Antarctica has one of the most extreme environments on Earth; and although this makes it difficult to explore, ice has many secrets that help us understand the climate of other planets. Scientists have focused on the investigation of how certain life forms, no matter how small, are capable of surviving and even thriving in a place so hostile and, at the same time, so impressive.
Here are some of the most impressive wonders of Antarctica:
1- Glacier Pine Island
The Pine Island Glacier (PIG) is unique because it is the glacier of the fastest-melting Antarctic. PIG is known as an ice stream, and its fusion contributes more to sea level rise than any other glacier on the continent.
In 2015, a 585-square-kilometer iceberg separated from PIG after melting from the interior outward. Scientists believe that in the coming decades other large portions of the West Antarctic ice sheet could collapse. The effect would be catastrophic for the environment, causing the sea to rise many meters and causing flooding all over the world.
PIG plays a vital role in the prevention of these, as it acts as a stopper to maintain ice currents. that flow to the ocean.
2- Antarctic Ocean
In the year 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization decided that the Antarctic Ocean was to be named as the fifth ocean in the world. This ocean surrounds the entire continent of Antarctica and consists of the southern part of the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic. The Antarctic Ocean is approximately twice the size of the United States and has a maximum depth of almost 7,300 meters.
The Antarctic Ocean has powerful currents that play a very important role in boosting ocean circulation worldwide. It also absorbs a large amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Surprisingly, the Arctic Ocean has absorbed 15% of the carbon emissions caused by humans since the industrial revolution. Researchers are working hard on collecting and analyzing data to see how this absorption process works and what makes it fluctuate at certain times of the year.
3- Lake Vostok
Officially discovered by Russian scientists in the 1990s, Lake Vostok is now known to be the largest subglacial lake in Antarctica and the third largest lake in volume on Earth. It has 3.5 kilometers under the continent and was covered with ice more than 20 million years ago.
In 2012, Russian scientists made a deep hole in the ice to extract a sample of water from the lake. However, this sample was contaminated by drilling materials and the team had to carry out a second attempt in 2015. During this mission, the team hit the surface of the water at almost 3,800 meters.
Surprisingly, the waters of Lake Vostok are at -3ºC, but they do not freeze due to the enormous pressure of the weight of the ice sheet. The scientific community is sure that the latter shows if it is pure.
4- The Gamburtsev mountains
Mountains rising to incredible heights of 600 meters below the ice of eastern Antarctica. They extend for more than 1,200 kilometers, with peaks of up to 3,400 meters.
A group of Soviet researchers discovered the Cordillera for the first time in 1957 in an extremely remote region of the continent, where temperatures often drop below -80ºC. Since its discovery, it has been the subject of much curiosity but few expeditions, due to an isolated location.
In the last decade, scientists have made remarkable discoveries. Researchers have spent many months collecting data and verifying radar images, which revealed deep river valleys, tons of jagged peaks and liquid lakes below up to 1.6 kilometers of ice.
Although scientists have been able to determine that it is not about volcanic formations, its origin is still uncertain. Although they are about 100 million years old, they look like young mountains.
5- Huge sand dunes
Sand is associated with often with warm climates, but Antarctica also has its proportion of dunes. Antarctica is currently considered the largest desert in the world. It is incredibly cold, dry and windy, and is almost completely covered in ice, except for a small portion that represents less than 1% of the continent.
Huge sand dunes are found in this area. The largest dune is in the Victoria Valley and is 70 meters high and 200 meters wide. Unfortunately, they are moving at an alarming rate, which has tripled in the last 40 years. Scientists fear that this migration may be directly related to accelerated climate change.
6- Antarctic Fungi
Fungi of Antarctica are capable of survive in some of the most hostile conditions on the planet. Despite the fact that Antarctica is completely devoid of trees, rotting fungi of wood swell in the abandoned wooden huts of Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott, the two most legendary explorers on the continent.
The huts are abandoned from more than a century ago, and it seems that some of the fungal species that attack them are native to Antarctica. Taking into account that fungi thrive in warm areas with many trees, the discovery of these endemic species was quite remarkable.
7- Ellsworth Lake
British scientists discovered this subglacial lake for the first time in 1996, and since then they have not taken their eyes off it. The lake is 3 kilometers below the ice sheet of Western Antarctica. Scientists are eager to begin the drilling process in order to respond to one of the greatest mysteries associated with subglacial lakes. Is there life down there?
The UK team made an attempt to drill the lake in 2012, but the mission was canceled.
8- The fossils
In November 2016, fossilized wings of a new species of beetle were found near the Transantarctic mountains on the Beardmore Glacier. The beetle lived between 14 and 20 million years ago, when Antarctica was warmer than today.
Other types of fossils have been found in the frozen continent and have been a source of mystery and debate among scientists. According to new research, strong changing winds and glaciers are probably responsible for the high exposure of fossils. The results also suggest that the ice sheets are much less stable than I thought.
9- Mount Erebus
Mount Erebus is the most southern active in the world, on the island of Ross, in Antarctica. The 3,800-meter-high volcano is quite active. Mount Erebus is one of the last volcanoes on Earth with an active lava lake, and is one of the remotest.
Its location and climatic conditions do not allow scientists to visit it in person often, so they take most of the photos of their satellite eruptions.
The volcano began to form 1.3 million years ago. Snow, rocks and glaciers cover the slopes of the mountain. It also contains several ice caves containing thousands of microscopic organisms.
10- Waterfalls of Blood
Rust-colored Blood Cataracts emerge from the Taylor Glacier and flow into Lake Bonney, which is located in one of the dry valleys. The waterfall has a height of five floors and obtains its eerie hue from the lake from which it flows.
The lake has a very high salinity and is very rich in iron. The waterfall flows from a fissure in the glacier and has an ecosystem hidden beneath the thick layers of ice.
The waterfall was first discovered in 1911 by a geologist and has been a source of fascination for researchers ever since.  Scientists are excited to learn what life would be like on other planets, given that Mars has a climate similar to that of the dry valleys of Antarctica, so this site is perfect to work on unlocking any of the greatest mysteries of the universe
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