Photo Expedition to Antarctica, the Great White Continent and land of ice.
The continent of Antarctica is a little bit bigger than the continental US although during the winter when ice forms all around it the continent doubles in size. About 90% of the world’s ice and 95% of the earth’s fresh water is in Antarctica. Antarctica is an ice covered land mass surrounded by seas while the Arctic is a frozen sea surrounded by continents. These differences create very different weather systems and environments. In fact the continent of Antarctica is actually a polar desert being one of the driest places on earth.
Antarctica is a very mountainous place although its deceiving as 98% of it is covered by snow and ice with only 2% ice free, which is where penguins and seals gather to breed. The ice is on average 6,600 feet thick extending to over 15,000 feet thick in areas. Some of the ice is over 650,000 years old. The highest peak is Vinson Massif at 16,960 feet with many mountain tops over 9,000 but smothered with ice. This is the windiest and coldest place on earth with average winds of 45mph and gusts of 150mph are common. The lowest temperature ever recorded of minus 129.3’F was taken here. Most of the coastline are high ice cliffs which periodically break off or calve creating icebergs. Other icebergs are created by the calving of glaciers as they move into the sea or the breaking up of massive ice shelves. The pacific ocean coastline is the main area of exposed rock and beaches making it one of the few places to land. The summer season which runs from November to February is really the only time people can visit Antarctica. Our ship The National Geographic Endeavour was the first ship to visit Antarctica this season. What we saw took our breadth away. When we thought we had seen the most awesome place our next location was even more awesome.
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