Facts About the Continents for Kids: Antarctica
There are seven continents on Earth. One of the seven continents is called Antarctica. Antarctica is the largest desert in the world. You may think that a desert is a hot place. But it’s actually an area with little precipitation (rain or snow). Antarctica receives only about 8 inches of precipitation per year, which makes it a desert. It is also one of the coldest and windiest places in the world. The South Pole is in Antarctica.
Antarctica is in the Southern Hemisphere, so summer is October through February and winter is March through September. There aren't any polar bears in Antarctica. They live in the Arctic region in the Northern Hemisphere.
People in Antarctica
People don’t live in Antarctica. But scientists often spend several months there at a time, usually during the summer. The scientists live in bases.
Different kinds of scientists go to study different kinds of things. Biologists study the animal life. Meteorologists study the weather. Glaciologists learn about ice sheets, called glaciers. Support staff, such as cooks, radio operators and boat operators, are needed as well. Tourists also visit the continent.
It is believed that a seal hunter named Captain John Davis was the first person to set foot on the continent of Antarctica in 1821. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) led the first successful expedition to reach the South Pole. Amundsen and his group traveled using dog sleds. They reached the South Pole on December 14, 1911.
Another expedition led by British explorer Captain Robert Scott reached the South Pole a month later. Tragically, everyone died on the return journey. Scott's expedition wasn't as well planned and the team suffered from starvation, hypothermia (extremely low body temperature) and probably scurvy, which is caused by a lack vitamin C. Scurvy causes muscle pain and weakness.
Animals and Plants in Antarctica
Several species of animals live in Antarctica. The most well-known are probably penguins and seals. Penguins eat krill (a small crustacean), fish and squid. Seals eat shrimp, crab, a fish called cod and penguins. Penguins and seals spend time in the water and on land. Whales live in the waters surrounding Antarctica. Many birds, like cormorants, gulls and terns, also live on the continent. The whales, seals, penguins and birds have thick layers of blubber that insulate them from the cold.
Female Emperor penguins lay an egg in the month of June. They spend the rest of the winter at sea. The male Emperor penguins keep the eggs warm by balancing them on their feet. They don't eat any food while caring for the egg and must endure the harshest part of the Antarctic winter. The females return just before their eggs hatch.
Only about 2% of the continent is ice free. Plants grow in these areas. There aren't very many species of plants in Antarctica. Most are lichens and mosses. Lichens can live in extremely hot, cold or wet environments. They can grow in soil, on rocks or on trees. Mosses can also grow on rocks and trees.
There are also species of fungi. Fungi are similar to plants but they can't make their own food using photosynthesis. They absorb nutrients from their environment.