Can you imagine thousands and thousands of miles of uninhabited land with zero electricity? With climates so inhospitable that without supremely specialized equipment, humans would quickly perish? It sounds like life on Mars, but this place we’re talking about is actually a whole lot closer to home.
Life in Antarctica is extreme. So much so, that people tend not really to have any idea what’s happening on the continent. Thankfully, we can at least scratch the tip of the iceberg with these 20 facts that reveal the mysteries of life in the frozen world of the south…
1. The first Tinder match in Antarctic history was made when an American scientist logged into the app “just for fun.” Lo and behold, a profile came up just a 45-minute helicopter ride away, and she swiped right!
2. Yes, there is an ATM. Wells Fargo installed the continent’s first and only ATM back in 1998 at the McMurdo Station — the largest science center on Antarctica. It’s often out of order, and this is one line you don’t want to sit in!
3. The shifting gravitational pull caused by our drastically changing climate is very real. Scientists have confirmed the mass melting of ice in Antarctica has actually caused a noticeable dip in the gravity field in just 3 years.
4. There are two civilized towns in Antarctica, and they are both Latin American. The larger of the two is Villa Las Estrellas, a Chilean town founded in 1984. The second is Esperanza Base, which now serves as an Argentine research center.
5. Speaking of Esperanza, this homey little town is famous for more than just its extreme geo-tag. In 1978, it was the birthplace of Emilio Marcos Palma, the first person ever born in Antarctica. Since then, 10 more births have taken place on the continent.
6. About 3 TRILLION TONS of ice melted in Antarctica in the past 25 years. Scientists now believe we are currently losing 240 billion tons of ice per year, so keep it together and reduce your footprint — the world can’t afford another meltdown.
7. The continent boasts a surface area of 5,400,000 square miles, which doubles in size in the winter as ice forms around the coastline. It is twice the size of Australia and 1.5 times the size of the U.S.
8. Sure, you might have to endure some cold weather living in Antarctica, but at least you won’t ever have to worry about ants in your pants. That’s right,
Antarctica and the Arctic are the only places in the world that are not colonized by ants. Finally, a place you can picnic in peace.
9. Antarctica was a tropical continent 52 million years ago (not too long ago geologically speaking). It seems completely implausible now, but CO2 emissions can actually cause the continent to return to its former rainforest-y paradise. Imagine packing your bikini for Antarctica!
10. This land isn’t all ice and snow. Mount Erebus in Antarctica is one of the most consistently active volcanoes in the world. Erebus is home to a 1,700° lava lake that is believed to bubble and trouble several miles below the surface.
11. How low can you go? Well, if you’re in Antarctica and we’re talking about temperature, you can dip all the way down to a frigid -144°F. Chill out, this doesn’t happen too often. To achieve this degree of cold requires dry air and clear skies for several consecutive days.
12. There are seven different churches on Antarctica! So far, Christianity is the only religion to have erected churches on the continent, but there is clearly plenty of space for anyone’s faith here.
13. You won’t find any dog parks in Antarctica. In fact, dogs have been banned from the entire continent since 1994. The concern of disease being introduced to the local seal population was enough for all pups to get the eternal boot.
14. We still see you Minnesota, but give some cred’ to Antarctica for boasting over 300 secret lakes below its ice sheets. While these lakes are largely unexplored due to inaccessibility, scientists believe there are microorganisms living in these waters that no one on earth has seen yet.
15. The largest iceberg documented in Antarctica measured 183 miles long and 23 miles wide, which is bigger than the entire island of Jamaica! This mammoth chunk of ice was named B-15, but it has since broken up into smaller (but still giant) icebergs floating around the ocean.
16. Antarctica has an impressive list of world records, but a lesser-known world record is that this fine continent is home to the world’s oldest sperm. Worm sperm. Credit goes to Swedish scientists who, back in 2015, made this 50-million-year-old discovery.
17. Finding the time in Antarctica could be a challenge. That’s because there are no ordained time zones on the continent. A general rule is to use the time of whichever country is maintaining your base. Now that is a place frozen in time.
18. There is no need to worry about icebreakers here. The average thickness of an ice sheet in Antarctica is about 1 mile. Of course, this ranges throughout the continent, with some sheets getting up to 3 miles thick.
19. Antarctica is home to 70 percent of the Earth’s fresh water in addition to 90 percent of its ice. Scientists estimated if all the ice in Antarctica were to melt, sea levels around the world would rise 200 feet. That means New York and Los Angeles would be completely underwater.
20. Polar bears only live up north, in the Arctic. Even if they wanted to pack up and move south, it would be impossible for these bears to survive the tropical temperatures on their southerly migration. Additionally, there isn’t even a direct land connection for them to make the cross.