Polar Regions

The Arctic (North Pole)

Polar Regions are the ice-covered and beautiful areas around the far south and north ends of the globe. These two freezing global terminal points are recognised as the North and South Pole and the continental regions of Arctic and Antarctica settle in these two polar coordinates respectively. The Polar Regions remain wrapped up in thick ice-blanket throughout the year. The weather is very cold, far below freezing temperatures, all year around in both North and South Pole. Bitter cold winds whip the earth's Polar Regions and so, these vast and remote territories are difficult to access. Weather plays a wild game in the Polar Regions. During the winter, the sun never rises for six months at a stretch and in the summer the sunshine, no matter how much gleam, refuses to put off for next half of the year. Although the two global ends remain shrouded by clouds and hardly habitable due to hostile environmental conditions, Arctic and Antarctica are vital determinants of global climate. With miles of ice laden landscape, towering heights and smooth slopes of glaciers and frozen sea surface the Polar Regions fare well as tourism destinations. Polar bears, penguins, seals, whales, and walrus are a few of the wildlife that live in these very cold regions. However, harsh weather conditions and lack of transportation due to remoteness of the rugged landscape have limited the access to the regions. Generally, scientists and people on expeditions are the sole visitor to Polar Regions. In the recent past, the frequency of the visits and expeditions by various nations has increased after it was suspected that valuable oil and mineral resources was available in the Polar Regions.
To understand the Polar Regions better, it is discussed as two separate topics of North Pole and South Pole rather than a combination of both. The reason for this segregation is justified by the fact that except polarised location, freezing temperatures and thick ice-beds, there are hardly any common factors between the two ends. The difference between North Pole and South Pole or Arctic and Antarctica is best presented through the sea and animal life; polar bears are found in the Arctic, while penguins are found in the Antarctic.


Antarctica (South Pole)

The southern polar region or the southern end of the earth's axis is called the South Pole. It was first reached by Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, in 1911 Antarctica. Today the Ceremonial South Pole or central point of this Polar Region is marked by the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The South Pole is also home to the fifth largest continent in the world, the Antarctica. Surrounded by ice and water, this ice-covered continent takes away nearly 8.9% of the earth’s surface area. It has an area of 13,200,000 sq km and has no permanent population. With chilling conditions that rarely gets above freezing even in summer, Antarctica is the largest desert in the world with only thick ice layers replacing the typical sands. The continent has many more superlatives attached to it. Antarctica is the one with the highest average altitude, the lowest average humidity as well as the lowest average temperature of any continent on Earth. The conditions are best explained by statistics and figures like the temperatures reach a minimum of between -85 and -90 degrees Celsius (-121 and -130 degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter and about 30 degrees higher in the summer months. Thus it is the driest, coldest and windiest place on earth. Amazingly, in this isolated continent surrounding the South Pole, most of Antarctica's land lies beneath ice and snow that is almost two km thick. It has high mountains and glaciers and home to the beautiful penguins. Geographically, Antarctica is divided into two significant parts according to their location around the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. The part of the continent to the west of the Weddell Sea and east of the Ross Sea is called Western Antarctica and the remaining half of it is known as the Eastern Antarctica. Following the Antarctic Treaty, peaceful inhabitation is allowed in this part of the Polar Region. Moreover, Antarctica has active territorial claims submitted by Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom. Antarctica is also one of eight terrestrial eco zones in the world that includes Antarctica itself and several island groups in the southern Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
The northern Polar Region is recognised as the North Pole. It is also often referred to as the Arctic. The core of Arctic lies in a huge aqua existence, the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic Ocean has many thousands of big and small islands and is almost surrounded by land that includes the northern parts of Europe, Asia and North America. Just like South Pole, this Polar Region remains covered all year round by ice that drifts about the North Pole. However, in some parts of Arctic, weather conditions and geological features are more supportive towards human existence as well as plant life. Part of the Arctic fringe is tundra covered with low grass plains. And despite the fact that most of the ocean is frozen, there are areas where the Inuit people live in this Polar Region.
The North Pole of the Polar Regions is divided into several separate categories. The Geographic North Pole being the northern end of Earth's axis is located at about latitude 90°N but the Magnetic North Pole continues to shift and is located at approximately 82°N and 114°W in the Queen Elizabeth Islands of northern Canada. On the other side, the Arctic is defined as a partially snow-covered land area around the North Pole. Taking into geo-political features, Arctic region signifies parts of Russia, Alaska (United States), Canada, Greenland (a territory of Denmark), Iceland and Scandinavia that is spread over Norway, Sweden and Finland. Even the saline existence of the Arctic Ocean is also considered part of this region. Incidentally, an imaginary line located at 66º, 30'N latitude is assumed as a guideline to distinguish between the northern and southernmost part of the Arctic. This segregation also signifies the difference of the Polar Regions with the midnight sun and the polar night. Referred as the Land of the Midnight Sun, the Arctic region has some indigenous culture attached to it. The native Eskimos or Inuits have inhabited the area for over 9,000 years, and have sustained till date on their traditional hunting and fishing activities and reside in Igloos (traditional ice houses). It is believed that the first expedition to this part of the Polar Region have been made on April 6, 1909 by African-American Matthew Henson, Anglo-American Navy engineer Robert Edwin Peary, and four Inuit men named Ootah, Seegloo, Egingway and Ooqueah. From the several successful expeditions to the Arctic, or the North Pole in broader sense, were made by mainly United States of America and the then undivided Russia. Today, it is a region of immense importance that is the central point of international political interest. It also houses the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), and hundreds of scientists and specialists who are in search of quality information about this yet-to-be-explored Polar Region. Though the Arctic has never been under the political control of any nation, two military decorations of the Arctic Service Ribbon and Coast Guard Arctic Service Medal were established for military duty performed within the Arctic Circle.

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