All posts by Elena Dreher

Comparison: Arctic and Antarctica

Our explorers are traveling around the North Pole through the Arctic. However, there is a second polar region on the other – the southern – side of the globe, the Antarctic. Are there any differences between them, you ask? Absolutely!
The greatest difference is how these huge ice landscapes are being connected with what’s underneath the ice. The Arctic is an ice cap which is more or less floating on top of the Arctic Ocean; there is no actual land! On the other hand the Antarctic is a proper continent where the ice is sitting on the land and not on water. The Antarctic land is only surrounded by water, the Antarctic Ocean.
But that’s not all! The seasonal variations of the ice extent are greater in the southern region. In summer at the South Pole there is four times less ice (4 million square kilometers) than in the southern winter (20 million square kilometers). Furthermore, the southern continental ice can be up to 5 kilometers thick, its sea ice only up to 2 meters which almost melts completely in summer again whereas the northern sea ice reaches from a few centimeters to 5 meters. As there is only water underneath the Arctic, there is no continental ice. In the summer most of the annual new sea ice in the Arctic will melt, leaving behind only centimeters and the thicker ice of several years.
Also, with an annual mean temperature of -49°C in the Antarctic it is a lot colder than in the Arctic, with ‘only’ -18°C.

The Arctic Ocean

The vast white environment our explorers Bernice, Eric and Martin are going to be a part of for the next 7 weeks on their way to Canada is the ice landscape of the Arctic. This region is actually a swimming ice-covered surface which is floating in the Arctic Ocean. Often the Arctic Ocean is categorized as the smallest and shallowest ocean of the world. Sometimes it is just assumed to be an adjacent sea of the Atlantic Ocean.
Due to the cold water temperatures of the Arctic Ocean it is covered by ice most time of the year. The Arctic Ocean is a saltwater body but compared to the other oceans the degree of salt content is the lowest because there is only little evaporation at the North Pole.
If you would break the Arctic ice you could find water depths of averagely 1 kilometer. The deepest points are even 6 kilometers deep. However, if you would like to walk around the whole Arctic along its coast line, you would need to walk a distance of 45,000 kilometers. The Arctic Ocean itself is 14 million square kilometers big, almost as big as Russia.
A phenomenon which can be observed since recently is that ships can travel through the Arctic Oceans with little difficulty as there is less frozen ice hindering the ships on their journey. However, this also means destructions of the habitat of local animals like whales, walruses and polar bears. Especially polar bears depend on the sea ice as they are living on the ice. That’s why this expedition is so important to raise awareness of global warming and the resulting melting of the polar ice caps.