Information about Antarctica for each letter of the alphabet
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A IS FOR ANTARCTICA
ANTARCTICA is the 5th largest of the 7 continents and is both an island and a continent. It is divided into East Antarctica and West Antarctica by the Transarctic Mountains. It is the highest and lowest continent and the most isolated place on earth. It has been suggested that Antarctica be designated a World Park. The continent has its own Tartan and several designs for a flag have been proposed.
B IS FOR BIRDS
Antarctica has about 45 species of BIRDS and more than 40 kinds of flying birds spend the summer there. The skua is found further south than any other bird in the world. Ice-free subantarctica islands are home to thousands of petrels and 6 species of penguins. The emperor penguin is the largest penguin.
C IS FOR CLIMATE
The CLIMATE in Antarctica is the coldest on earth. What snowfall it gets just lies there gradually compressed until it turns to glacial ice. Nothing decomposes or deteriorates. The coastal regions are warmer than the enterior. This ice-bound has a great effect on the weather and climate of the whole planet. The largest hole in the ozone layer is above Antarctica. There is evidence of increasing global warming. This causes the warming of the ocean and is known as the Greenhouse Effect which threatens to melt ice and drown far distant lands. The Aurora Australis is the southern counterpart of the Aurora Borealis and is called the Southern Lights.
D IS FOR DOGS
Alaskan Huskie DOGS were originally brought to Antarctica to be used as sled dogs to carry supplies. Today, with sleds and drivers, the dogs are also used in case of an aircraft crash in remote areas inaccessable to air rescue. One explorer used ponies instead of dogs. Outdoor sports on the continent include dog sledding. The International trans-antarctic Expedition from the tip of the Antarctic peninsula to the coast of Wilks Island on foot included numerous dogs.
E IS FOR EXPLORATION
EXPLORATION of Antarctica dates back to the 18th century when Capt. James Cook circumnavigated the continent. In the many years of the exploration of the continent, expeditions have been sent out by many countries. Roald Admundsen landed on it in 1911 and lead the first expedition to reach the South Pole. Governnment-sponsored scientific research includes long term projects. Challenges and adventure can be found in Antarctica.
F IS FOR FOSSILS
FOSSILS of dinosaurs and reptiles from the Mesozoic Era have been found in Antarctica. The finding of a fossil of the duck-billed dinosaur supports the theory of a land bridge between Antarctica and South America during the Cretacous Period. The fossils of formerly unknown carnivores were found in the Transarctic Mountains in 1991. Another fossil found was the tip of a bird beak belonging to a tall flightless bird which vanished between one and three million years ago.
G IS FOR GOVERNMENT
Antarctica does not have any cities, towns, or central GOVERNMENT. The Antarctic Treaty established the legal framework for the management of the continent and administration is carried out through consultative member meeting. U.S. law may apply to areas not under jurisdiction of other countries. No economic activity is conducted except for fishing off the coast and some tourism, both based abroad. It is the only continent that has never experienced war and is a model for world peace and cooperation. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research is advisory board to countries involved in Antarctica. Greenpeace is one of the most active nongovernment organizations in Antarctica. The USACE Engineering Research & Development Center has projects in Antarctica.
H IS FOR HAZARDS
Antartica has many natural HAZARDS including gravity-driven winds that blow coastward from the high interior and frequent blizzards that form near the foot of the plateau. Other hazards include volcanism and seismic activity. Cyclonic storms form over the ocean and move clockwise along the coast. Safety is a high priority since hypothermia may cause death in the water or on land.
I IS FOR ICE
ICE and snow cover 98% of the Antarctic. The Antarctic icecap is a thick layer of ice and snow that buries most of the continent and forms the largest body of fresh water or ice in the world. Antarctica has more ice and snow than all the glaciers and snow-fields than the rest of the world combined. Nunataks are mountains that are buried so deeply in snow that only their tips peek above the ice. Lumbert Glacier is the longest glacier in the world. The shape of an iceberg is usually an indication of its age and the blue horizontal banding indicates how many years it has been forming.
J IS FOR JOBS
JOBS in the Antarctic usually pay higher wages than similar jobs in more temperate climates. Many jobs are available in Antarctica for scientists, writers, researchers, and support personnel, and about four thousand people in these fields work there every year. The British Antarctic Survey has job opportunities both in Cambridge and on stations and ships in the Antarctic. As tourism increases, guides familiar with the area will be needed. The resident greenhouse technician at McMurdo Station has the coolest job on earth.
K IS FOR KING GEORGE ISLAND
The lighthouse on KING GEORGE ISLAND is the most southernly lighthouse in the world. The island has the largest number of research bases in Antarctica. There are bases for 7 different countries and 300 workers. The most remote research base is Russia's Vostok Station located on top of the continental ice cap at the farthest point from all coasts. A solitary Norwegian Spruce survives on Campbell Island and is the most isolated tree in the world.
L IS FOR LAKES
Under Antarctica's ice are many LAKES and rivers. An international team of scientists is planning to explore Lake Vostok the giant lake hidden about 2 1/2 miles beneath the Antarctic ice. There is strong evidence of biology in the ice. Many scientists see similarities between Lake Vostok and the ocean thought to exist beneath the icy crust of Jupiter's mysterious moon Europa.
M IS FOR MINERALS
None of the MINERALS in Antarctica have been developed. One of the world's largest reserves of coal is thought to exist in the Transantarctic Mountains and iron is said to be plentiful in the Prince Charles Mountains. Oil and gas have been discovered under the Ross Sea. Several countries have claimed parts of Antarctica in the hope of controlling minerals but the United States and many other countries do not recognize these claims.
N IS FOR NAME
The NAME Antarctica comes from the Greek word "Antarktos" meaning "opposite the north". Arktos"the great bear" (or the Big Dipper) is the constellation above the North Pole. The continent was named by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Places in Antarctica were often named in honor of an explorer's monarch or members of royal families. Many other places are named after the explorers who first traveled there. The continent is sometimes called "The home of the blizzard" and the polar icecap is often called "The White Desert".
O IS FOR OCEANS
The southern parts of the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean meet to form a body of water often called the Antarctic Ocean or Southern Ocean. The Antarctic Convergence is an irregular band of water about 25 miles wide. Within it, cold northern waters meet warm, salty northern waters. NOAA provides information about why the ocean is Salty.
P IS FOR POPULATION
Antarctica is the only continent where no civilization has ever been established and it does not have any native inhabitants. The population includes seasonal and year-round staffed research stations. There are approximately 4,000 people in the summer and 1,000 in the winter. An additional 1,000 people are on board ships doing research. About 10,000 tourists visit Antarctica each summer, most by ship. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators promotes and practices safe and responsible travel to the Antarctic.
Q IS FOR QUAKES
Quakes are more frequent in Antarctica than previously thought. The largest quake occurred in 1998 just off the Balleny Islands and registered 8.1 on the Richter Scale. The most recent quake occurred in 2007.
R IS FOR RESEARCH
The largest research station in Antarctica is McMurdo Station on Ross Island. It is supported by the Office of Polar Programs of the National Science foundation. The NSF also oversees the United States Antarctic Program. The Russian Molodezhnaya Base is another large research station. Several stations have a webcam. The Antarctic Treaty stated that the continent would only be used for scientific purposes. It also included an agreement to exchange information and coordinate transportation and communications.
S IS FOR SOUTH POLE
There are 3 South Poles - Ceremonial, Georgraphical, and Magnetic. The Geographic South Pole lies near the center of Antarctica on a high windy plateau of ice and snow. The global position is 90 degrees latitude south and 0 degrees longitude north. The Magnetic South Pole was east of Ross Island in 1600. It has moved roughly northwest at the rate of 6-9 miles per year and is now in the Dumont d'Urville sea. Farm tractors were the first wheeled vehicle used at the South Pole. In 1929 A U.S. officer made the first flight over the South Pole, and in 1969 the first women to go the the South Pole were five scientists and a journalist. The South pole TDRSS Relay System uses the NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite to provide data services to the South Pole. The national flags of each of the twelve countries that signed the Antarctic Treat are flown at the South Pole.
T IS FOR TRANSPORTATION
Transportation to and in Antarctica is varied and expensive because icebreakers and specially equipped aircraft are needed. Because there are no ports or harbors, anchorage is offshore. There are a number of airports with facilities for helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft. Airplanes take passengers and supplies to some research stations. Transportation between stations is usually by tractor-trains or ski-equipped aircraft. Dog sleds and all-purpose terrain vehicles are also used. Complete crossing of the continent was accomplished in 1956 by snowmobile.
U IS FOR UNIVERSITY
The University of Tansmania has a special research center for Antarctic studies. Other universities around the world also have special programs to study the Antarctica. The British Antarctic Survey provides support to scientist from universities.
V IS FOR VOLCANOES
Antarctica has VOLCANOES and volcanics. West Antartica is part of the Ring of Fire. Four volcanoes form Ross Island including Mt. Erebus which is the southernmost active volcano on earth. Deception Island Volcano in the South Shetland Island is another active volcano. At least 1 other volcano is actively erupting under the ice sheet. Mount Gaussberg is the only volcano in the eastern part of Antarctica and is inactive.
W IS FOR WILDLIFE
Only a few insects and other tiny animals spend their entire live on the mainland of Antarctica but the oceans around the continent have abundant wildlife. About 200 kinds of fish are found in the surrounding oceans, and 6 species of seals live in the Antarctic. Elephant seals are the largest of all seals and are protected under international law. Several kinds of whales migrate to Antarctica for the summer including the Blue Whale the largest animal on earth. A million year old skull from Antarctica reveals that Baleen Whales had teeth and gums. The International Whaling Commission is an international body set up by the terms of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The World Wildlife Fund and other organizations are urging that Antarctic wildlife will be given special permission.
X IS FOR XMAS
XMAS is an abbreviation for Christmas which is celebrated in Antarctica much as the rest of the world. Members of each country celebrate according to customs in their homeland.
Y IS FOR Y2K
Antarctica was one of the very 1st places to enter Y2K – the 21st Century. Access to computers and the internet is available in Antarctica.
Z IS FOR ZONE
Antarctica does not have an official Time Zone. Some parts of Antarctica have 6 months of continuous daylight and 6 months of continuous darkness so there is no need for Daylight Savings Time.
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