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Thursday, 11 August 2011



The literal meaning of ‘Antarctica’ is ‘opposite the bear’. The ancient Greeks named the frozen north ‘Arktikos’ after their word for ‘bear’, as the Great Bear (Ursa Major) is above the North Pole.

The first person to explore the southern ice fields was Captain James Cook, who reached 70° 10' South in 1774; the most southerly point to which a ship had ever sailed.

On January 28, 1820 a Russian expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Petrovich Lazarev discovered the Antarctic mainland at a point with coordinates 69º21'28"S 2º14'50"W. They managed to twice circumnavigate the continent and disproved Captain Cook's assertion that it was impossible to find land in the southern ice fields.

The first American to see Antarctica was 21-year-old seal hunter Captain Nathaniel Palmer on November 17, 1820. His vessel, a diminutive sloop named the Hero, was only 47 feet (14 m) in length. The Palmer Peninsula was later named after him.

Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer (1799-1877), 

Before 1840, the Antarctic was known as Terra Australis Incognita (the unknown southern land).

Danish traveller Caroline Mikkelsen became the first woman to set foot on Antarctica, when in the winter of 1934-1935, she accompanied her Norwegian husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen, on an expedition to the southern continent.

On October 14, 1899, the Norwegian zoologist Nicolai Hansen became the first person to be buried in Antarctica. Hanson was a member of the 1899 Borchgrevink Expedition, the first scientific foray to spend considerable time in the Antarctic, but was taken seriously ill during the voyage from England. At his request was Hanson buried in the mountain section above Cape Adare, where a grave was excavated from the mountain.

Nicolai Hanson

Danish Caroline Mikkelsen (1906 – late 1990s) became the first woman to set foot on Antarctica on February 20, 1935. She accompanied her Norwegian husband, Captain Klarius Mikkelsen, on an expedition, which made landfall at the Vestfold Hills near the present Davis Station. Mikkelsen left the ship and participated in building a memorial cairn. A mountain, Mount Caroline Mikkelsen, is named after her.

Caroline Mikkelsen raising the flag of Norway at a cairn on the Ingrid Christensen Coast of Antarctica.

In 1958 Vivien Fuchs, leading the British Commonwealth Expedition, became the first to cross Antarctica.

The Antarctic Treaty, which sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve and bans military activity on the continent, came into force on June 23, 1961. The original signatories were the 12 countries active in Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year of 1957–58 ( Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States.) These countries had established over 50 Antarctic stations at that stage.

The first person born in Antarctica was Emilio Marcos Palma of Argentina on January 7, 1978. He was born in Fortín Sargento Cabral at the Esperanza Base near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and weighed 3.4 kg (7 lb 8 oz). His father, Captain Jorge Emilio Palma, was head of the Argentine army detachment at the base.

Solveig Gunbjørg Jacobsen of Norway was born in Grytviken on the island territory of South Georgia on October 8, 1913. She was the first person born South of the Antarctic Convergence, Solveig also had claims to be the actual first Antarctica birth as that territory is sometimes considered part of Antarctica.

Solveig Jacobsen standing with her dogon the Grytviken flensing plan in 1916

The southern pole of inaccessibility is the point on the Antarctic continent most distant from the Southern Ocean. A four-man team, using only skis and kites, completed a 1,093-mile (1,759 km) trek to reach the southern pole of inaccessibility for the first time since 1967 on January 20, 2007. It was also the first time ever the feat had been achieved without mechanical assistance.

The old Soviet Pole of Inaccessibility Station.19 January 2007. By Cookson69 


The movie The Thing is regularly viewed by members of the winter crew at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station after the last flight out, usually in a double-feature with The Shining

If Antarctica were to melt, the sea level would rise by 60 metres.

Antarctica is almost 1.5 times the size of the United States.

Antarctica occupies 10% of the world's surface.

A satellite composite image of Antarctica.

Antarctica contains 90% of the world's ice, representing nearly three-quarters of its fresh water.

98% of Antarctica is covered by ice which is a mile thick.

There is about eight times as much ice in Antarctica as in the Arctic.

Antarctica's most abundant land animal is the nematode worm.

Antarctica is the only continent without reptiles or snakes.

The Antarctic midge is endemic to Antarctica. At 0.079–0.236 inches long, it is the largest purely terrestrial animal on the continent, as well as its only insect.

Antarctica is the only land on our planet that is not owned by any country.

Antarctica is the only continent that does not have land areas below sea level.

Mount Jackson with an elevation of 3,184 metres (10,446 ft) is the highest mountain in the Antarctic Peninsula.

There is a waterfall that pours slowly out of the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valley that runs as red as blood.

It has no permanent residents and no indigenous inhabitants; settlement is limited to scientific research stations with a population of Antarctica that varies from approximately 4,400 in summer to 1,100 in winter. This population is spread across approximately 40 year-round stations and a range of summer-only stations, camps, and refuges.

Every year at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, after the last airplane has left for the winter, the remaining scientists hold a screening of John Carpenter’s The Thing, which is about a shape-shifting alien that terrorizes scientists trapped at an Antarctic research station.

The eight churches in Antarctica serve the population of 4,400.

Antarctica is the coldest continent on Earth, with a mean annual temperature at the South Pole of -49°C/-56°F.

A temperature of -89°C/-128°F was recorded in Antarctica at the Russian base Vostok on July 21, 1983. It is the lowest ever temperature in an inhabited location.

The Russian station Vostok

The warmest reliably measured temperature in Antarctica of +59°F (+15°C) was recorded at Vanda Station on January 4, 1974.

Sources Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2011. Helicon Publishing is division of RM., Daily Express

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