Antarctica is the highest continent on earth. Winds flow down the coastal slopes under the influence of gravity. Speeds of these katabatic winds have been recorded up to 320 kilometers per hour.
Antarctica is the driest continent on earth. The amount of moisture received by the polar plateau is comparable to that falling on the world's hot deserts!
In winter when the sea ice reaches its maximum extent, an additional 20,000,000 square kilometers band of pack ice surrounds the continent.
The continent of Antarctica has yielded some of the worlds most ancient rocks -- 400 millions years old -- formed in very high-pressure and high-temperature conditions at great depth.
Antarctica has not always been the icy, apparently barren continent it now is. In the distant past it lay in the northern hemisphere.
The blood of some Antarctic fish contains antifreezes so they can survive in the sub-zero water near the pack ice. Ice fish have blood with no red pigment -- hemoglobin. Their blood, gills, liver and other organs are a ghostly white.
Some species of marine algae in Antarctic waters may have the potential to reduce the effect of global warming by producing chemicals which induce cloud formation.
The subantarctic southern elephant seal is the largest of all seals, with adult males reaching a length of up to 4.5 meters and weighing up to 4 tons.
Crabeater seals, with an estimated population of about 15 million, are the most numerous of all the world's larger animals apart from humans. Despite their name they feed on krill, not crabs.
Adelie penguins walk up to 50 kilometers across the sea ice to reach their nesting grounds, returning to the same nest site and to the same mate in often-crowded colonies containing many thousands of birds.
Wandering albatrosses have the longest wing span -- up to 3.5 meters -- of any bird, and may fly 10,000 kilometers in a single feeding trip.
Adapted with permission from "Amazing Antarctica"
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