Antarctica was a part of the supercontinent “Gondwana” 200 million years ago. The continent broke apart about 180 million years ago and that started the continental drift. It slowly made its way down under and came to be known as the 7th continent.
Today, Antarctica holds 70% of Earth’s fresh water and is the slightly larger than Australia. It is the only continent that can expand during the winters and shrink during the summers. Antarctica is a continent that is full of secrets, surprises and mysteries. From huge volcanoes, to large lakes hidden under the ice and icebergs each more unique than the other – It will never cease to amaze.
99.8% of the continent is frozen. The Antarctic ice sheet is one of the two polar ice caps. It covers an area of almost 14 million square kilometers. The ice sheet is divided by the transantarctic mountain range into the west and east ice sheet.
As a part of our expedition we went till the Antarctic Peninsula, which is the northern most part of the continent. It’s dotted with a large number of research stations. Argentina, Chile and the United Kingdom have claimed parts of it but thanks to the Antarctic treaty system none of these claims are internationally recognized.
The Antarctic Peninsula is the most rapidly warming part of the continent. It provides clues and information for scientists to understand climate change further, predict future climate and hopefully impact the way environmental laws and policies and formed.
The warming is not only restricted to land but also to the water. The warming is not only altering the fragile ecosystem but also leading to the collapse of ice shelves which further lead to melting of glaciers which in turn lead to sea level rise. Just as the collapse of ice shelves like the Larsen A and Larsen B did the rounds on the internet in the past, history is repeating itself and now it’s time for the Larsen C ice shelf to be in the news. Research has shown that this ice shelf does not have much longer, as it becomes highly unstable with each passing day.
Collapsing ice shelves means that glaciers will begin to melt faster into the ocean and that directly means a sea level rise. India has a coastline of 7,500km and millions of people living within 100 meters of the water. The Larsen C ice shelf is much bigger than the Larsen B was, and when that had collapsed back in 2005 it accelerated the flow of tributary glaciers by 300-800%. Collapse of the Larsen C could see the sea level rise by up to 10cm. This is half of the sea level rise we have seen in the last century put together.
Through my trip I saw some of the most beautiful landscapes. Mountains covered with snow, icebergs that looked like an artist had sculpted them from scratch and clear blue skies. It’s a shame that at the rate at which we’re going today, those might cease to exist tomorrow.
There are a number you things you can do in your daily lives to help alter the path we’ve put Antarctica on today. I BELIEVE that we can still save the last great wilderness left on our planet. The change begins with YOU! Start small but aim big! I will be highlighting some of the things you, your community and country can do to help the environment! This was a comprehensive list we came up with on our expedition! watch out for the next post!