Katabatic Winds

Can you imagine relaxing on a ship in coastal waters with calm weather or only light winds and then being hit unexpectedly by hurricane force winds?It would be quite a surprise!Certain coastal areas in Antarctica can be calm for much of the time until hit by a katabatic wind.Before slamming into your ship, the air […]

How much ice is on Antarctica?

Visualize a mountain range that is more than 800 miles (1300 km) long and 9,900 feet (3,000 meters) high. That’s twice as long as California’s Sierra Nevada and eight times higher than the Empire State Building. Now imagine it completely covered by an ice plateau—you could walk right over the top of this mountain range […]

A desert with 80% of the world’s fresh water?

If someone asked you to name the world’s driest continent, what would you guess? Would you be surprised to know it is Antarctica? Even though most of Antarctica is covered with ice and snow holding eighty percent of the world’s fresh water, the continent is, by definition, a desert. Antarctica accumulates on average fewer than […]

A dynamic home on the ice

Imagine what it would be like if your house or apartment grew and shrank every year. In the Antarctic winter, sea ice more than doubles the surface area of Antarctica, giving expanded habitat for animals like penguins, seals, and seabirds. The winter sea ice can extend over 7.2 million square miles (19 million square kilometers) […]

Shelf Ice

In 1991 Will Steger’s international team of explorers spent weeks crossing the Larsen ice shelf on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. The team’s photographs from the Larsen show a flat plain of snow-covered ice extending to the horizon, similar to images from the salt flats. You would guess, looking at the photographs, the […]

Why doesn’t Antarctica have more fertile soil?

Imagine you are tiny bacteria or a bit of algae whose job it is to colonize the gravel, sand, clay and silt left over after rocks break apart. The life you produce in the mineral soil will make an inviting home for higher-order plants that will colonize the new soil, eventually building an organic soil […]

Why do those penguins seem so warm?

Have you ever seen footage of penguins walking around in the cold wind and wondered why they seem so comfortable in temperatures that would quickly freeze human skin? Would you believe penguins are so well adapted to life in cold places they have a more difficult time dealing with warm temperatures than they do with […]


It’s like something out of a science-fiction horror movie: creatures that feed on slime coating the underside of sea ice, and swim in swarms of as many as 35,000 per square meter, advancing in a narrow band or sheet. They eat by gathering food between their legs and stuffing it in a sort of sausage […]

B-15: An iceberg the size of Connecticut

In May of the year 2000 a chunk of ice measuring 4,250 square miles (11,000 square kilometers) broke free from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf. The size of the New England state of Connecticut, this tabular berg, which is flat unlike the jagged and pointy icebergs that break off glaciers, was the largest floating thing on […]