Antarctica has long been associated with penguins, polar bears, and blinding blizzards sweeping across a soft, snowy plain. The general populace is sadly blind to the true wonders of the earth’s fifth largest continent.
The most common misconception concerns the habitats of polar bears and penguins. Polar bears live exclusively in the Arctic, ranging from the Hudson Bay in Canada to as far as 80 degrees North. Penguins make their homes in the Southern Hemisphere, primarily on the coasts of Antarctica. These creatures would survive for only a very short time in the far North. Although penguins can swim, they are not equipped to do so for very long distances. The Arctic is composed mostly of oceans that freeze over in the winter. When the ice melts, many animals are forced to swim to find food. Polar bears, for example, have been known to swim up to 100 km. Additionally, penguins have very few natural predators. With polar bears roaming about in the hungry autumn, penguins would make for an easy meal. These polar bears could survive longer in the Antarctic than penguins could in the Arctic, but it would eventually lead to disaster. Excessive hunting could lead to a scarcity of food, ultimately leading to starvation.
Another widely held belief is that the southern continent is a land of blizzards. Antarctica is, in fact, the world’s largest desert. When there is precipitation, it settles and never melts, which explains the presence of snow and deep ice. Furthermore, Antarctica’s mean annual temperature is a bitter -50 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas the North Pole averages around 0 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s no wonder Santa lives in the Arctic!
From glaciers to mountains, penguins to seals, Antarctica remains the most pristine area on earth–the last wilderness. With research stations situated in this land of southern beauty, there is a sense of international collaboration that will forever serve as a beacon of peace and hope. Let our voices rise–“Long live Antarctica!”