Antarctica – The fifth largest continent is Antarctica. With 5.4 million square miles it is about 1.3 times as large as Europe. Being the Earth’s southernmost continent located in the Antarctic Region of the Southern Hemisphere, it contains the geographic South Pole. About 98% of this continent is covered by ice sheets averaging to at least 1.6 kilometer thick. It is the coldest of Earth’s continents. As the weather makes it unbearable to live, only about 1000-5000 people inhabit Antarctica. There is no economic activity here except for fishing and small scale tourism.
Only animals adapted to dryness and low temperatures are common in Antarctica. Low temperatures and high exposure caused little biodiversity here compared to the rest of the world.
There are no indigenous people in Antarctica. It was also not evident that such continent existed until it was seen by humans in 19th century. According to studies, ships captained by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, Edward Bransfield, and Nathaniel Palmer sighted the ice shelves of Antarctica in 1820. It wasn’t until John Davis had the first documented landing in West Antarctic in 1821 that people confirmed its existence.
This southernmost continent in the world is surrounded by the southern ocean. It is positioned lopsidedly around the South Pole. Covering 14000000 square kilometers mainly by ice formations, it is 1.3 times the size of Europe. Rocky make up 5% of this continent. About 44% are made of up ice shelves floating and the rest are ice walls that rest on the ground. As cold is it may seem to be, it has many active volcanoes.
This continent is positioned in the latitude where it causes it to have long periods of constant darkness and constant sunlight. UV lights reflecting to the ice surface has also caused people in Antarctica to suffer from sunburn.
Unique phenomena such as Aurora Australis wherein solar wind that passes by the earth creates some glow in the night sky is widely experience in this continent. Another is Diamond Dust where ground level cloud formation composed of tiny ice spectacles make it look like its name.
Population of Antarctica with Politics and Economy
Because there are no permanent settlers in Antarctica, it has no government. Although many countries claim sovereignty in some areas, it is considered to be a place which is politically neutral. In 1959, to regulate the activities of different countries in Antarctica, the Antarctic Treaty has been signed. This treaty aims to keep the continent as a scientific preserve.
No Economic activities take place in this continent except for fishing from small coast and a little tourism based outside Antarctica. As much as it is has deposits of coal, hydrocarbon, iron ore and some other minerals, Antarctic Treaty has restricted exploitations of them.
With its extremely cold temperature, this continent is almost impossible to live in by humans and animals. Only cold acclimatized animals such as penguins, whales, orcas, seals can outstand this continent. These animals depend on phytoplanktons from Antarctic sea. Also, the low temperature, lack of sunlight and poor quality of soil has made it impossible to have extensive vegetation here. There are only about a couple different specie of flowering plants found in Antarctica and growth is rationed only during few weeks in summer.