January 23, 2017
The Arctic is one of the world’s last great wildernesses. It’s a fascinating part of our planet that’s bursting with interesting facts. Here, we’ve put our heads together in the Expeditions Online office and have come up with a compelling list of facts about the Arctic, to show you just how fascinating it is.
The Arctic is the northernmost part of the planet. Scientists define this as the area above the Arctic Circle (66 degrees, 33 minutes North) which is an imaginary line that circles the top of the globe, over 1400 nautical miles south of the North Pole. Other definitions of the Arctic include temperature zones, tundra distribution and political boundaries.
The Arctic refers to the Arctic Ocean (international waters), and parts of 8 other countries: Canada, Russia, USA, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.
Is the North Pole on land?
No! In 1958, submarine USS Nautilus sailed beneath the Arctic Ocean’s frozen ice. This was proof that the North Pole is on sea ice, and not land.
Land of the midnight sun
Each year within the Arctic Circle, there is at least one full day (24 hours) of full darkness and at least one day of complete light in summer. This happens due to the tilt and position of the Earth. The further North you go in the Arctic, the longer this polar day or night becomes.
How cold is it in the Arctic?
The lowest recorded winter temperature in the Arctic is a chilly -68 degrees Celsius. Summer days however can be well above freezing. The Antarctic is even colder than the Arctic with the coldest recorded temperature being -94.7 degrees Celsius! Global warming has increased Arctic temperatures in recent years, but it remains rather cold!
The Arctic population
There are around 4 million people living in Arctic regions. Many of them have developed unique cultures and perfected ways in which to work with and flourish within the unique and harsh environment of the Arctic.
The wildlife that flourish in the Arctic
In the Arctic, at various times of the year, you’ll be able to see Whales, Arctic Fox, Polar Bear, Walrus and Narwhals – the unicorn of the sea. The Grey Whale migrates between Mexico and the Arctic each year, travelling back and forth and clocking up around 12,500 miles. Vast quantities of migratory birds also nest and feed on islands and coastlines to take advantage of the rich waters.
Can plants grow in the Arctic?
There are herbs, mosses, lichens and some shrubs which flourish in the Arctic despite the cold. In fact, the treeless tundra, consisting of dwarf shrubs and grasses growing on frozen ground, covers a massive 11 million square kilometres of area.
How did the Arctic get its name?
The name ‘Arctic’ comes from the Greek word ‘Arktikos’ – which means ‘near the bear’. This refers to the star constellations, ‘little bear’ and ‘great bear’ which can be seen in the region.
The size of the Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean is 14 million square kilometres – that’s bigger than the landmass of Europe.
The Arctic and climate change
The Arctic is experiencing noticeable warming in recent decades and this is resulting in retreating glaciers and changes in sensitive ecosystems. The Arctic ice contains 10% of the world’s fresh water. It plays a very important role in keeping our climate and sea levels stable. If all the Arctic ice melted, global sea levels would rise by around 7 metres. However, if all the Antarctic ice melted, global sea levels would rise by a staggering 60 metres!
These Arctic facts underline the fact that the Arctic is a fascinating place as well as an amazing destination. If you would love to visit the ‘top of the world’, visit expeditionsonline.com to start planning your very own Arctic adventure this year.
In the meantime, check out our blog for further information like this list of facts on Arctic and Antarctic life and climate through to how to prepare for your first polar expedition through to where to spot King Penguins or Polar Bears.