Many creatures and plant life have longer lives compared to those in warmer climates and grow at a slower rate. This is connected with the way in which creatures hibernate during the intensely cold winters and how some life forms, including humans, can put themselves into a state of suspended animation. Some Tibetan monks, themselves Zen masters, have perfected this technique, so perhaps the stories of Shangri-La and the Himalayan peoples who could live for centuries are not so completely far-fetched. Our own lifespan expectancy is even now starting to reach 120 years. The Tibetan monks can also raise their body temperatures by meditation and breath control, the art of Tun-Mo. They’ve even used it for drying out wet sheets by wrapping them around their bodies. Of course, these are all more reasons why it is so important to protect and preserve this region and all its inhabitants and organisms, particularly as it takes much longer for everything to regenerate.
Antarctica is an arid place and officially classified as a cold desert, where, on average, there are snowfalls of only 150 mm of water each year, although at the South Pole it can actually be less than 25 mm. It certainly seems a strange contradiction in a region which houses the vast majority of the world’s fresh water supplies. The powerful and awesome blizzards that occur are mainly loose snow being blown by the fierce winds that constantly arise but there is only minute precipitation.
Map Of The Arctic Tundra Photo Gallery
Surprisingly, there are some plant species which continue to exist and survive but naturally they are very low life forms. There are hundreds of algae species, lichens and mosses clinging to life in these very harsh conditions. Some even grow inside the rocks (endolithic plants). Refugia are the minute areas where organisms escape to in order to avoid harsh climatic conditions. The further north you travel, the warmer it gradually becomes and more types of life can be found, including minuscule midges and flies. The Southern Ocean completely surrounding the Antarctic continent is extremely cold and around latitude 50 oS its waters meet and mix with the warmer, saltier waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans; this invisible area is called the Antarctic Convergence or sometimes the Polar Front.
Several bird species breed south of the Antarctic Convergence and the most famous, the penguin, accounts for 85 per cent of the bird population. They build their colonies at the ocean’s edges so they can hunt for the plentiful supplies of fish to be found there, of course, penguins are one of the few breeds of bird which do not fly. The immutable rule is that there are penguins only in Antarctica and polar bears only in the Arctic. It has always seemed somewhat strange that in each of these intensely cold regions only one of these two species exists. It’s another of nature’s great mysteries. It would be extremely interesting to discover whether it would be possible to transfer and breed polar bears in parts of the Antarctic and breed penguins in the Arctic.
Interestingly, some ancient Greeks, against most of the prevailing concepts of the time, believed the world to be round. They therefore reasoned that to balance the land at the top of the world, the north, there must be a similar area at the bottom of the world, the south. As they had called the north region Arctos, meaning ‘the Bear’, based on the northern stars in the shape of a bear, they called this land region to the south Antarktikos, meaning ‘opposite the bear’. Presciently this was before anyone knew there weren’t bears in the region and that polar bears only lived in the Arctic. The largest carnivore living permanently in the Antarctic is a wingless midge, measuring just 12 mm long. Not much of a contest for the North’s fearsome carnivore polar bear.
About 0.4 per cent of Antarctica’s surface is actually free of snow and ice. Various mountain chains push up through the ice, with the highest being Mount Vinson at 4,897 metres above sea level. Antarctica is a land continent, covered by ice and surrounded by ocean whereas the Arctic is an ocean covered by sea ice and surrounded by the northern continents. That is why a marker at the North
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