”
The ancient Greeks named the frozen north ‘Arktikos’ after their word for ‘bear,’ as the Great Bear (Ursa Major) is above the North Pole.
7. Nobody actually lives-lives on Antarctica.
The only people who live there are visiting scientists. During the summer, the number averages about 5,000. In the winter, it drops to 1,000.
8. There’s a ton of ice down there.
About 70% of Earth’s fresh water can be found in the Antarctic ice cap.
9. And if that ice were to melt, we would be in big, big trouble.
90% of the world’s ice is in Antarctica. If it all melted, the world’s sea levels would rise by about 200 feet.
10. Every year, a bunch of crazies run a marathon on Antarctica.
This November marks the ninth annual Ice Marathon. Last year, 46 runners participated. The winning time was 3 hours and 41 minutes.
11. Nobody actually owns Antarctica.
The Antarctic Treaty was drafted in 1959, designating the land as “a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.” 48 nations have signed the treaty.
12. The ice on Antarctica is telling us a lot about our past.
Scientists are currently studying Ice cores, long cylindrical samples of Antarctica’s ice. These cores have dust and air bubbles trapped inside them and can provide information about the earth’s climate over the past 10,000 years.
13. Antarctica is a lot like Mars.
The surface and climate so closely resemble Mars that NASA ran tests in Antarctica for the Viking mission in the late ’70s.
14. Robert Falcon Scott and his crew died on their way to the South Pole. Their route remains uncharted to this day.
In 1910, Captain Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition set out to be the first group to ever reach the geographical South Pole. After reaching the pole and discovering they had arrived second, 33 days behind the Roald Amundsen expedition, the team retraced their steps back to sea. On their return, Scott’s entire party died from exhaustion and starvation.
Polar explorer Ben Saunders and his partner Tarka L’Herpiniere will attempt to be the first people to complete the Captain Scott’s 1,800-mile return journey from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole.