ANTARCTICA: The World’s Oldest Ecosystem

Antarctica

Antarctica, as the name, suggests this region is located opposite the Arctic. Antarctica is quite famously known as the continent of mystery and natural wonders. This region is covered with ice up to four kilometers deep, which is about 2.5 miles! Thus, temperatures here drop as low as minus 93 degrees Celsius, cold enough to freeze water bubbles!! With the world facing water scarcity, more than 75% of the planet’s fresh water is locked up in its ice sheet… and yet this place is classified as the largest desert on Earth?!

With increasing global warming almost every country on the planet is carrying out research in different fields on this continent. Perhaps this is the only place in the world where diverse countries have rallied together in the name of peace and science – to protect the environment, hard to believe, right? 🙂

Earlier with quite limited technological advancement, it was almost impossible to reach the continent. The Drake passage – the body of water between South America’s Cape Horn, Chile, and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica, is one of the Earth’s roughest waterways. Waves as high as 7 meters and winds up to 50 knots – such harsh are the conditions in this waterway.

The passage was first sailed by Spaniard Franciso de Hoces in 1525. Fifty years later, it was discovered by the English explorer Sir Francis Drake – and bears his name to the day!

Now with great advancement in technology, passing the Drake passage is now an achievable task. The increased accuracy of weather forecasting instruments has certainly made the lives of sailors easier! Now before entering this passage the captains of the ship first comprehensively study the weather forecasts and then accordingly the correct time for entering the passage is decided. The adventure of passing the passage is not as wild as it used to be.

Territorial Disputes And Environmental Problems In Antarctica

In spite of being out of reach for the better part of the year, Antarctica has been subject to territorial disputes for centuries. In the early 20th century, more than seven countries laid claims to parts of Antarctica. Along with some peaceful conflicts, there are some heated conflicts that have taken place over the years. The conflict between Argentina and Chile caused tensions that erupted into armed conflict between the UK and Argentina in 1952.

Over the years a number of issues have circled Antarctica. Problems like illegal fishing, poaching of extinct species of fishes, Whaling, and many more. Such activities have contributed to pollution in this region. Leaking of processing oil in the water, the sting of the rotting meat, etc have polluted the region. Although an international ban on commercial whaling came into force in 1986, this activity has not been completely stopped.

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