Here are some facts about the continent of Antarctica.
- Antarctica is the world’s most southerly continent, and it is the home of the South Pole.
- It is the largest desert in the world. It is classified as a desert because it has very low levels of rainfall.
- It is covered almost entirely by a thick sheet of ice, which lies over all but about 2.5 percent of the continent’s 14 million square mile area. This ice sheet has an average thickness of one mile.
- Antarctica is actually the highest, driest and coldest place on earth. It is also the windiest. Temperatures in Antarctica average around -50 degrees C in the area immediately around the South Pole. During the summer months, the temperature may reach 4 degrees C.
- The continent was not actually even seen by humans until 1820, and nobody actually set foot there until the 19th century was almost over, in 1895.
- The race to be the first man to reach the South Pole has created some legendary stories. A Norwegian named Roald Amundsen was the first man to reach the South Pole in 1911, and he would be followed shortly afterwards by Robert Scott, who famously died on the return journey.
- In the area of the continent located below 60 degrees south, the winter is one long night, and the spring one long day. The sun rises in October and sets in March.
- Beligica antarctica (a wingless midge) is the only animal to live in Antarctica all year round on a permanent basis. It is very small and can only be seen clearly under a microscope.
- Penguins can be found in Antarctica, but polar bears can’t – they only live in the Arctic.