From polar bears eating penguins to the presence of a secret Nazi base, here are some of most notable myths about the frozen continent Antarctica.
Antarctica’s remote nature and sheer isolation means that there are a lot of misconceptions about life near the south pole. Some of these myths surrounding Antarctica are disguised as “common sense,” and others have clear roots in misrepresentation from the media. If you’re considering a trip to Antarctica, however, you need to separate fact from fiction.
Here’s 7 myths about Antarctica:
Myth No.1: Antarctica is a tundra
Many people think that “tundra” is a catch-all term for any area that with temperatures below freezing all year round. It’s not – “tundra” refers specifically to any flat, large area of land with no trees and permanently frozen ground in the Northern Hemisphere. Obviously, this definition excludes Antarctica right away, since it doesn’t get much more “south” than the south pole.
Antarctica is actually a desert, and it’s the largest desert in the world. Although people tend to picture deserts as hot, sandy areas, dryness is actually the defining characteristic of this kind of biome. Over the course of a year, the continent sees an average of less than 2 inches of precipitation, which actually makes it dryer than the Sahara.
Myth No. 2: Polar bears eat penguins
You can thank a certain soda company for this misconception, but polar bears and penguins never even see each other in the wild – they live on opposite sides of the planet. Polar bears only live in the Northern Hemisphere, and penguins only live in the Southern Hemisphere.
That’s not to say penguins don’t have any adorable predators, however – seals, sea lions and whales are all perfectly happy to eat a penguin if given the chance
Myth No. 3: Antarctica is enormous:
If you look at a map of the world, the odds are good Antarctica looks incredibly huge. This is an illusion caused by a quirk of map-making, where cartographers have attempted to display a round object on a flat surface. There are a couple of different ways to do this, but the most commonly used method is called the Mercator projection. This distorts the size of many continents, but perhaps none so dramatically as Antarctica, which seems to be significantly larger than any other continent on this kind of map.
This isn’t an issue unique to the Mercator projection. Unless the map is of Antarctica specifically, any map that flattens out the circular nature of Antarctica is going to make it seem pretty big. In reality, Antarctica is the third-smallest continent, after Australia and Europe..
Myth No. 4: Antarctica is completely uninhabited
While this myth about Antarctica is sort of half-true, the continent does have many people “living” there on research stations. But, there have never been, as far as we are aware, any native populations of humans on the continent.
So, if by “living” on Antarctica you mean permanent settlement, then this is true. However, there are human beings living there on a temporary basis all year round. Most of the current inhabitants are scientists and researchers studying the climate, astronomy, and geography/geology. They spend months on end in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet.
Myth No. 5: Penguins are the only antarctic birds
Because penguins are so cute and popular, many people think these flightless birds are the only feathered creatures that live near the south pole. In fact, a number of gulls and petrals can be found in Antarctica. Apart from penguins, however, the most iconic antarctic bird is the albatross.
Myth No. 6: It is really expensive to visit Antarctica
This is, perhaps, one of the biggest persistent myths about the continent of Antarctica. While it is true that it is not going to be cheap, you can jump on a trip for less than $10,000 for a two-week cruise.
If you are willing to hunt around and are willing to wait for a year or more, you can also significantly cut down this cost. Of course, dropping $10K on a trip is not in everyone’s budget, but remember that these costs are all-inclusive. Quoted prices include any planned activities, accommodation, food, and one of the most memorable trips you will ever make in your life.
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What is more, there has been something of a boom in the Antarctic tourism industry of late, causing prices to come down significantly.
Myth No. 7: There is a secret Nazi base there:
And finally, this is probably one of the most intriguing myths about Antarctica. It started during WW2 when rumors began to circulate about many secret Nazi research projects, including one in Antarctica.
This myth prompted various researchers, including Colin Summerhayes (a marine geologist and oceanographer at Cambridge University), to put it to bed for good. Within his peer-reviewed paper on the subject, Summerhayes once and for all debunked this myth.
While they did appear to have sent a research vessel there, setting up a permanent base does not appear to be supported by existing evidence.
Please write in comment if you have any other myths about Antarctica – happy reading!