Differences Between the Arctic & Antarctica

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Antarctica, or the south pole region, is a continent which is covered with an immense ice shelf. The Arctic region, however, is mainly located in the north polar ocean and includes several larger islands such as Greenland, Spitzbergen, Franz Josef Land, Severnaya Zemlya Wrangel Island, Bank Island, Victoria Island, Ellesmere Island and various others that all boarder countries like Russia, Canada, Alaska and Greenland. The north polar ocean is covered by year round ice caps that generally extend far south during the Arctic winter and are made up of around 16 million square kilometers of ice. Polar bears live solely in the Arctic areas, while penguins on the other hand, are found in the southern Antarctic regions. For that reason polar bears and penguins never cross paths.

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  • Arctic

    The Arctic

    Unlike Antarctica, the Arctic is not a continent which is the predominant different between the two polar regions. Under the massive ice cap of the Arctic lies the Arctic Ocean whose depths reach 15,000 feet below the surface. Often times the two polar regions are confused due to their having such similar names. The Arctic was discovered by Phoenician sailors years before the common era (CE). They named the newly discovered region after a polar star which guided them to the end of the earth. The star was called “Arktos” by the Greeks during this time which meant “land of the big bear”. Coincidentally, this title helps many people remember that polar bears are found in the Arctic rather than Antarctica. Also found in the Arctic region is the arctic fox, different species of seals and whales, puffins, fulmars, and other bird species.

    Though the Arctic is obviously a very cold region, it is still much warmer than Antarctica in the South. Known as “the land of the midnight sun,” the Arctic is located in a landmass above 12 frozen feet of ice.

    Antarctic

    Antarctica

    The most striking fact about the Antarctic continent is its almost complete glaciation. One of the most defining characteristics of this frozen region is the tremendous ice mountains. The average temperature in Antarctica is -55°C, and the continent covers the entire area from the South Pole to the southern polar circle.

    Unlike the Arctic region, Antarctica was only discovered in the nineteenth century. As it was located opposite the already discovered Arctic region it simply earned the name Antarctica. Today, Antarctica is a continent of its own and is covered by a massive ice sheet 2.8 miles thick in some areas. In addition, Antarctica is surrounded by immense ice fields, which are an enormous network of interconnected valleys with high peaks.

    Antarctica is home to various species of penguins, seals, whales, and birds. The massive ice desert measures 14 million square kilometers but is still the second smallest of the planet’s continents at about twice the size of Australia. Other than various scientists that are almost always present in the area, Antarctica is the world’s only completely uninhabited continent.

    The Similarities between the Arctic Cruises and Antarctic Cruises

    Arctic & Antarctica Similarities

    1) Polar Position
    Polar summer / Polar winter

    2) Ice Coverage
    Internal ice mass on mainland areas with glacial subsidence, formation of ocean, and pack ice in the north polar ocean of the Arctic and the Weddell and Ross seas in Antarctica.

    3) Climate
    Dry, cold, ozone hole.

    4) Paleoclimatic Importance
    Drilling cores enable reconstruction 200,000 to 800,000 years back.

    5) Oceanographic Importance
    Deep water production by accumulation of salt and formation of ice in the north polar ocean and the Labrador sea in the Arctic and the Weddell and Ross seas in Antarctica.

    6) Environmental Issues
    Atomic waste in the Arctic, problem of refuse disposal and crude oil in the Antarctic.

    The Differences between Arctica Cruises and Antarctic Cruises

    Arctic & Antarctica Differences

     

    Arctic

    Antarctica

     

    Extension

    As far as 60 degrees north

    As far as 50 degrees south

    Geology and relief

    Arctic mostly ocean, plate boundary (volcanism), in Greenland old metamorphic stones.

    Antarctica is a continent, a long geological evolution created a variety of stones and mountain ranges up to 3,794 meters.

    Climate and Oceanography

    Arctic is made of various bodies surrounded by ocean waters and is affected by the warm waters of the gulf stream.

    Antarctica is a single main body with a circumpolar stream which allows little circulation of heat from other regions. This leads to extreme low temperatures and is the reason for the existing ice sheet.

    Flora

    Tundra, flowering plants

    Almost no vegetation, mostly Lichens

    Fauna

    Marine mammals like polar bears, walrus, seals, and whales. Terrestrial mammals like wolves, foxes, hares, lemmings, reindeer, and oxen.

    Marine mammals like penguins, whales, and seals.

    Population

    Indigenous population (Inuits, Indians, Siberians) and enduring settlements

    Historically deserted though today there are impermanent settlements for scientists.

    Political status

    Arctic territory belongs to different countries

    There are claims of sovereignty by different countries though this sovereignty is not universally recognized around the world.

    Mineral resources, commodities

    Little non-ferrous metal, regional carbon

    Rich sources of ferrous and non-ferrous metal, crude oil and natural gas

    Fishing

    Fishing close to mainland

    Nutrient richness has led to fishing an whaling

    Research

    Important research area and site of military presence

    Important international research stations