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Polar Trivia

Interesting facts about the Seventh Continent

Did you know ... Captain Robert Falcon Scott was the first person to 'off-deck' in Antarctica; and Antarctica has not just one but four Poles? 

Captain Robert Falcon Scott was the first person to 'off-deck' in Antarctica

Captain Scott went up to 800 ft (244 m) in a tethered British Army balloon in 1902 (followed immediately by Shackleton in a second ascent).

Antarctica has not just one, but four Poles!

South Geographic Pole 90°S
A fixed location on the surface of the Antarctic ice sheet - elevation 9,300ft (2835m) and 790 miles (1270 km) from the nearest coast - which is the southern axis of rotation of the Earth. First attained on 14 December 1911 by Roald Amundsen’s expedition from Norway. Occupied by ‘Amundsen-Scott’, a United States scientific station, from 1956.

South Magnetic Pole 64°30'S, 138°14'E (January 2004)
A wandering location on the Earth’s surface where conventional lines of magnetic force enter. The direction of the magnetic field is vertical and its strength is very variable. The south-seeking end of a compass needle, or any other magnet, is attracted towards this pole. First attained during Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition on 16 January 1909 when it was at 72°25'S, 155°16'E, well inland beyond the Transantarctic Mountains. Subsequently it has migrated north, currently it is in the Southern Ocean, off Terre Adélie, and is moving about 4 km annually on a course of 310°.

South Geomagnetic Pole 78°30'S, 111°00'E
The south end of the axis of the geomagnetic field which surrounds the Earth and extends into space as the magnetosphere. This is where the electron flux from the sun is concentrated and thus the focus for an auroral arc, a stratospheric torus where the Aurora Australis are concentrated approximately 23° around this pole. First attained by a Soviet Antarctic expedition led by Vyacheslav Averyanov on 16 January 1957, when ‘Vostok’, a scientific station, was established.

Southern Pole of Inaccessibility
The most difficult point in Antarctica to reach due to its remoteness from geographical features which could provide access. The location on the surface of the Antarctic ice sheet that is furthest from the surrounding ocean, about 812 miles (1300km) from any coast. Various positions are cited, depending on whether the “coast” is measured to the grounding line or edge of the ice shelves. Read more http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pole_of_inaccessibility#Southern_pole_of_inaccessibility

Southern Pole of Inaccessibility (Polus Nedostupnosti station) 82°11'S 55°03'E
Located about 469 nm (868 km) from the Geographic South Pole. First attained on 13 December 1958 by a Soviet Antarctic Expedition, led by Yevgeniy Tolstikov, which established a temporary scientific station occupied during the 1958-59 austral summer. The team affixed a bust of V. I. Lenin to the roof of the station to commemorate their conquest of the pole. The station, now buried, is protected as a historic site.

Leaf fossils collected by Robert Falcon Scott's expedition were central to the theory of the super continent Gondwana

Perhaps the historically most significant evidence of earlier vegetation, well preserved in Antarctica, is the leaf form Glossopteris which was at the heart of the concept of Gondwana, an hypothesis first proposed to explain the widespread distribution of glacial rocks and Glossopteris. When Robert Falcon Scott's party was found dead in its tent on the way back from the South Pole, specimens of Glossopteris from the Beardmore Glacier region were found with them. While they had jettisoned almost everything else on the way back, they recognised the immense scientific importance of Glossopteris and refused to leave the specimens behind. These are some 280-300 million years old. Read more www.antarctica.gov.au/about-antarctica/fact-files/geology/antarctic-prehistory-facts

A 300-mile-wide (482km) crater caused by a meteor impact, lies hidden beneath the East Antarctic Ice Sheet

Planetary scientists have found evidence of a meteor impact much larger and earlier than the one that killed the dinosaurs - an impact that they believe caused the biggest mass extinction in Earth's history. The 300-mile-wide (482km) crater lies hidden more than a mile beneath the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. And the gravity measurements that reveal its existence suggest that it could date back about 250 million years - the time of the Permian-Triassic extinction, when almost all animal life on Earth died out. Its size and location - in the Wilkes Land region of East Antarctica, south of Australia - also suggest that it could have begun the breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent by creating the tectonic rift that pushed Australia northward. http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/erthboom.htm

Antarctica was once home to dinosaurs

While searching for marine reptile bones, reasearchers came across unusual bones on the ocean bottom near James Ross Island. The fossilized remains included pieces with characteristics only seen in meat eating theropods or "beast-footed" dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex and smaller carnivores. The team eventually concluded that they had found a species of dinosaur never previously recorded. Read more www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/dino/lowebb.jsp

Antarctica may be the most challenging place in the world to build a research station

Constant winds result in snow pile-up on buildings, eventually burying and crushing them. Most areas of Antarctica are covered by an ice sheet more than 2 miles (3.2km) deep. The ice flows from higher elevations toward the coast. Flow rate varies - at the South Pole it moves approximately 33 feet (10m) per year. The weight of buildings also causes local ice movement, as the ice compresses and shifts away from sources of pressure. Resulting variable rates of sinking make keeping buildings level a challenge. Read more www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/livingsouthpole/pdf_files/challenges.pdf

The Ellsworth Mountains were discovered during an epic, 2,200 mile (3540km) transantarctic flight

Together with pilot Herbert Hollick-Kenyon, Lincoln Ellsworth completed the first transantarctic flight in history. The flight covered 2,200 miles (3540km) with four stops along the route and an elapsed time of approximately 20 hours. The transantarctic flight was the longest flight in Antarctic history, an accomplishment not repeated again until January 1956. Read more www.south-pole.com/p0000110.htm

Emperor penguins can dive more than 1,800 feet (550m) below the ocean surface

Emperor penguins are exquisite divers! While they mostly forage at depths from 500 to 800 feet (150 to 250 meters) the deepest dive recorded was to 1,854 feet (565m). On average dives last 3 to 6 minutes but the longest dive on record was 22 minutes. Their diet consists of a mixture of fish, krill and squid. Most prey items are small, since they are very cold when ingested and it makes it easier to bring the food up to body temperature and to digest. Read more about Emperor penguins www.antarctica.gov.au/about-antarctica/fact-files/animals/penguins/emperor-penguins