Breath taking stunning life under frozen wave of Antarctica
Authors: Gupta Swaroopa Rani N (Ph.D.)
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The Antarctic is a polar region around the Earth's South Pole, opposite the Arctic region around the North Pole. The Antarctic comprises the continent of Antarctica and the island territories located on the Antarctic Plate. All of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude are administered under the Antarctic Treaty System. Biogeographically, the Antarctic ecozone is one of eight ecozones of the Earth's land surface.
History: Millions of years ago, Antarctica was warmer and wetter, and supported the Antarctic flora. Antarctica was also part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwanaland, which gradually broke up by continental drift starting 110 million years ago. The separation of South America from Antarctica 30-35 million years ago allowed the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to form, which isolated Antarctica climatically and caused it to become much colder. The Antarctic flora subsequently died out in Antarctica, but is still an important component of the flora of southern Neotropic (South America) and Australasia, which were also former parts of Gondwana.
Ecoregions: Four Antartica tundra ecoregions are recognized: Marielandia Antarctic tundra, Maudlandia Antarctic desert, Scotia Sea Islands tundra, Southern Indian Ocean Islands tundra
Time zones: Because Antarctica surrounds the South Pole, it is theoretically located in all time zones.
People: The first Antarctic land discovered was the island of South Georgia in 1675. The first confirmed sighting of the continent of Antarctica is commonly accepted to have occurred in 1820. The Antarctic region had no indigenous population when first discovered, and its present inhabitants comprise a few thousand transient scientific and other personnel working on tours of duty at the several dozen research stations maintained by various countries.
Wildlife: A variety of animals live in Antarctica for at least some of the year, including: Seals, Penguins, South Georgia pipits, Albatrosses, Antarctic petrels, Whales, Fish, such as Antarctic icefish, Antarctic toothfish, Squid, including the colossal squid, Antarctic krill. Scientists confirmed the existence of microorganisms living 800 metres below the ice of Antarctica. Cod icefish (Nototheniidae), as well as several other families, are part of the Notothenioidei suborder, collectively sometimes referred to as icefish. The suborder contains many species with antifreeze proteins in their blood and tissue, allowing them to live in water that is around or slightly below 0 °C. Most of the Antarctic continent is permanently covered by ice and snow, leaving less than 1 percent of the land exposed. There are only two species of flowering plant, Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis), but a range of mosses, liverworts, lichensand macrofungi.
Blue Ice: Blue ice is exposed in areas of the Antarctic where there is no net addition or subtraction of snow. That is, any snow that falls in that area is counteracted by sublimation or other losses. These areas have been used as runways due to their hard surface, which is suitable for aircraft fitted with wheels rather than skis. Frozen blue towers were created when ice was compressed and the trapped air bubbles were squeezed out. During the summer the surface ice melts and new ice layers compress on top. The ice appears blue because when when light passes through thick ice, blue light is transmitted back out but red light is absorbed. If the bubbles were not compressed they would scatter the light, meaning it would all be reflected back out and it would appear white. Icebergs in the Antarctic area sometimes have stripes, formed by layers of snow that react to different conditions. Blue stripes are often created when a crevice in the ice sheet fills up with meltwater and freezes so quickly that no bubbles form. When an iceberg falls into the sea, a layer of salty seawater can freeze to the underside. If this is rich in algae, it can form a green stripe. Brown, black and yellow lines are caused by sediment, picked up when the ice sheet grinds downhill towards the sea.
This paper reviews study of the climate, weather, geology, and wildlife of Antartica which is a remarkable continent – remote, hostile and uninhabited. This frozen continent is key to understanding how our world works, and our impact upon it. Antarctica is important for science because of its profound effect on the Earth's climate and ocean systems..