NW Passage

15 August 2017
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Antarctica facts

14 January 2015 | Rambler Harbour, Bragg Islands
We are lying in a protected cove between a few snow and ice islands, awaiting the wind to pass. From time to time a large iceberg tries to intrude into our cove with the rising tide. Sylvain built a snowman on the back of the boat. We start having our first frostbites.

Today is a rest day, unless we get chased away by an iceberg, and we did some reading.

Did you know that:
- Antarctica's territory is 14.1m km2, which makes it a huge continent;
- Antarctica's highest mountain is called Mt Vinson with 4892m, and the average height of the continent is 2200m, making it the most elevated in the world;
- The inland ice shield is over 4000m thick in places, on average 2700m, as a result in some places the ice shield's enormous weight has depressed the underlying landmass by 1600m (!);
- Antarctica is the world's driest continent, classified as a desert (not on the coast here though, as we can confirm...);
- The sea ice can extend more than 1000km from the coast;
- Its largest ice shelf, the Ross Ice Shelf, is the size of France, is several hundred meters thick, and floats on the seawater;
- The Southern Ocean comprises 10% of the world's oceans, and is the most biologically abundant in the world;
- There is no vegetation, and no land animals on the continent, but abundant marine life. Seals, whales, penguins, fish and seabirds all live here or come down here over the summer to feed on the krill and plankton in the water.;
- The lowest temperature on earth was recorded in 1983 at Russia's Vostok station at -89.6 C
- In excess of 30,000 tourists visit Antarctica each year, of which 95% by cruise ships (there are about 40 of them offering trips to Antarctica);
- About 4500 scientists are in Antarctica in the summer. Over 40 research stations have been established by 27 countries. The US base on the South Pole has up to 2,000 researchers during summer;
- There are territorial claims by 7 nations (UK, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, France, Norway) plus proxy claims by 2 nations (US, Russia)
- The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 and renewed in 2012 for another 50 years. It prohibits nuclear explosions and oil/mineral exploration, protects Antarctica's species, manages fishing, and guarantees freedom of science. So far, it has been signed by over 50 nations. Switzerland has signed but not yet ratified the Antarctic Treaty (shame on Switzerland!).
Vessel Name: Libellule
Hailing Port: Switzerland
Crew: The Cottier family on s/v Libellule
Extra: Caribbean - Greenland/Iceland - NW Passage - South Pacific - Antarctic Peninsula - Svalbard
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