In the Southern Hemisphere almost with in the Antarctic circle and
encompassing the South Pole, Lies ‘Antarctica’. The Worlds fifth – largest
(table), the coldest, the Highest, the driest and stormiest of all the
continents in the world.
About 98% of its surface is covered by a
permanent, the thickest and the largest ice-
sheet in the world. It comprises of about 29
million cubic kilometers of ice which
accounts for about 90 % of all the ice and 75
% of all the fresh water in the world. If it were
to melt, the sea levels across the world would
rise by about 55 mts, sub merging large strips
of densely populated coastal low lands, along
with their large cities.
Flag of Antarctica
The Graham Bartram design uses the flag of the United Nations as its model. A
plain white map of the continent on a blue background symbolizes neutrality
(Bartram was well aware of the overlapping territorial claims of the United
Kingdom, Chile, and Argentina when he designed the flag). This flag was actually
flown on the Antarctic continent for the first time in 2002, when Ted Kaye (editor
of Raven, the scholarly journal of the North American Vexillological Association)
took several full-size flags in the Bartram design on an Antarctic cruise. The bases
of Brazil, Ukraine, and the UK all flew it from their flagpoles, making its raising
"official". He presented a paper ("Flags Over Antarctica") which described the first
flying of the Bartram design over Antarctica in Stockholm in 2003, at the 20th
International Congress of Vexillology. It is perhaps the most popular flag for
Antarctica, as seen by its prevalence on the Internet.
The Graham Bartram design:-
The Whitney Smith design uses the high-visibility color orange as
its background (it is the international rescue color, it contrasts the
best against snow, and to avoid any confusion, is unlike almost
any national flag on Earth). The emblem consists of several
components. 'A' stands for Antarctica. The bottom segment of the
globe represents Antarctica's "position" on Earth (according to the
modern convention of drawing maps with north on top), while the
two hands holding up the globe segment represent peaceful human
use. The emblem is colored white to represent the snow and ice of
Antarctica and is offset toward the hoist of the flag so as to maintain
its integrity should the flag fray badly in the high winds prevalent
upon the continent. However, there is no record of it ever being
fabricated or used, despite being displayed in some atlases.
The average thickness of this dome shaped ice –sheet is 3000
meters with 4000 to 4500 meters, recorded at certain localities
and it sustains the worlds largest glaciers, such as the
‘Lambert’ and the ‘Beardmore’ glaciers.
The thin margins of this enormous ice sheets are extended
into the surrounding waters, along many coastal areas.
Known as ‘ice shelves’ these are about meters thick in their
outer margins and large chunks of these flat – topped
platforms of ice-break off and float away as icebergs. The
largest iceberg so far recorded in the world was sited in the
southern pacific ocean in 1956. covering an area of about
31,000 square kilometers, which is slightly larger than Belgium
Web Link for more reference:-
Strong west winds race clock-wise relentlessly around the
continent called ‘West-Wind Drift’.
Antarctica, being the coldest continent, records the lowest
temperatures in the world during the winter, in the late
August, and they usually range from – 20o C on the coast to
-70o in the interior. The Vostok, a Russian Research Station,
which lies at an altitude of 3420 meters, 1300 kilo meters
from the coast.
The summer temperatures usually range from about 0o on
the coast to - 35o in the interior. In certain ice-free areas of
the Antarctic Peninsula, which extend beyond the Antarctic
Circle. How ever, temperatures as high as 15o C are recorded
during the summer.
Usually, dense, cold and fierce winds known as Katabatic
winds, characterize the Antarctic coasts. At times, suddenly
give rise to the ‘Antarctic Blizzards’, with wind velocities
reaching as high as 225-250 Kilo metres per hour.
On December 9, 1960 at ‘Mawson’ station, a standing aircraft
was destroyed in these Blizzards.
Antarctica is the driest continent in the world. In the Dry
valley’s region no rain fell in the past two million years. The
precipitation in the interior, which is in the form of dry,
powdery snow is equivalent to less than 5 centimeters of rain
fall per annum and it increases to 50 centimeters in the
The freezing temperatures and the long
periods of sunlight followed by the long
periods of darkness create the most adverse
conditions for plant growth on the earth’s
surface, making it the only treeless continent
in the world. There are 400 species of lichens,
a few species of mosses and algae and only
two species of flowering plants.
Flowering Plant in Antarctica Algae, Moss and Lichens in
Additional Link for wild life and plants in Antarctica region
The Oceanic waters surrounding Antarctica
are as rich in life as the land is barren. All the
animals that live in abundance in the cold
Antarctic waters are insulated with blubber, a
thick layer of oily fat, just beneath their skin
. They include different species of seals and
Animals in Antarctica
Leopard Seal Blue whale
Antarctic Fur Seal Southern Elephant
Ross Seal Crab Eater Seal
Penguin Rookeries in AntarcticaKrill in Antarctica
Scientific investigations reveled that the
rocks of Antarctica contained fossils
remains of ferns, forest-trees, small,
primitive mammals and the giant
dinosaurs, which are at least 140 million
years old, indicating that much warmer
climate prevailed over this continent
during that time.
Sea Shell New Species
found on rock
Sea Spider fossil Ancient Whale Jaw bone
5. Mineral Wealth:-
Antarctica contains minerals of
antimony, chromium, copper, gold,
galena, lead, molybdenum, tin and zinc,
beside coal and rock phosphate. Recent
studies indicate locally high
concentrations of Ferro-manganese
nodules on the floor of the southern
pacific and Atlantic oceans.
6. Scientific investigation:-
Under an international agreement called the ‘Atlantic Treaty’, this continent is and remain,
at least for the coming 50 years, as a huge Natural laboratory, where different nations,
including India, would work in harmony, on scientific research, which enhances our
knowledge of the earth’s climate and other matters of common interest.
Though many leading nations of the world have been contemplating scientific research on
Antarctica since 1957 – 58, India has entered the fray in 1981. our country, has established
all –weather, permanently – manned research stations, “Dakshin Gangotri” and “Maitri” on
the continent and is conducting scientific expeditions to Antarctica, every year.
This continent contains vast and not-yet polluted scenic
resources, which seem to hold a rich potential for the
future economic growth, in the field of tourism industry,
which has already commenced.
For the present, how ever, this continent is able to export only the result of fruitful scientific
research and friendship to all the countries in the world.
The important points that you have learnt in this lesson are:
• The continent of Antarctica is the world’s fifth largest, the coldest, the highest , the driest
and the stormiest of all the continents in the world.
• about 98 percent of its surface is covered by a permanent, the thickest and the largest ice
sheet in the world.
• strong west-winds race clock wise relentlessly around the continent causing the
formation of westerly ocean currents called the West-Wind Drift.
•Usually dense cold and fierce winds, known as Katabatic winds, characterize the Antarctic
•The Katabatic winds, at times, suddenly give rise to the ‘Antarctic Blizzards’ with wind
velocities, reaching as high as 225-250 kilometers per hour.
•In the “Dry –Valley’s” region, no rain fell in the past 2 million years.
• Sunlight and darkness divide the year in the polar regions.
•In Antarctica the conditions for plant growth are most adverse.
•The Ocean waters surrounding Antarctica are rich in life unlike its land which barren.
• Our country has established all-weather, permanently-manned research stations
“Dakshin Gangotri” and “Maitri” on this continent and is conducting scientific expeditions
to Antarctica, Every year.
• for the present, this continent is exporting only the results of fruitful scientific research
and friendship to all the countries in the world.
Some additional information about Antarctica is given in the
form of PDF files and Video files in the same
I. Answer the following Questions.
1) When compared to the other continents, Antarctica
has many distinctions – what are they?
2) Describe the physical features of this continent?
3) ‘Sunlight and darkness divide the year in the polar
region. Explain this statement asking the south polar
region as the example.
4) Describe the native Animal Life of Antarctica.
5) Describe the natural vegetation of Antarctica.
6) Describe the mineral wealth of Antarctica.
7) Describe the climate of Antarctica.
8. What do you know about the scientific investigations
being carried out on Antarctica?
9. Describe about the tourism potential of Antarctica.