30+ Fun Facts About Antarctica

Antarctica is one of the most desired vacation spots in the world. It’s estimated that only 20,000 people visit each year. To inspire you to visit, I compiled over 30 fun facts about Antarctica. It’s the most unique and remote destination in the world – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit! I went with Hurtigruten on an expedition cruise for over two weeks and had an amazing time!

  1. Coconut trees used to grow on Antarctica. Okay, you caught me, not recently. 53 million years ago. The image of sipping a pina colada out of a coconut in Antarctica will never fail to make me smile.
  2. The coldest temperature on record is -89.2 degrees Celcius by the Russian Vostok station on July 21, 1983.
  3. 70% of new water on Earth is on the ice lining covering Antarctica
  4. Mushrooms can grow on Antarctica! While it is the world’s largest desert, there are over 1,100 types of mushrooms that grow!
  5. Antarctica has ALL of the time zones on earth. Since we use longitude for time zones, the longtitudes come together at the north and south poles.
  6. There are no indigenous people living on Antarctica. However, some people do stay year round. Babies have been born on Antarctica, but they are citizens of the country of the base where they are born.
  7. Traditional cruise ships can go to Antarctica, but they can’t go on land due to their size.
Fun Fact about Antarctica: Only small cruise ships like the one on the right make a number of landings.
A Celebrity Cruise ship next to our Hurtigruten expedition ship.

8. Robert Amundsen was the first person to arrive at the South Pole on December 14, 1911.

9. Antarctica is not part of any country. In 1959, 12 nations signed the Antarctic Treaty to commit to preserving the Continent. Now it is signed by 48 nations.

10. The original name of Antarctica was Terra Australis – Unknown Southern Land. For 8 years, it didn’t have an official name – it was just called “The Antarctic Continent.”

Fun Fact about Antarctica:  Two fur seals on the beach.

11. There are no polar bears in Antarctica. Polar bears only live in the Arctic. Arctic foxes also only live in…. the Arctic.

12. There’s not a single tree in Antarctica.

13. If all the ice sheets on Antarctica melted, ocean levels would rise by 200 feet! This is why we must take climate change seriously.

14. Over 10,000 meteorites have been discovered in Antarctica since 1970. The ice on the continent preserves these meteorites in a different way than anywhere else on earth.

15. Antarctica is the size of the United States and Mexico combined! It is 14 million square km (5.4 million square miles). Antarctica is 1.7x the size of Australia.

16. There is no economic activity on the entire continent of Antarctica. There is some fishing off of the coasts and small-scale tourism.

17. Antarctica is uniquely situated – it is surrounded by one ocean – the Southern Ocean – and is almost entirely within the Antarctic circle (66 degrees latitude).

18. The strongest sustained wind was recorded in Antarctica at a whopping 199 mph.

19. There are a total of 70 bases on Antarctica, built by 30 countries.

20. The Ross Ice Shelf is an ice sheet the size of France. If it breaks apart, the world’s waters would rise by 6 meters (18 feet).

21. The Antarctica Treaty of 1959 established and protects the continent as one of peace and science. All countries who visit must adhere to environmental protections and protocols.

Fun Fact about Antarctica: Photo of Base W. which was built in 1956 and abandoned in 1959! You can visit but be very careful.
Base W. was built in 1956 and then abandoned in 1959 due to weather. Visiting is like stepping back in time!

22. Antarctica is the 5th largest continent.

23. The average thickness of Antarctic ice is about 1 mile (1.6km)

24. The Gamburtsev Mountains are a range of mountains on Antarctica that rise 9,000 feet and stretch 750 miles (3,000m and 1,200km) across the continent. They are completely buried under up to 16,000 feet (4,800m) of ICE!

25. There are rivers and lakes under the ice! Lake Vostok is 2.5 miles (3.7km) under the ice and is the size of Lake Ontario! There are a number of rivers and lakes throughout the continent.

Fun Fact About Antarctica: The  mountains can be covered with hundreds of feet of ice! Cruise ship next to mountains.
Our ship next to mountains in Antarctica

26. The continent is divided into East and West sections by the Transantarctic Mountains. The range is one of the longest mountain ranges on Earth at 2,175m (3,500 km) long.

27. Mount Erebus is the southernmost active volcano on the planet – and is located in Antarctica.

28. Deep Lake is so salty that it stays liquid at temperatures down to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius)

29. The soils of Antarctica are the least diverse habitats.

30. The male emperor penguin is the only warm-blooded animal that remains on the continent through the winter. The female spends 9 weeks at sea and returns in time for the egg to hatch.

Penguins on the beach in Antarctica
Penguins are NOT the most populous animal on Antarctica.

31. No non-native species are allowed to be taken to Antarctica. This law passed in 1994.

32. The waters of the peninsula are warming five times faster than the rate of the rest of the world since 1950!

33. In the McMurdo Dry Valleys there are huge sand dune! The largest is 230 feet (70m) high and more than 650 feet (200m) wide!

33. Felicity Aston was the first person ever to ski across Antarctica by human muscle! Between late 2011 and early 2012, she traveled 1,084 miles (1,744km) in only 59 days!

34. The most abundant land animal is NOT the penguin – but rather the tiny nematode worm!

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30 Fun Facts about Antarctica

8 thoughts on “30+ Fun Facts About Antarctica”

  1. Interesting points. I knew only a few of these so I feel enlightened. It is a place I would want to see, not much to explore admitedly but it has to be done.

  2. My mind is completely blown by some of these facts. Always assumed there were Polar Bears in Antarctica. Didn’t know they had all of the time zones. Definitely wouldn’t have thought they ever had coconut trees. Fascinating post!

  3. Super interesting. I would love to do one of the expeditions to Antarctica. That would be so cool… in more than one sense. Definitely learned a lot here, and still didn’t put me off wanting to go

  4. There are so many new facts that I learned, okay, almost all of them! But you’re first one is really fascinating, to know that there was once a time that coconut trees used to grow in Antarctica is simply incredible to imagine, even if it was 53 million years ago. I would love to visit here, but the older I get, the more cold adverse I am.

  5. I never understood why people would want to visit such a hostile and cold area, but your facts are interesting and I can see the appeal now. The coconut trees definitely sound more like me, shame they are no longer around 🙂

    Carolin | Solo Travel Story

    1. Haha it’s definitely cold, but you go in ‘summer’ so it was about 30 degrees F, or -1 Celcius most days. It was so beautiful though and such an interesting history!

  6. Loved learning about these cool facts about antartica! And I didn’t even know mushrooms could grow there. All the more reason why one day I have to visit this continent.

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