5 Facts About Antarctica (Most People Get Wrong)
There are plenty of amazing facts about Antarctica out there that would make people want to visit the place. For example, did you know that there are people crazy enough to swim at Deception Island? Well, most of them just take a dip and hurry back to the cruise ship to warm up.
Still, there are many facts about Antarctica that are misunderstood. There’s even downright wrong information that people spread on a daily basis. Most of them we can blame on unintentional ignorance. Hopefully, we can clear some of the confusion, with a little help from this article provided by the ever-resourceful Agness and Cez of eTramping.
5 Facts About Antarctica Most People Get Wrong
1. Polar Bears Live in Antarctica
When it comes to false facts about Antarctica, this one is probably the most common. On some levels, it’s understandable. The names for the two regions (Arctic and Antarctica) are quite similar and cause the confusion. When we take the polar conditions and similar wildlife into account, it only adds to the uncertainty.
The truth is that polar bears only live in and around the Arctic circle. If you want to make it easier, think of it this way:
- Arctic – has the North Pole;
- Antarctica – has the South Pole;
Finally, we can also put some of the blame on Coca Cola’s famous adverts. You know the ones – polar bears and penguins partying together? Sure, it seems a cute concept on-screen. But then you have people who take it for granted (such as the student of this person here).
In any case, since we’ve brought up penguins, let’s take a look at another zinger we’ve been hearing about.
2. Penguins Are the Only Birds There
Fortunately, the Coke ad is a one way street for polar bears. We haven’t heard of anybody saying there are penguins in the Arctic (if you did, let us know!) Well, there was once a species called the Great auk with the scientific name Pinguinus impennis who lived in the Arctic. Still, it was certainly unrelated to actual penguins.
On the other hand, we have seen people argue that penguins are the only birds in Antarctica. After all, they’re the only ones with enough blubber to survive the cold temperatures, right? Wrong. While it’s true they are the most iconic bunch around there, a total of bird 46 species have their home in the frozen south. Only 6 of those are actually part of the penguin family.
If you’re ever heading out for an Antarctica cruise, you can see plenty of ducks, geese, swans, gulls, cormorants, egrets and other fantastic birds among the diverse fauna. Though, remember – no bears! Plenty of seals, whales, dolphins, and other aquatic mammals, however.
3. Antarctica is a Tundra
This is actually one of the lesser known facts about Antarctica and is not entirely false. There are portions of the Arctic and Antarctica that are considered a tundra. Some regions in the Antarctic Peninsula have soils that allow mosses, lichens, algae and similar plant-life to grow.
So what is Antarctica, exactly? This might sound surprising, but it’s actually a desert. And no, not the kind that goes on an ice-cream cone. For a region to be considered a desert, it doesn’t have to be hot or have sand dunes at all.
In fact, the only defining feature of a desert is that the annual precipitation has to be less than 10 inches (254 mm). With only about 2 inches of it on a yearly basis (8 if you only count the coastlines), Antarctica fits that definition perfectly.
4. It snows a lot
So one of the facts about Antarctica you’ve found out today is that it’s actually a desert. But what about the huge piles of snow? Surely they didn’t pop out of anywhere. Well, we’ve already mentioned that there’s about 2-8 inches of precipitation per year).
All of that comes from snow, as the temperatures are much too low for there to be any rainfall. Since it doesn’t melt (as there is little to no evaporation), it just accumulates over the centuries into the huge blocks of ice you see nowadays.
Of course, those puny snowfalls couldn’t have done all that work by themselves. There are also cyclonic storms that gather up water and cause heavy snowfalls on the coastal regions. Otherwise, Antarctica has places called dry valleys that look just like something you would expect from a desert. Save for a few frozen lakes, it’s all rocks and dirt – not exactly the Winter Wonderland found in other areas.
5. You Need a Visa to Visit
This is probably one of the facts about Antarctica that travelers are most interested in. The short answer is: no, you don’t need one, as some might believe. Antarctica isn’t technically “owned” by any country. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can just waltz in willy-nilly without any paperwork.
For one, you can’t visit on your own because no transport companies are providing that service for individual travelers. They’d go bankrupt really quick seeing as just under 40,000 people are visiting Antarctica on a yearly basis. As such, you’re pretty much “stuck” with a tour operator.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing – you get some pretty nifty service, and they usually handle any permits you might need for the trip. And yes, due to the Antarctic Treaty’s Protocol on Environment Protection, you will need permission to cruise the continent. It’s nothing complicated – more of a gentlemanly agreement between nations to ensure your (and the environment’s) safety.
Of course, you also have to keep in mind the passport or visa requirements in the countries you can sail from. Namely: South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina, or the Falkland Islands. Not to mention any flights you might need to take in-between destinations. Otherwise, there should be no serious hiccups. You’re free to enjoy the icy plains of Antarctica, and all its untouched beauty, as you see fit.
Agnes & Cez
Howdy from Agness and Cez who are creators of eTramping – a travel blog packed with plenty of useful tips on how to travel intensively while having unique experiences and collecting unforgettable memories. These two have visited over 50 countries since 2011 and they are not planning to stop with their upcoming journey across Europe, South America, and Antartica.
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- What other crazy inaccurate facts about Antartica have you read about?
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