Polar Wildlife

The bountiful oceans support penguins, seals, whales and glorious sea birds. Aside from the wingless midge – the largest land animal (albeit insect) at 12 mm in size – and some mini invertebrates. Most Antarctic creatures depend on the sea for survival.

What Do They Eat?

Plant life in the Antarctic region mostly consists of mosses (bryophytes), lichens, algae and fungi, with a rare species or two of flowering plants on the Peninsula. The Antarctic food chain is fairly simple. Antarctic krill is the keystone species of the eco system, Krill is a tiny shrimp-like invertebrate that lives in large swarms of up to 10,000 to 30,000 individuals per cubic meter. Whales, penguins, seals, squids, fish, albatross and many other sea birds all eat krill and krill in turn eat phytoplankton.

How Do They Survive The Antarctic Cold?

Blubber and feathers. Insulation is the keyword.

How Do They Survive All The Attention?

The Antarctic Treaty System maintain an important check on the region. The 1980 Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is part of the Antarctic Treaty System. Its objective is to conserve the marine life of the Southern Ocean. In 1978, the United States passed the Antarctic Conservation Act in 1978, designed to protect mammals, birds, plants and ecosystems.

A Frozen Desert

The Antarctic interior is a cold, windy and dry desert. Its snowfall is equivalent to less than 2 inches (50 millimeters) of rain per year. Antarctica is the windiest place on earth. Katabatic winds peel off the polar plateau to gather speeds of up to 185 mph (300 kilometers per hour) on the coast. It’s a land of blizzards and snowdrifts. Winter temperatures on the plateau can range from -40 degrees C to -70 degrees C, while summer achieves a balmy -35 degrees C. The coasts and the Peninsula are much warmer.

What does Antarctica Look Like?

This is a big place – over 14 million square miles – that encompasses different ecosystems and terrain. In a nutshell, you have some volcanic mountains, sand dune like snow drifts, oases in the form of dry valleys, crevasses (big cracks in the ice), glaciers and more glaciers, and ice shelves near the coasts. The Peninsula itself is a major mountain system with rock and glaciers and many islands. Lucky tourists can watch glaciers calve, though they usually hear them before they see them. Don’t forget the surrounding seas and straits, which are littered with blue icebergs and bobbing bergy bits. In the winter, it’s constantly dark at certain latitudes. In the summer, it’s constantly light. The twilight skies can be colorful, as can the southern lights glowing near the South Pole. Other visual treats include diamond dust – tiny ice crystals that form ground-level clouds – and sundogs, which are atmospheric phenomenon that display a bright spot next the sun.

Who Dwells There?

Antarctica’s harsh conditions and geographic location translate to “desolate” in all languages except penguin-speak. That’s what makes it so attractive to adventurers.

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