Environment / General / Science

7 continents and science- Antarctica


This is the second article of the series and this time it is about Antarctica. This is the 5 5th largest continent in the world and has a seasonal population between 1000 and 5000. This continent is 98% covered by ice and is in the southern hemisphere. 

Even though it is one of the coldest, windiest places in the world, this continent also supports plenty of wildlife which are mainly found near the coasts. This continent is home to 8 different species of penguins, about 1000 species of fungi, krill, whales, seals to name a few. One can also find about 100 different species of moss and 25 different species of liverworts.

Humans also visit this continent seasonally. From the late 18th century to mid 20th century the Antarctic seas were dominated by whale and seal hunters. However, drastic decline in whale species brought conservation of wildlife in Antarctica to everyone’s attention leading to more science based projects. All this began in 1957 with the International Geophysical Year which gave birth to an agreement to dedicate an entire continent ( in this case Antarctica) to peace and scientific research, this is called the Antarctic Treaty. What began in 1957 is still applicable to this day wherein this continent is protected and used strictly for scientific research purposes. There are several projects ongoing in Antarctica right now. Here is a short list of some of the projects which caught my attention.

Monitoring Earth’s Atmosphere: A network of stations has been set up to measure and observe several elements of Earth’s atmosphere. Radiation, carbon dioxide levels, ozone, water vapor are some of the elements which have been observed since 1957 giving scientists valuable continuous data. 


Ross sea penguins: A team of scientists are studying the behavioral changes of Adelie penguins for the past 25 years in order to understand the implication on wildlife due to climate change. 

Adelie penguin

South Pole Telescope: With the help of a 30 foot telescope, scientists are literally at the bottom of the earth to peer into the world which is outside Earth. With the help of this gigantic telescope, scientists are able to study dark energy thus helping us move one teeny weeny step closer to understanding the working of the universe. 

Milky Way

Antifreeze Fish: In this project marine biologists are studying a deep sea fish which resides in the deep icy waters of Antarctica. The fish named Antarctic Toothfish is equipped with special proteins in its body which protects the blood from freezing in these frigid temperatures. 


Melting Antarctica: Climate change is one of the biggest threats we are facing today which dwarfs the challenges of the current pandemic.The Antarctic is experiencing fast paced changes to its landscape due to rising temperatures. Marine biologists are studying the plankton from the Antarctic waters to understand the impact of the fast rising temperatures. 

Illustration of Ice berg

First Descents: Exploring Seas Under the Ice: A specially built underwater robot is helping scientists study the ecosystem which lives beneath the permanently frozen ice sheet. Observations such as these give valuable insight on origins of life as well as help understand the changes in real time due to climate change. 

Illustration of deep sea creature

It is impossible for me to detail every aspect of the wonderful projects that are going on in this icy continent. I have been able to only scratch the surface here, but with the hope that this will energize our readers to explore more of the scientific work carried out there via the links I have added and doing their own research. Or better still motivate our readers to take a cruise down to Antarctica!!

Royalty free images were used.

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