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What is Antarctica?

January 16, 2013

Hi, I’m Emerald Robinson, and in this “what is” video, we’re going to explore the earth’s most extreme continent: Antarctica.

Antarctica is one of our planet’s seven continents. Located at and covering the earth’s South Pole, it is roughly five point four million square miles in size, making it the fifth largest continent. Of all the continents, it’s also the windiest, the coldest, and the driest. It’s so dry that it’s considered to be a desert, as less than eight inches of precipitation fall on Antarctica per year.

About ninety eight percent of Antarctica is covered by ice, most of it at least one mile thick. This makes Antarctica home to about ninety percent of the world’s ice, and seventy percent of its fresh water. The ice is permanent, due to an average inland temperature of minus fifty six degrees Fahrenheit. Thanks to its geography and location, Antarctica is colder than the North Pole.

Although even the ancient Greeks assumed that there was land at the South Pole, Antarctica wasn’t seen by human eyes until at least 1820. However, historians aren’t able to agree on who was the first person to actually set foot on land, or when that occurred.

No humans live in Antarctica permanently, but anywhere from one to five thousand people, usually researchers or explorers, can be found in Antarctica at any given time. They have very little wildlife to keep them company. However, Antarctica is home to some fungi and plants, as well as animals like seals and penguins which dwell along its shores.

Antarctica’s ice sheets are melting, causing the ocean levels to rise. Scientists point to this loss of ice as an indicator of increasing global temperature, and plan to continue monitoring Antarctica’s ice to determine how much humans are affecting the earth’s climate.



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