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Antarctica facts for kids

Antarctica is the fifth largest continent in the world. It is a roughly circular land mass lying around the South Pole and surrounded by the Antarctic Ocean. With its area of about 5,100,000 square miles, Antarctica is larger than either Australia or Europe.

Antarctica facts for kids - Map

Antarctica facts for kids - Map

Until the 1900s, Antarctica was an empty wasteland, known to be the coldest place on Earth. The only people who live there today are whalers and scientists. This desolate region is almost completely covered by a great ice sheet. The ice is generally more than a mile thick and in places it is two-and-a-half miles thick. Most of the world's permanent ice is in this region. Blinding snow storms and fierce, icy winds make Antarctica a most unattractive place for all forms of life.

Antarctica facts for kids - emperor penguins

Antarctica facts for kids - emperor penguins

In temperatures around minus 50°F. the emperor penguin rears its solitary chick. The egg, and later the chick, is supported on the adult penguin's webbed feet and protected from the cold by its thick feathers.

In a few places, mountain peaks called nunataks appear above the level of the ice. These peaks are part of great mountain chains that lie buried beneath the ice. Antarctica is very mountainous and some peaks rise to 16,000 feet.

The climate of Antarctica is extremely severe. The world's lowest temperature, -126-9° F (-88-3° C), was recorded there in 1960. In winter, temperatures often fall below -70°F (-57° C). Even in the summer, Antarctica is far colder than the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole. The only plant life found in Antarctica consists of some algae, lichens and mosses. But large numbers of penguins, petrels and seals live in some coastal areas. The ocean waters are rich in plant and fish life and whales are hunted in the seas that encircle the continent.

Antarctica facts for kids - discovering Antarctica

Antarctica facts for kids - discovering Antarctica

An early morning scene in Antarctica as a scientific expedition prepares to break camp. Mist hangs low over the desolate ice shrouded landscape

Antarctica was the last continent to be discovered and explored. The British seaman, Captain James Cook, sailed around the continent between 1772 and 1775. He did not reach the mainland, but saw much of the rich life in the seas. Hearing his reports, many sailors began to hunt seals and whales in the region. In 1820 the coast of Antarctica was sighted. The first landing was probably made by an American sailor, John Davis, in 1821. The British explorer Robert Falcon Scott made the first major inland journey in 1901-4. But the first man to reach the South Pole was the Norwegian Roald Amundsen, who planted his country's flag there on December 14, 1911. A British team led by Scott arrived about a month later. But Scott and his companions died in the cold on their return.

The development of aircraft speeded the exploration of Antarctica. In 1929 Admiral Richard E. Byrd became the first man to fly over the South Pole. In 1959 an agreement was signed by 12 nations ensuring the use of Antarctica for peaceful purposes only.

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