The word Antarctica immediately reminds us of the icy mountains, glaciers and the igloos.
Covered by a vast mass of ice sheet having a thickness of approximately 6,500 feet or 2,000 meters, the land mass situated in the South Pole of the world is called as Antarctica, one of the seven continents in the world. Interestingly, the continent of Antarctica is also the highest continent in this universe in terms of height or elevation. It is the fifth largest continent in the world having a total area of 5.5 million square miles or 14.2 million square kilometers.
Interestingly, of this total land mass, only 0.4% is not covered by ice, with the rest 99.6% covered totally by ice. For the sake of fantasy, if one were to assume that the entire ice in the continent of Antarctica were to melt down into water, the sea level across all the oceans in the world will rise by as much as 60 to 65 meters or approximately 210 feet.
In terms of the total area, the continent of Antarctica is one and half times that of the U.S.
The continent of Antarctica is divided into two sub-continents – the East Antarctica and the West Antarctica. The two sub-continents are separated by a long chain of Trans-antarctic Mountains of approximately 1,900 miles or 3,000 kilometers. The region of East Antarctica consists mainly of high, ice-covered plateau, while the West Antarctica region consists of an archipelago of mountainous islands covered with ice.
The Antarctic region is surrounded by the southern parts of Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. The two principal bays in the continent are the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. But for these two bays and the Antarctic Peninsula, the continent of Antarctica would have been in a circular shape.
The ice sheet overlaying the continent represents about 90% of the world’s glacial ice. Antarctica continent has the unique distinction of being the coldest continent in the world. The lowest recorded temperature recorded in the continent is -128.6 deg. Fahrenheit, or -89.2 deg. Centigrade, which was measured in the year 1983.
Though the climate is not suitable for human habitation in the region for a sustained period of time, the climate, nevertheless, supports a small community of small plants and a rich source of offshore food supply. The land is the home of a large population of penguins and seabird rookeries.
One more interesting fact about the Antarctic region is that it is the most windiest continent in the world, making it unsuitable for human habitation for a prolonged period of time. It is the region where wind storms occur quite frequently and the speed of the wind during those wind storms would be in excess of 300 knots measured at the sea coast.