May 16, 2019 #ChileDiverse #Tourism and Sport.

A journey to the Antarctic continent

It has an area of 14,000,000 square kilometers, with an average elevation of 2,000 meters above sea level, and Mount Vinson stands out as the highest elevation on the continent at 4,897 meters above sea level. Ninety-eight percent of the surface is covered by ice and contains the largest natural glacial mantle on the planet, with glaciers with depths exceeding 3,000 meters. A unique landscape, which becomes even more singular due to the light conditions: in the summer there is no night and therefore there is a sunset/sunrise effect that lasts several hours.

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Order in Antarctica

This continent is governed by the Antarctic Treaty, in force since 1961, which establishes the legal framework for its management and regulation. In short, it establishes a series of rules for its care and preservation: use only for peaceful purposes, prohibition of weapons testing, freedom of research and scientific cooperation, freezing of territorial claims and prohibition of nuclear testing, among others.

Most of the countries subscribed to the treaty maintain scientific research stations in Antarctica. Chile has four permanent bases (operating all year round) plus four summer bases, in addition to several shelters.

King George Island

King George Island, which is part of the South Shetland South Shetland Islandsis located about 120 kilometers off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, between the Drake Passage to the north and the Bransfield Strait to the south, and hosts a good number of Antarctic bases: Russia, China, Chile, South Korea, the United States and Poland, among other countries, have facilities there.

The Chilean base President Eduardo Frei Montalvaon King George Island, is the largest base in Chile and one of the main ones in Antarctica. It is located on the Fildes Peninsula and is neighboring the Escudero Base (also Chilean) and the Bellingshausen Base (Russia). It has an aerodrome for common use and includes the village of Villa las Estrellas, which houses an average of 72 people during the winter and more than 150 in summer. It has several services, including a hospital, a school, a bank, a small supermarket, a post office and a chapel. The population of Villa las Estrellas is divided into scientists and members of the Inach (Chilean Antarctic Institute), Chilean Air Force (FACH) personnel in charge of the airstrip and civilians who serve as teachers for the children of the personnel at the school, a bank official and other civil servants who work at the post office, the civil registry and the hospital.

Flora and Fauna

The flora and fauna in Antarctica is mainly limited to the coastal areas. The Antarctic flora is composed of the so-called lower plants: algae, fungi, lichens and mosses, which live in the few places free of ice. The snow is often colored yellow, red or green by the presence of "snow algae". There are no trees and vegetation is limited to 350 species.

The closest thing to an Antarctic garden. An estimated 160 million years ago, Antarctica had lush tropical vegetation. Credit: Juan Cristobal Hurtado of Ladera Sur.

The sea is directly or indirectly the only source of resources for the animals that inhabit Antarctica both temporarily and permanently.
No terrestrial vertebrate animals inhabit the interior of the continent. Invertebrates can be found, however, especially mites and ticks that can tolerate low temperatures.

Among the birds, there are five genera of penguins, three of which migrate during the winter to lower latitudes; the other two - the Emperor and Adelie penguins - remain all year round in Antarctica.

You can also find birds such as the Dominican gull, the brown gull or skua and several varieties of petrels: checkerboard or cape pigeon, black and white. The Antarctic pigeon usually remains if there is food all year round on the continent. Cormorants and albatrosses can also be seen.
The marine fauna is represented by scarce fish, krill, seals and whales, and along this continent it is possible to identify 5 species of seals: the elephant seal, the sea leopard, and the Ross, Weddell and crabeater seals, together with the popular sea lion.

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