Frozen Frontier: A Journey to the Extremes of Antarctica - 03

by Laine Ye on May 15, 2024

Frozen Frontier: A Journey to the Extremes of Antarctica - 03

Antarctica is home to numerous unique organisms, with the most iconic being penguins. Among them, the most famous is the Emperor penguin, which is the largest species of penguins, reaching heights of up to 1.2 meters and weighing up to 40 kilograms. There are many other species that can be distinguished by their appearance and feather features. They live in the extreme weather conditions of Antarctica, but are they not cold? The answer is no. The body structure of penguins allows them to swim in cold waters. Their feathers have a high density, forming an insulation layer that prevents the loss of body heat. Additionally, penguins' wings have evolved into flippers, which enable them to swim more efficiently in water.

When facing extreme cold and storms, penguins form large groups, huddle together in a circle, and lower their heads to withstand blizzards. When they gather in this way, the temperature inside the penguin huddle can reach a comfortable 37 degrees Celsius, sufficient to resist any local blizzard. While huddling for warmth, penguins often move their positions. Those on the outer edge strive to move towards the center to obtain higher temperatures, while those on the inside seek to move towards the outer edge to cool down, as the temperature inside can become excessively high.

Penguins' feet and legs contain a rich network of blood vessels, which help regulate body temperature by controlling blood flow. Additionally, their fat reserves provide extra heat and help penguins maintain their body temperature in the cold environment.

Antarctica is one of the most remote and harsh environments on Earth, but it also serves as a valuable laboratory, offering unique research opportunities. Currently, 40 countries have established research stations in Antarctica, covering a wide range of research and exploration fields, including climate change, marine ecosystems, outer space, biological adaptability, and geological research, among others. These studies not only contribute to a better understanding of our planet but also drive scientific and technological advancements.

There are generally two ways to reach Antarctica: by plane or by ship. Independent travel to Antarctica is not allowed, and adventurers need to follow tour groups or scientific expeditions. Most teams traveling to Antarctica choose to depart from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Argentina, or Punta Arenas in Chile. These two ports are the closest to Antarctica and serve as supply and rest points before boarding ships to Antarctica. After a 2-5 day voyage across the Drake Passage, which can be rough and icy, one can reach the Antarctic continent. Another option is to fly to Antarctica, which is generally more expensive.

The journey to Antarctica by ship involves crossing treacherous sea conditions and icebergs. The Drake Passage, located between South America and Antarctica, experiences storms due to its location at the convergence of two oceans and its high latitude. Ships passing through this area often encounter harsh sea conditions and intense rocking. Additionally, the waters surrounding Antarctica are covered by floating ice and icebergs throughout the year, which can impede navigation.

The extreme conditions of Antarctica pose severe challenges to the physical and mental well-being of travelers. The extremely low temperatures, high altitudes, harsh weather, and isolated environment can lead to physical discomfort and psychological stress. In addition to ensuring personal safety, it is essential to be mindful of not disturbing the ecological environment of Antarctica. Due to the low temperatures and poor self-cleaning capabilities, even a banana peel takes 180 years to decompose. Therefore, thorough cleaning and disinfection of clothing are necessary before landing to protect this pristine land, which is the responsibility of all humanity.

In this edition, we explored the fascinating Antarctic, and in the next edition, we will continue our exploration with the Arctic and the adventure of Mount Everest. If you are interested in our content, please like, comment, or subscribe. See you in the next edition!