• Antarctica

    Not until 1840 was it established that Antarctica was a continent and not just a group of islands.

    Map by the National Geographic Society

    Largest Urban Area
    McMurdo Station, operated by the United States Antarctic Program: 1,000 people

    Highest Elevation
    Vinson Massif (4,897 meters/16,066 feet)

    Largest Watershed
    Antarctic Ice Sheet (14,000,000 square kilometers/5,405,430 square miles)

    Population Density
    0 (.0003 during the busiest season) people per square kilometer

    Amount of Renewable Electricity Produced
    0% (the one research station powered by renewable energy, E-Base, closed in 2009)

    The continent of Antarctica makes up most of the Antarctic region. The Antarctic is a cold, remote area in the Southern Hemisphere encompassed by the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic Convergence is an uneven line of latitude where cold, northward-flowing Antarctic waters meet the warmer waters of the world’s oceans. The Antarctic covers approximately 20 percent of the Southern Hemisphere.

    Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent in terms of total area. (It is larger than both Oceania and Europe.) Antarctica is a unique continent in that it does not have a native population. There are no countries in Antarctica, although seven nations claim different parts of it: New Zealand, Australia, France, Norway, the United Kingdom, Chile, and Argentina.

    The Antarctic also includes island territories within the Antarctic Convergence. The islands of the Antarctic region are: South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands, all claimed by the United Kingdom; Peter I Island and Bouvet Island, claimed by Norway; Heard and McDonald islands, claimed by Australia; and Scott Island and the Balleny Islands, claimed by New Zealand.

    Physical Geography

    Physical Features
    The Antarctic Ice Sheet dominates the region. It is the largest single piece of ice on Earth. This ice sheet even extends beyond the continent when snow and ice are at their most extreme.

    The ice surface dramatically grows in size from about 3 million square kilometers (1.2 million square miles) at the end of summer to about 19 million square kilometers (7.3 million square miles) by winter. Ice sheet growth mainly occurs at the coastal ice shelves, primarily the Ross Ice Shelf and the Ronne Ice Shelf. Ice shelves are floating sheets of ice that are connected to the continent. Glacial ice moves from the continent’s interior to these lower-elevation ice shelves at rates of 10 to 1,000 meters (33-32,808 feet) per year.

    Antarctica has a number of mountain summits, including the Transantarctic Mountains, which divide the continent into eastern and western regions. A few of these summits reach altitudes of more than 4,500 meters (14,764 feet). The elevation of the Antarctic Ice Sheet itself is about 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) and reaches 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) above sea level near the center of the continent.

    Without any ice, Antarctica would emerge as an archipelago of mountainous islands, known as Lesser Antarctica, and a single large landmass about the size of Australia, known as Greater Antarctica. These regions have different geologies.

    Greater Antarctica, or East Antarctica, is composed of older, igneous and metamorphic rocks. Lesser Antarctica, or West Antarctica, is made up of younger, volcanic and sedimentary rock. Lesser Antarctica, in fact, is part of the “Ring of Fire,” a tectonically active area around the Pacific Ocean. Tectonic activity is the interaction of plates on Earth’s crust, often resulting in earthquakes and volcanoes. Mount Erebus, located on Antarctica’s Ross Island, is the southernmost active volcano on Earth.

    The majority of the islands and archipelagos of Lesser Antarctica are volcanic and heavily glaciated. They are also home to a number of high mountains.

    The oceans surrounding Antarctica provide an important physical component of the Antarctic region. The waters surrounding Antarctica are relatively deep, reaching 4,000 to 5,000 meters (13,123 to 16,404 feet) in depth.

    Climate
    Antarctica has an extremely cold, dry climate. Winter temperatures along Antarctica’s coast generally range from -10° Celsius to -30° Celsius (14° Fahrenheit to -22° Fahrenheit). During the summer, coastal areas hover around 0°C (32°F) but can reach temperatures as high as 9°C (48°F).

    In the mountainous, interior regions, temperatures are much colder, dropping below -60°C (-76°F) in winter and -20°C (-4°F) in summer. In 1983, Russia’s Vostok Research Station measured the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth: -89.2°C (-128.6°F). An even lower temperature was measured using satellite data taken in 2010: -93.2°C (-135.8°F)

    Precipitation in the Antarctic is hard to measure. It always falls as snow. Antarctica’s interior is believed to receive only 50 to 100 millimeters (2-4 inches) of water (in the form of snow) every year. The Antarctic desert is one of the driest deserts in the world.

    The Antarctic region has an important role in global climate processes. It is an integral part of the Earth’s heat balance. The heat balance, also called the energy balance, is the relationship between the amount of solar heat absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere and the amount of heat reflected back into space.

    Antarctica has a larger role than most continents in maintaining Earth’s heat balance. Ice is more reflective than land or water surfaces. The massive Antarctic Ice Sheet reflects a large amount of solar radiation away from Earth’s surface. As global ice cover (ice sheets and glaciers) decreases, the reflectivity of Earth’s surface also decreases. This allows more incoming solar radiation to be absorbed by the Earth’s surface, causing an unequal heat balance linked to global warming, the current period of climate change.

    Interestingly, NASA scientists have found that climate change has actually caused more ice to form in some parts of Antarctica. They say this is happening because of new climate patterns caused by climate change. These patterns create a strong wind pattern called the "polar vortex." Polar vortex winds lower temperatures in the Antarctic and have been building in strength in recent decades—as much as 15 percent since 1980. This effect is not seen throughout the Antarctic, however, and some parts are experiencing ice melt.

    The waters surrounding Antarctica are a key part of the “ocean conveyor belt,” a global system in which water circulates around the globe based on density and on currents. The cold waters surrounding Antarctica, known as the Antarctic Bottom Water, are so dense that they push against the ocean floor. The Antarctic Bottom Water causes warmer waters to rise, or upwell.

    Antarctic upwelling is so strong that it helps move water around the entire planet. This movement is aided by strong winds that circumnavigate Antarctica. Without the aid of the oceans around Antarctica, the Earth’s waters would not circulate in a balanced and efficient manner.

    Flora and Fauna
    Lichens, mosses, and terrestrial algae are among the few species of vegetation that grow in Antarctica. More of this vegetation grows in the northern and coastal regions of Antarctica, while the interior has little if any vegetation.

    The ocean, however, teems with fish and other marine life. In fact, the waters surrounding Antarctica are among the most diverse on the planet. Upwelling allows phytoplankton and algae to flourish. Thousands of species, such as krill, feed on the plankton. Fish and a large variety of marine mammals thrive in the cold Antarctic waters. Blue, fin, humpback, right, minke, sei, and sperm whales have healthy populations in Antarctica.

    One of the apex, or top, predators in Antarctica is the leopard seal. The leopard seal is one of the most aggressive of all marine predators. This 3-meter (9-foot), 400-kilogram (882-pound) animal has unusually long, sharp teeth, which it uses to tear into prey such as penguins and fish.

    The most familiar animal of Antarctica is probably the penguin. They have adapted to the cold, coastal waters. Their wings serve as flippers as they “fly” through the water in search of prey such as squid and fish. Their feathers retain a layer of air, helping them keep warm in the freezing water.

    Cultural Geography

    A Culture of Science
    While the Antarctic does not have permanent residents, the region is a busy outpost for a variety of research scientists. These scientists work at government-supported research stations and come from dozens of different countries. The number of scientists conducting research varies throughout the year, from about 1,000 in winter to around 5,000 in summer.

    Researchers from a variety of scientific backgrounds study the Antarctic not only as a unique environment, but also as an indicator of broader global processes. Geographers map the surface of the world’s coldest and most isolated continent. Meteorologists study climate patterns, including the “ozone hole” that hovers over the Antarctic. Climatologists track the history of Earth’s climate using ice cores from Antarctica’s pristine ice sheet. Marine biologists study the behavior of whales, seals, and squid. Astronomers make observations from Antarctica’s interior because it offers the clearest view of space from Earth.

    Even astrobiologists, who study the possibility of life outside Earth’s atmosphere, study materials found in the Antarctic. In 1984, a meteorite from Mars was found in Antarctica. The markings on this meteorite were similar to markings left by bacteria on Earth. If this meteorite, millions of years old, actually has the remains of Martian bacteria, it would be the only scientific evidence for life outside Earth.

    Daily Life at Antarctica’s Research Stations
    Antarctica is a unique cultural place that is best defined by daily life at its diverse research stations. McMurdo Station is a U.S. research center on the southern tip of Ross Island, a territory claimed by New Zealand. McMurdo is the largest station in Antarctica, capable of supporting 1,250 residents. Most of these residents are not scientists, but work to support station operations, construction, maintenance, and daily life. McMurdo has more than 80 buildings and operates like a small city. It has world-class laboratory and research facilities but also a firehouse, dormitories, stores, and the continent’s only ATM.

    Like all Antarctic research stations, McMurdo has a specific method of receiving necessary supplies. Once a year, cargo ships bring more than 5 million kilograms (11 million pounds) of equipment and supplies, ranging from trucks and tractors to dry and frozen foods, to scientific instruments. These cargo ships can only reach Winter Quarters Bay, McMurdo’s harbor, during summer, when the pack ice can be breached by U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers. Additional supplies and personnel are flown in from Christchurch, New Zealand, when weather permits.

    Base Esperanza, Argentina’s largest Antarctic facility, is located in Hope Bay on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The station is known for a number of Antarctica “firsts.” It is the birthplace of Emilio Marcos Palma, the first person to be born in Antarctica. Base Esperanza also houses the first Catholic chapel (1976) and first school (1978) built on the continent. In 1979, Base Esperanza became the continent’s first shortwave radio broadcaster, connecting the research station with Argentina’s continental territory.

    Davis Station is Australia’s busiest scientific research station. It is located in an ice-free area known as the Vestfold Hills. Like most research stations in Antarctica, food is very important at Davis Station. Residents live and work closely together in facilities and outdoor environments that are often very monotonous. As such, food plays an important role in providing variety to residents like those at Davis Station.

    Food supplies are, however, very limited. The food supply for a year at Davis Station is rationed, per person per year. Residents live mostly on frozen and canned food. The chef is often thought of as one of the most important people at Davis Station. He or she must make sure to use all commodities in such a way that is both creative and sustainable. Some of the station’s most important events revolve around the chef’s creations, such as the Midwinter Dinner, a traditional, sumptuous feast first celebrated during the 1901-04 British Antarctic Expedition.

    Like many of Antarctica’s research facilities, Davis Station has a hydroponic greenhouse. Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants with water and nutrients only. Hydroponics requires excellent gardeners because produce is grown without soil. Fresh produce adds variety and nutrition to Antarctic meals. The greenhouse also serves as a sunroom for sunlight-deprived residents, especially during the long winter months.

    Political Geography

    Historic Issues
    For many European and North American powers, Antarctica represented the last great frontier for human exploration. Fueled by nationalist pride and supported by advances in science and navigation, many explorers took on the “Race for the Antarctic.”

    Explorers first skimmed the boundaries of Antarctica on sea voyages. By the early 20th century, explorers started to traverse the interior of Antarctica. The aim of these expeditions was often more competitive than scientific. Explorers wanted to win the “Race to the South Pole” more than understand Antarctica’s environment. Because early explorers confronted extreme obstacles and debilitating conditions, this period of time became known as the “Heroic Age.” Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott, Edward Adrian Wilson, and Ernest Shackleton all competed in the Race to the South Pole.

    In 1911, Amundsen, of Norway, and Scott, of the United Kingdom, began expeditions with the aim of becoming the first man to reach the South Pole. Amundsen’s team set out from the Bay of Whales in the Ross Sea on October 19, while Scott set out from Ross Island on November 1.

    Each team used different methods, with drastically different levels of success. Amundsen’s team relied on dog sleds and skiing to reach the pole, covering as much as 64 kilometers (40 miles) per day. Scott’s team, on the other hand, pulled their sleighs by hand, collecting geological samples along the way. Amundsen’s team became the first to reach the South Pole on December 15. The team was healthy, and successfully made the journey out of Antarctica. Scott’s team reached the South Pole on January 17, 1912, suffering from malnutrition, snow blindness, exhaustion, and injury. They all died on their journey home.

    Hoping to one-up his predecessors, Shackleton, of the United Kingdom, attempted the first transcontinental crossing of Antarctica in 1914. Shackleton planned the trip by using two ships, the Aurora and the Endurance, at opposite ends of the continent. Aurora would sail to the Ross Sea and deposit supplies. On the opposite side, Endurance would sail through the Weddell Sea to reach the continent. Once there, the team would march to the pole with dog teams, dispose of extra baggage, and use supplies left by Aurora to reach the other end of the continent.

    The plan failed. The Endurance became frozen in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea. The pack ice crushed and sunk the ship. Shackleton’s team survived for roughly four months on the ice by setting up makeshift camps. Their food sources were leopard seals, fish, and, ultimately, their sled dogs. Once the ice floe broke, expedition members used lifeboats to reach safer land and were picked up on Elephant Island 22 months after they’d set out on their journey. Although some of the crew sustained injuries, they all survived.

    The journey of the Endurance expedition symbolizes the Heroic Age, a time of extreme sacrifice and bravery in the name of exploration and discovery. Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard, a polar explorer, summed up the Heroic Age in his book The Worst Journey in the World: "For a joint scientific and geographical piece of organisation, give me Scott; for a Winter Journey, Wilson; for a dash to the Pole and nothing else, Amundsen: and if I am in the devil of a hole and want to get out of it, give me Shackleton every time.”

    Contemporary Issues
    The second half of the 20th century was a time of drastic change in the Antarctic. This change was initially fueled by the Cold War, a period of time defined by the division between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the threat of nuclear war.

    The International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58 aimed to end Cold War divisions among the scientific community by promoting global scientific exchange. The IGY prompted an intense period of scientific research in the Antarctic. Many countries conducted their first Antarctic explorations and constructed the first research stations on Antarctica. More than 50 Antarctic stations were established for the IGY by just 12 countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

    In 1961, these countries signed the Antarctic Treaty, which established that: the region south of 60°S latitude remain politically neutral; no nation or group of people can claim any part of the Antarctic as territory; countries cannot use the region for military purposes or to dispose of radioactive waste; and research can only be done for peaceful purposes.

    The Antarctic Treaty does support territorial claims made before 1961, by New Zealand, Australia, France, Norway, the United Kingdom, Chile, and Argentina. Under the treaty, the size of these claims cannot be changed and new claims cannot be made. Most importantly, the treaty establishes that any treaty-state has free access to the whole region. As such, research stations supported by a variety of treaty-states have been constructed within each of these territorial claims. Today, 47 states have signed the Antarctic Treaty.

    The Antarctic Treaty was an important geopolitical milestone because it was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War. Along with the IGY, the Antarctic Treaty symbolized global understanding and exchange during a period of intense division and secrecy.

    Many important documents have been added to the Antarctic Treaty. Collectively known as the Antarctic Treaty System, they cover such topics as pollution, conservation of animals and other marine life, and protection of natural resources.

    The yearly Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) is a forum for the Antarctic Treaty System and its administration. Only 28 of the 47 treaty-states have decision-making powers during these meetings. These include the 12 original signatories of the Antarctic Treaty, along with 16 other countries that have conducted substantial and consistent scientific research there.

    Future Issues
    Two important and related issues that concern the Antarctic region are climate change and tourism. The ATCM continues to address both issues.

    Antarctic tourism has grown substantially in the last decade, with roughly 40,000 visitors coming to the region in 2010. In 2009, the ATCM held meetings in New Zealand to discuss the impact of tourism on the Antarctic environment. Officials worked closely with the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) to establish better practices that would reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impact of tour ships. These include regulations and restrictions on: numbers of people ashore; planned activities; wildlife watching; pre- and post-visit activity reporting; passenger, crew, and staff briefings; and emergency medical-evacuation plans. The ACTM and IAATO hope more sustainable tourism will reduce the environmental impacts of the sensitive Antarctic ecosystem.

    Tourism is one facet of the ACTM’s climate change outline, discussed during meetings in Norway in 2010. Climate change disproportionately affects the Antarctic region, as evidenced by reductions in the size of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and the warming waters off the coast. The ACTM recommended that treaty-states develop energy-efficient practices that reduce the carbon footprint of activities in Antarctica and cut fossil fuel use from research stations, vessels, ground transportation, and aircraft.

    The Antarctic has become a symbol of climate change. Scientists and policymakers are focusing on changes in this environmentally sensitive region to push for its protection and the sustainable use of its scientific resources.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    absorb Verb

    to soak up.

    adapt Verb

    to adjust to new surroundings or a new situation.

    aircraft Noun

    vehicle able to travel and operate above the ground.

    algae Plural Noun

    (singular: alga) diverse group of aquatic organisms, the largest of which are seaweeds.

    Antarctic Noun

    region at Earth's extreme south, encompassed by the Antarctic Circle.

    Antarctica Noun

    Earth's fifth-largest continental landmass.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Antarctica
    Antarctic Bottom Water Noun

    cold, dense water surrounding Antarctica.

    Antarctic Convergence Noun

    uneven line of latitude where cold, northward-flowing Antarctic waters meet the warmer waters of the world's oceans.

    Antarctic Ice Sheet Noun

    thick glacier covering most of Antarctica.

    Antarctic Treaty Noun

    (1961) international agreement for managing Antarctica.

    apex predator Noun

    species at the top of the food chain, with no predators of its own. Also called an alpha predator or top predator.

    archipelago Noun

    a group of closely scattered islands in a large body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: archipelago
    arms control agreement Noun

    treaty or law that limits the production and use of weapons.

    astrobiologist Noun

    person who studies the possibility of life in outer space.

    astronomer Noun

    person who studies space and the universe beyond Earth's atmosphere.

    ATM Noun

    (automated teller machine) electronic device that performs basic banking duties, such as accepting and dispensing money.

    atmosphere Noun

    layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere
    bacteria Plural Noun

    (singular: bacterium) single-celled organisms found in every ecosystem on Earth.

    carbon footprint Noun

    the measurable total impact of one or more people on the environment. Also called environmental footprint.

    cargo Noun

    goods carried by a ship, plane, or other vehicle.

    Catholic Adjective

    having to do with the Christian denomination with the Pope as its leader.

    chapel Noun

    small place of worship or prayer.

    chef Noun

    head cook, responsible for menus, food preparation and presentation, and management of staff.

    circulate Verb

    to move around, often in a pattern.

    circumnavigate Verb

    to go completely around something (usually the Earth).

    climate Noun

    all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate
    climate change Noun

    gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate change
    climatologist Noun

    person who studies long-term patterns in weather.

    coast guard Noun

    branch of a nation's armed forces that is responsible for coastal defense and protection of life and property at sea.

    Cold War Noun

    (1947-1991) conflict between the Soviet Union (and its allies) and the United States (and its allies). The two sides never confronted each other directly.

    conservation Noun

    management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

    Encyclopedic Entry: conservation
    construction Noun

    arrangement of different parts.

    continent Noun

    one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: continent
    crust Noun

    rocky outermost layer of Earth or other planet.

    Encyclopedic Entry: crust
    current Noun

    steady, predictable flow of fluid within a larger body of that fluid.

    Encyclopedic Entry: current
    debilitate Verb

    to injure or make weak.

    density Noun

    number of things of one kind in a given area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: density
    desert Noun

    area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

    Encyclopedic Entry: desert
    disproportionately Adverb

    unequally.

    diverse Adjective

    varied or having many different types.

    dog sled Noun

    sled pulled by dogs. Also called a dog sledge.

    dominate Verb

    to overpower or control.

    dormitory Noun

    building with many rooms and some shared facilities, usually provided for people involved in a single program or project.

    drastic Adjective

    severe or extreme.

    Earth Noun

    our planet, the third from the Sun. The Earth is the only place in the known universe that supports life.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Earth
    earthquake Noun

    the sudden shaking of Earth's crust caused by the release of energy along fault lines or from volcanic activity.

    ecosystem Noun

    community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem
    elevation Noun

    height above or below sea level.

    Encyclopedic Entry: elevation
    encompass Verb

    to enclose or form a circle around.

    environment Noun

    conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

    environmental impact Noun

    incident or activity's total effect on the surrounding environment.

    Ernest Shackleton Noun

    (1874-1922) British explorer of the Antarctic.

    explorer Noun

    person who studies unknown areas.

    extract Verb

    to pull out.

    fauna Noun

    animals associated with an area or time period.

    firehouse Noun

    building that houses firefighting equipment and firefighters. Also called a fire station.

    flora Noun

    plants associated with an area or time period.

    food Noun

    material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

    Encyclopedic Entry: food
    fossil fuel Noun

    coal, oil, or natural gas. Fossil fuels formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals.

    frontier Noun

    largely unpopulated area that is slowly being opened up for settlement.

    fuel Noun

    material that provides power or energy.

    gardener Noun

    person who organizes, cultivates, and tends to a garden.

    geographer Noun

    person who studies places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    geology Noun

    study of the physical history of the Earth, its composition, its structure, and the processes that form and change it.

    geopolitics Noun

    the study of the impact of geographic factors on a country's politics and foreign policy.

    glacial ice Noun

    precipitation that has hardened on top of glaciers, forming another layer on the glacier.

    glacier Noun

    mass of ice that moves slowly over land.

    Encyclopedic Entry: glacier
    global warming Noun

    increase in the average temperature of the Earth's air and oceans.

    Encyclopedic Entry: global warming
    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    Greater Antarctica Noun

    largest landmass of the continent of Antarctica, bordered by the Indian Ocean. Also called East Antarctica.

    greenhouse Noun

    building, often made of glass or other clear material, used to help plants grow.

    harbor Noun

    part of a body of water deep enough for ships to dock.

    Encyclopedic Entry: harbor
    heat balance Noun

    relationship between the amount of solar heat absorbed by Earth's atmosphere and the amount of heat reflected back into space. Also called the energy balance.

    Heroic Age Noun

    (1890-1930) time of exploration in the Arctic and Antarctic.

    hydroponics Noun

    cultivation of plants by growing them in nutrient solutions instead of soil.

    ice Noun

    water in its solid form.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ice
    icebreaker Noun

    powerful ship made for creating paths through thick ice.

    ice core Noun

    sample of ice taken to demonstrate changes in climate over many years.

    ice floe Noun

    floating chunk of frozen water less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) wide.

    ice shelf Noun

    mass of ice that floats on the ocean but remains attached to the coast.

    igneous rock Noun

    rock formed by the cooling of magma or lava.

    initially Adverb

    at first.

    integral Adjective

    very important.

    International Geophysical Year (IGY) Noun

    (1957-1958) program in which scientists from all developed nations (with the exception of China and Taiwan) worked together to pursue research and discovery in the earth sciences.

    island Noun

    body of land surrounded by water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: island
    krill Noun

    small marine crustacean, similar to shrimp.

    laboratory Noun

    place where scientific experiments are performed. Also called a lab.

    latitude Noun

    distance north or south of the Equator, measured in degrees.

    Encyclopedic Entry: latitude
    leopard seal Noun

    carnivorous marine mammal native to the Antarctic.

    Lesser Antarctica Noun

    smaller landmass and islands that make up the continent of Antarctica, bordered by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Also called West Antarctica.

    lichen Noun

    organism composed of fungus and algae.

    lifeboat Noun

    vessel used for rescuing people at sea.

    malnutrition Noun

    lack of a balanced diet.

    marine Adjective

    having to do with the ocean.

    marine biologist Noun

    scientist who studies ocean life.

    marine mammal Noun

    an animal that lives most of its life in the ocean but breathes air and gives birth to live young, such as whales and seals.

    massive Adjective

    very large or heavy.

    McMurdo Station Noun

    American research facility in Antarctica.

    metamorphic rock Noun

    rock that has transformed its chemical qualities from igneous or sedimentary.

    meteorite Noun

    type of rock that has crashed into Earth from outside the atmosphere.

    Encyclopedic Entry: meteorite
    meteorologist Noun

    person who studies patterns and changes in Earth's atmosphere.

    Midwinter Dinner Noun

    (21 June) feast celebrated among the scientists and staff at Antarctic research stations.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    mineral Noun

    inorganic material that has a characteristic chemical composition and specific crystal structure.

    monotonous Adjective

    lacking variety or diversity.

    moss Noun

    tiny plant usually found in moist, shady areas.

    mountain Noun

    landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.

    NASA Noun

    (acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration) U.S. agency responsible for space research and systems.

    natural resource Noun

    a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.

    navigation Noun

    art and science of determining an object's position, course, and distance traveled.

    Encyclopedic Entry: navigation
    nuclear war Noun

    large conflict fought with atomic weapons.

    nutrient Noun

    substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.

    Encyclopedic Entry: nutrient
    nutrition Noun

    process by which living organisms obtain food or nutrients, and use it for growth.

    ocean Noun

    large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ocean
    ocean conveyor belt Noun

    system in which water moves between the cold depths and warm surface in oceans throughout the world. Also called thermohaline circulation.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ocean conveyor belt
    Oceania Noun

    region including island groups in the South Pacific.

    ozone hole Noun

    circular pattern, usually located near the Antarctic, of thin atmospheric ozone, which absorbs harmful ultraviolet sunlight.

    pack ice Noun

    large area of drift ice, or ice not attached to a shoreline.

    penguin Noun

    bird native to the Antarctic.

    personnel Noun

    employees or all people working toward a common goal.

    phytoplankton Noun

    microscopic organism that lives in the ocean and can produce its own food through photosynthesis.

    polar vortex Noun

    cyclone located around the North Pole or the South Pole.

    pollution Noun

    introduction of harmful materials into the environment.

    Encyclopedic Entry: pollution
    population Noun

    total number of people or organisms in a particular area.

    precipitation Noun

    all forms in which water falls to Earth from the atmosphere.

    Encyclopedic Entry: precipitation
    predecessor Noun

    person or thing that held a title or position before someone or something else.

    prey Noun

    animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.

    pristine Adjective

    pure or unpolluted.

    produce Noun

    agricultural products such as vegetables and fruits.

    prohibit Verb

    to disallow or prevent.

    Race for the Antarctic Noun

    (1890-1911) competition among explorers, expeditions, and nations to be the first to the South Pole.

    radioactive waste Noun

    byproduct of nuclear fission that emits a type of heat, or radiation, that can damage the tissue of living organisms.

    ration Verb

    to supply people with a fixed amount of food or another good or service.

    research station Noun

    structure or structures built for scientific study of the surrounding region, possibly including residential and lab facilities.

    Ring of Fire Noun

    horseshoe-shaped string of volcanoes and earthquake sites around edges of the Pacific Ocean.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Ring of Fire
    Roald Amundsen Noun

    (1872-1928) Norwegian explorer of the Arctic and Antarctic.

    Robert Falcon Scott Noun

    (1868-1912) British explorer who led two expeditions to the Antarctic.

    sacrifice Noun

    destruction or surrender of something as way of honoring or showing thanks.

    scientist Noun

    person who studies a specific type of knowledge using the scientific method.

    sea level Noun

    base level for measuring elevations. Sea level is determined by measurements taken over a 19-year cycle.

    Encyclopedic Entry: sea level
    sedimentary rock Noun

    rock formed from fragments of other rocks or the remains of plants or animals.

    shortwave radio Noun

    method of long-distance communication using the high-frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

    skiing Noun

    art and sport of gliding across snow on long, narrow boards strapped to the bottom of the athlete's feet.

    skim Verb

    to lightly touch or contact the surface of a substance.

    sleigh Noun

    vehicle on flat runners, pulled by animals and used for transport across snow or ice.

    snow Noun

    precipitation made of ice crystals.

    snow blindness Noun

    condition of being temporarily unable to see due to the sun's reflection on snow.

    soil Noun

    top layer of the Earth's surface where plants can grow.

    solar Adjective

    having to do with the sun.

    solar radiation Noun

    light and heat from the sun.

    Southern Hemisphere Noun

    half of the Earth between the South Pole and the Equator.

    South Pole Noun

    fixed point that, along with the North Pole, forms the axis on which the Earth spins.

    Encyclopedic Entry: South Pole
    Soviet Union Noun

    (1922-1991) large northern Eurasian nation that had a communist government. Also called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR.

    specific Adjective

    exact or precise.

    sumptuous Adjective

    luxurious or well-supplied.

    supply Verb

    to provide a good or service.

    sustainable Adjective

    able to be continued at the same rate for a long period of time.

    sustainable tourism Noun

    industry that seeks to make the lowest impact on the places and cultures visited, while contributing to local economies.

    tectonic activity Noun

    movement of tectonic plates resulting in geologic activity such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

    temperature Noun

    degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

    Encyclopedic Entry: temperature
    terrestrial Adjective

    having to do with the Earth or dry land.

    territory Noun

    land an animal, human, or government protects from intruders.

    thrive Verb

    to develop and be successful.

    tourism Noun

    the industry (including food, hotels, and entertainment) of traveling for pleasure.

    transcontinental Adjective

    extending across an entire continent.

    traverse Verb

    to cross or move through a landscape.

    unique Adjective

    one of a kind.

    United Kingdom Noun

    nation made of the countries of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

    upwelling Noun

    process by which currents bring cold, nutrient-rich water to the ocean surface.

    Encyclopedic Entry: upwelling
    vegetation Noun

    all the plant life of a specific place.

    volcanic Adjective

    having to do with volcanoes.

    volcano Noun

    an opening in the Earth's crust, through which lava, ash, and gases erupt, and also the cone built by eruptions.

    Encyclopedic Entry: volcano
    waste management Noun

    collection, disposal, or recycling of materials that people have discarded.

    weather Noun

    state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.

    Encyclopedic Entry: weather
    whale Noun

    largest marine mammal species.

    wind Noun

    movement of air (from a high pressure zone to a low pressure zone) caused by the uneven heating of the Earth by the sun.

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