Antarctica is a mostly uninhabited winter wonderland. The southernmost continent is claimed by no country. However, at any given time, multiple countries have scientists and other staff on the continent. These days, thousands of tourists visit as well, but Antarctica remains a desolate, mysterious land. Curious about the continent? Explorer Nils Larsen is going to share several little-known facts about the continent.
“While Antarctica has been around for the duration of humanity, as far as we know, no one set foot on the continent until 1821 when American John Davis took a small step for a man, but a giant leap for humanity by stepping onto the continent,” Nils Larsen says.
Antarctica is also the largest desert in the world.
“When you think of Antarctica, you probably think of snow and ice, and certainly there is a lot of water on the continent,” Nils Larsen points out. “That said, Antarctica is actually a huge desert and some of the valleys on the continent make for the driest places on Earth.”
Imagine being surrounded by water (albeit most of it frozen) and yet still finding yourself in a desert. However, while you’ll be in a desert, you won’t be alone.
“Just about everyone knows about the Emperor penguins,” Nils Larsen claims. “Other animals live on Antarctica too, including a variety of seals, different species of penguins, and albatross birds. Compared to other continents, there is a dearth of life in Antarctica, still some species do persist.”
Nils Larsen Discusses the Hardships of Antarctica
It should come as no surprise, but living in Antarctica is tough even for the most intrepid of scientists and explorers. And cold isn’t the only challenge. Long stretches without light, extreme isolation, potential boredom, and other issues can strain the people who live and explore the continent.
“Going to Antarctica may seem exciting,” Nils Larsen says. “However, in practice, one of the biggest challenges is the continued doldrum of living in an area with few other people and long stretches of the night,” Nils Larsen says. “As a result, alcoholism is a serious issue. Antarctica has driven even-keeled people down the path of alcoholism.”
That said, the weather does present many challenges. Nils Larsen says the biggest challenge might not be the extreme cold, but instead the frequent and immensely strong winds.
“Antarctica is the windiest place on earth and winds in excess of 200 miles an hour are not unheard of,” Nils Larsen says. “This presents a lot of problems. For one, such winds make a cold place much, much colder. On top of that, traveling, setting up shelters, and navigation can all be impeded by high winds.”
Antarctica has no permanent towns and no indigenous population. That said, over 30 scientific bases are staffed year-round and some people live on the continent for several months or even a few years at a time.
“Antarctica certainly isn’t recommended for everyone,” Nils Larsen suggests. “That said, I am glad I went. A lot of amazing scientists are conducting research on the continent, and their efforts will continue to advance our knowledge.