10 Chilling Facts About Earth’s Southernmost Continent

Published on June 3, 2024

Credit: henrique setim

Under a cold and desolate façade, Antarctica - the icy continent at the bottom of the world - hides a myriad of mysteries and wonders. From its stunning landscapes to its unique wildlife, this frozen wilderness is one of the most intriguing places on Earth.

Grab your coat and join us in an expedition through 10 fascinating facts about the white continent.


Desert of Ice

Credit: NOAA

Despite its vast ice cover, Antarctica is considered a desert because of its low precipitation levels. In fact, it's the driest continent on Earth, with some areas receiving less than 2 inches of precipitation per year. And given the fact that Antarctica’s ice sheet holds around 60% of the world’s freshwater, it is certainly a paradoxical desert!


Coldest Place on Earth

Credit: Aaron Burden

This one might sound a bit obvious, but hold your horses. Antarctica is not only the coldest continent on Earth but also holds the record for the lowest temperature ever recorded , a bone-chilling -128.6°F. The extreme cold recorded was likely due to the continent's high elevation, ice cover, and lack of air moisture.


Penguin Paradise

Credit: Danielle Barnes

Antarctica is home to several species of penguins, including the iconic Emperor Penguin. These flightless birds are perfectly adapted to the harsh Antarctic conditions, with layers of blubber and tightly packed feathers to keep them warm in subzero temperatures. Despite often being found in remote locations, these charming animals are currently endangered due to the effects of climate change and the warming of oceanic waters.


Ozone Hole

Credit: Zoltan Tasi

While ozone-depleting gasses are emitted all over the planet, holes in the ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere often form in extremely cold regions, due to various meteorological phenomena unique to these areas. The Antarctic ozone hole was first discovered in the 1980s and led to the ban of chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which deplete ozone molecules, in commercial applications. However, despite international efforts to reduce these emissions, the ozone hole persists, albeit at a reduced size.


Iceberg Homeland

Credit: 66 north

Almost 93% of the world's mass of icebergs is found surrounding Antarctica. These frozen giants are often formed when the massive ice shelves and glaciers found in the continent naturally break off and float away, usually drifting northward into the Southern Atlantic. Some icebergs in this region can be as large as small countries, posing a hazard to maritime navigation.


Miracle Microbes

Credit: National Cancer Institute

In the frigid waters beneath Antarctica's ice shelves, scientists have discovered thriving communities of microbes. These extremophiles, capable of surviving in extreme cold and darkness, play a crucial role in Antarctic ecosystems and could even offer insights into life's potential on other planets.


Great Explorers

Credit: Torsten Dederichs

Antarctica has a rich history of exploration, from the early expeditions of pioneers like Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton to modern scientific research missions. The continent remains one of the last frontiers on Earth, with much of its interior still unexplored. Interestingly, astronauts are often sent to Antarctic bases during the dark winter months as training for the similarly unforgiving conditions found in space.


Midnight Sun

Credit: NOAA

During the Antarctic summer, the sun doesn't set for several months in regions south of the Antarctic Circle, leading to continuous daylight. This strange phenomenon, known as the midnight sun, provides ample opportunity for scientific research and exploration, as well as relatively improved weather conditions. Temperatures as high as 64.9 °F have been recorded, though the average is far lower, around 32 °F most of the time.


Antarctic Treaty

Credit: Torsten Dederichs

In 1959, twelve countries signed the Antarctic Treaty, establishing Antarctica as a scientific preserve and banning military activity on the continent. Today, the treaty has been ratified by 54 countries, fostering international cooperation in Antarctic research and environmental protection.


Subglacial Lakes

Credit: Cristian Palmer

Beneath Antarctica's ice sheet lie numerous subglacial lakes, hidden from view for millions of years. These lakes, kept liquid by geothermal heat, could harbor unique forms of life and provide clues to Earth's past climate. Among these, Lake Vostok is the largest of Antarctica's known subglacial lakes, and - with an estimated volume of 1,300 cu mi - also the 6th largest lake in the world by volume.


10 Outlandish Street Foods from Across the Globe

Published on June 3, 2024

Credit: Xiaolong Wong

Ever tasted a witchetty grub in the Australian outback? Or a live octopus mouthful? Well, if you are up for the culinary adventure, we shall embark on one as we explore the eccentric world of street food.

From peculiar flavor combinations to downright unusual ingredients, these bizarre bites from around the globe prove that when it comes to satisfying our taste buds, there are no boundaries.


Balut - Philippines

Credit: Rebekah Howell

A street food that is bound to raise some eyebrows, balut is a fertilized duck embryo boiled and enjoyed with a pinch of salt. The dish, often sold by street vendors at night, particularly in the Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam, is not only a protein-packed snack but also a cultural delicacy with a devoted fan base.


Sannakji - South Korea

Credit: Maciej Gerszewski

Daredevils in South Korea might indulge in sannakji (also styled san-nakji ), a live octopus sashimi. As the tiny octopus is sometimes swallowed whole, the wriggling tentacles provide an unusual sensory experience, as diners grapple with the dish's subtle yet distinct flavor. If you are up to the challenge, chew cautiously, as the still working suction cups of the octopus can cling to the inside of your mouth!


Haggis Pakora - Scotland

Credit: Andreas Haslinger

A fusion that defies tradition, haggis pakora combines the Scottish staple haggis (sheep's heart, liver, and lungs) with the Indian delight of deep-fried pakoras (vegetables seasoned in gram flour batter). The result is a wonderfully spicy, eclectic street snack that marries two distant culinary worlds. Talk about globalization, right?


Fried Tarantulas - Cambodia

Credit: Damon On Road

For the brave-hearted foodies, Cambodia offers a peculiarly crunchy delicacy—fried tarantulas. Seasoned and deep-fried until crispy, these arachnids are a very popular street food, believed to be rich in protein and even a cure for back pain, according to local folklore. While it is not clear how the practice started, some believe that Cambodians began to eat spiders out of desperation during a great famine.


Stinky Tofu - China

Credit: Yu Jinyang

Ever forgotten a piece of tofu for months in the back of your fridge? If that’s the case, the pungent aroma of this Chinese delicacy might bring you bad memories. But don’t let that deter you from experiencing this traditional dish! Fermented to perfection, stinky tofu's unique odor contrasts with its delicious taste. Often served deep-fried as a side dish or directly in soups, it's a staple for daring food enthusiasts. Just don’t try making some at home, or you might end up with food poisoning.


Khash - Middle East and Central Asia

Credit: Xinyi W.

Khash is a warming, yet peculiar, dish made from boiled cow or sheep's hooves. Typically enjoyed in the winter months, this gelatinous soup-like concoction is believed to have medicinal properties, and it is often accompanied by wine. It's an acquired taste, but it might prove refreshing for those seeking unique new flavors.


Rocky Mountain Oysters - USA

Credit: Devin Lyster

Hailing from the American West, the deceptively named Rocky Mountain Oysters are not seafood of any kind—much less oysters—but rather deep-fried bull testicles. Often served as an appetizer, with a side of hot sauce, these mountain "oysters" are a testament to the inventive ways people have to make use of every part of an animal.


Ant Brood Tacos - Mexico

Credit: Salmen Bejaoui

Tired of conventional tacos? Mexico has an adventurous alternative for you—ant brood tacos. In some regions of Mexico, ant larvae are harvested directly from their nests, to be then cooked and served in tortillas. The prepared larvae, a dish in itself called escamoles , reportedly has a nutty flavor with a hint of citrus, with some calling it Mexican caviar . If you are willing to stomach the first impression, it is a true delicacy for anyone seeking exotic tastes.


Fugu - Japan

Credit: Stelio Puccinelli

Fugu, a type of pufferfish, is a Japanese delicacy that comes with a twist—it's lethally poisonous if not prepared correctly. Licensed chefs meticulously remove the toxic parts, leaving behind a unique and potentially dangerous dish that's highly sought after by thrill-seeking foodies. The dish has been prepared in Japan for centuries, and for those who have tasted it, it is said to be worthy of death.


Witchetty Grub - Australia

Credit: Robert Gunnarsson

Aboriginal Australians have long embraced witchetty grub as a traditional food source. Eaten raw or lightly cooked, these large wood-boring larvae are rich in protein and have a nutty taste, similar to almonds. When cooked, they become crispy with a soft inside and a texture similar to a fried egg. Although this dish might not look very inviting, if you happen to visit the Down Under, give it a try! You might be in for a pleasant surprise.

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