East Antarctica

East Antarctica, also called Greater Antarctica, constitutes the majority (two-thirds) of the Antarctic continent, lying on the Indian Ocean side of the continent, separated from West Antarctica by the Transantarctic Mountains. It lies almost entirely within the Eastern Hemisphere and its name has been accepted for more than a century. It is generally higher than West Antarctica and includes the Gamburtsev Mountain Range in the centre.

Apart from small areas of the coast, East Antarctica is permanently covered by ice. The only terrestrial plant life is lichens, mosses and algae clinging to rocks, and there are a limited range of invertebrates including nematodes, springtails, mites and midges. The coasts are the breeding ground for various seabirds and penguins, and the leopard seal, Weddell seal, elephant seal, crabeater seal and Ross seal breed on the surrounding pack ice in summer.

Eastern Antarctica on the right.
Sea Ice and Icebergs off East Antarctica
Image of a variety of ice types off the coast of East Antarctica.

Location and description

Almost completely covered in thick, permanent ice, East Antarctica comprises Coats Land, Queen Maud Land, Enderby Land, Kemp Land, Mac. Robertson Land, Princess Elizabeth Land, Wilhelm II Land, Queen Mary Land, Wilkes Land, Adélie Land, George V Land, Oates Land and Victoria Land. All but a small portion of this region lies within the Eastern Hemisphere, a fact that has suggested the name. The name has been in existence for more than 90 years (Balch, 1902; Nordenskjöld, 1904), but its greatest use followed the International Geophysical Year (1957–58) and explorations disclosing that the Transantarctic Mountains, provide a useful regional separation of East Antarctica and West Antarctica. The name was approved in the United States by the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names (US-ACAN) in 1962. East Antarctica is generally higher than West Antarctica, and is considered the coldest place on Earth.

The subglacial Gamburtsev Mountain Range, about the size of the European Alps, in the center of East Antarctica, are believed to have been the nucleation site for the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, just underneath Dome A.

Flora and fauna

Very little of East Antarctica is not covered with ice. The small areas that remain free of ice (Antarctic oasis), including the McMurdo Dry Valleys inland, constitute a tundra-type biodiversity region known as Maudlandia Antarctic desert, after Queen Maud Land. There are no trees or shrubs, as only very limited plant life can survive here; the flora consists of lichens, moss, and algae that are adapted to the cold and wind, and cling to rocks.

The coasts are home to seabirds, penguins, and seals, which feed in the surrounding ocean, including the emperor penguin, which famously breeds in the cold, dark Antarctic winter.

Seabirds of the coast include southern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialoides), the scavenging southern giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus), Cape petrel (Daption capense), snow petrel (Pagodroma nivea), the small Wilson's storm-petrel (Oceanites oceanicus), the large south polar skua (Catharacta maccormicki), and Antarctic petrel (Thalassoica antarctica).

The seals of the Antarctic Ocean include leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx), Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii), the huge southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina), crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophagus) and Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossii).

There are no large land animals but bacteria, nematodes, springtails, mites, and midges live on the mosses and lichens.[1]

Threats and preservation

The remote and extremely cold bulk of Antarctica remains almost entirely untouched by human intervention. The area is protected by the Antarctic Treaty System which bans industrial development, waste disposal and nuclear testing, while the Barwick Valley, one of the Dry Valleys, and Cryptogam Ridge on Mount Melbourne are specially protected areas for their undisturbed plant life.

See also


  1. ^ "Maudlandia Antarctic desert". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Geological Survey document "East Antarctica" (content from the Geographic Names Information System).

External links

Coordinates: 80°S 80°E / 80°S 80°E

Antarctic Plateau

The Antarctic Plateau, or Polar Plateau or Haakon VII Plateau, is a large area of East Antarctica which extends over a diameter of about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi), and includes the region of the geographic South Pole and the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station. This huge continental plateau is at an average elevation of about 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) high.

Cape Hallett

Cape Hallett is a snow-free area (Antarctic oasis) on the northern tip of the Hallett Peninsula on the Ross Sea coast of Victoria Land, East Antarctica. Cape Adare lies 100 km (62 mi) to the north.

East Antarctic Shield

The East Antarctic Shield or Craton is a cratonic rock body that covers 10.2 million square kilometers or roughly 73% of the continent of Antarctica. The shield is almost entirely buried by the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that has an average thickness of 2200 meters but reaches up to 4700 meters in some locations. East Antarctica is separated from West Antarctica by the 100–300 kilometer wide Transantarctic Mountains, which span nearly 3,500 kilometers from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea. The East Antarctic Shield is then divided into an extensive central craton (Mawson craton) that occupies most of the continental interior and various other marginal cratons that are exposed along the coast.

Geography of Antarctica

The geography of Antarctica is dominated by its south polar location and, thus, by ice. The Antarctic continent, located in the Earth's southern hemisphere, is centered asymmetrically around the South Pole and largely south of the Antarctic Circle. It is washed by the Southern (or Antarctic) Ocean or, depending on definition, the southern Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. It has an area of more than 14 million km².

Some 98% of Antarctica is covered by the Antarctic ice sheet, the world's largest ice sheet and also its largest reservoir of fresh water. Averaging at least 1.6 km thick, the ice is so massive that it has depressed the continental bedrock in some areas more than 2.5 km below sea level; subglacial lakes of liquid water also occur (e.g., Lake Vostok). Ice shelves and rises populate the ice sheet on the periphery.

In September 2018, researchers at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency released a high resolution terrain map (detail down to the size of a car, and less in some areas) of Antarctica, named the "Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica" (REMA).

Geology of Antarctica

The geology of Antarctica covers the geological development of the continent through the Proterozoic Eon, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras.

More than 170 million years ago, Antarctica was part of the supercontinent Gondwana. Over time Gondwana broke apart and Antarctica as we know it today was formed around 35 million years ago.

King Haakon VII Sea

King Haakon VII Sea (Norwegian: Kong Haakon VII Hav) is a proposed name for part of the Southern Ocean on the coast of East Antarctica.

Lambert Glacier

Lambert Glacier is a major glacier in East Antarctica. At about 60 miles (100 km) wide, over 250 miles (400 km) long, and about 2,500 m deep, it holds the Guinness world record for the world's largest glacier. It drains 8% of the Antarctic ice sheet to the east and south of the Prince Charles Mountains and flows northward to the Amery Ice Shelf. It flows in part of Lambert Graben and exits the continent at Prydz Bay.

This glacier was delineated and named in 1952 by American geographer John H. Roscoe who made a detailed study of this area from aerial photographs taken by Operation Highjump, 1946–47. He gave the name "Baker Three Glacier", using the code name of the Navy photographic aircraft and crew that made three flights in this coastal area in March 1947 resulting in geographic discoveries. The glacier was described in Gazetteer No. 14, Geographic Names of Antarctica (U.S. Board on Geographic Names, 1956), but the feature did not immediately appear on published maps. As a result the name Lambert Glacier, as applied by the Antarctic Names Committee of Australia in 1957 following mapping of the area by Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions in 1956, has become established for this feature. It was named for Bruce P. Lambert, Director of National Mapping in the Australian Department of National Development.

Mac. Robertson Land

Mac. Robertson Land is the portion of Antarctica lying southward of the coast between William Scoresby Bay and Cape Darnley. It is located at 70°00′S 65°00′E. In the east, Mac. Robertson Land includes the Prince Charles Mountains. It was named by the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) (1929-1931), under Sir Douglas Mawson, after Sir Macpherson Robertson of Melbourne, a patron of the expedition.From 1965 onwards, members of the SAE (Soviet Antarctic Expeditions) began undertaking geological fieldwork in the Prince Charles Mountains, eventually establishing a base, Soyuz Station, on the eastern shore of Beaver Lake in the northern Prince Charles Mountains.

Mawson Station

The Mawson Station, commonly called Mawson, is one of three permanent bases and research outposts in Antarctica managed by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). Mawson lies in Holme Bay in Mac Robertson Land, East Antarctica in the Australian Antarctic Territory, a territory claimed by Australia. Established in 1954, Mawson is Australia's oldest Antarctic station and the oldest continuously inhabited Antarctic station south of the Antarctic Circle.Mawson was named in honour of Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.Mawson was listed on the Register of the National Estate in 2001 and listed on the Commonwealth Heritage List on 22 June 2004, reflecting the post-World War Two revival of Australia's scientific research and territorial interests in Antarctica.


Mertz Glacier

Mertz Glacier (67°30′S 144°45′E) is a heavily crevassed glacier in George V Coast of East Antarctica. It is the source of a glacial prominence that historically has extended northward into the Southern Ocean, the Mertz Glacial Tongue. It is named in honor of the Swiss explorer Xavier Mertz.

The Mertz-Ninnis Valley (67°25′S 146°0′E) is an undersea valley named in association with the Mertz Glacier and the Ninnis Glacier.

Molodyozhnaya Station (Antarctica)

Molodyozhnaya (Russian: Молодёжная, "Youth") (also known as "Molodezhnaya") was a Soviet, then Russian research station in East Antarctica at 67°40′S 45°50′E. After being mothballed in 1990, it was reopened in 2006 to operate on a seasonal basis. In Russian, the station is sometimes referred to as the capital of Antarctica.

Queen Alexandra Range

The Queen Alexandra Range is a major mountain range of the Transantarctic Mountains System, located in the Ross Dependency region of Antarctica.

It is about 160 km (100 mi) long, bordering the entire western side of Beardmore Glacier from the Polar Plateau to the Ross Ice Shelf. Alternate names for this range include Alexandra Mountains, Alexandra Range and Königin Alexandra Gebirge.The highest peak of the range is Mount Kirkpatrick at 4,528 metres (14,856 ft). Other peaks in the range include Mount Dickerson (4,120 m).

Scott Glacier (East Antarctica)

Scott Glacier (66°30′S 100°20′E) is a glacier, 7 miles (11.3 km) wide and over 20 miles (32 km) long, flowing north-northwest to the Antarctic coast between Denman Glacier and Mill Island. It was discovered by the Western Base Party of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (1911-1914) under Mawson and named for Capt. Robert F. Scott.

South Magnetic Pole

The South Magnetic Pole is the wandering point on Earth's Southern Hemisphere where the geomagnetic field lines are directed vertically upwards. It should not be confused with the South Geomagnetic Pole described later.

For historical reasons, the "end" of a freely hanging magnet that points (roughly) north is itself called the "north pole" of the magnet, and the other end, pointing south, is called the magnet's "south pole". Because opposite poles attract, Earth's South Magnetic Pole is physically actually a magnetic north pole (see also North Magnetic Pole § Polarity).

The South Magnetic Pole is constantly shifting due to changes in Earth's magnetic field.

As of 2005 it was calculated to lie at 64°31′48″S 137°51′36″E, placing it off the coast of Antarctica, between Adélie Land and Wilkes Land. In 2015 it lay at 64.28°S 136.59°E / -64.28; 136.59 (est). That point lies outside the Antarctic Circle. Due to polar drift, the pole is moving northwest by about 10 to 15 kilometres (6 to 9 mi) per year. Its current distance from the actual Geographic South Pole is approximately 2,860 km (1,780 mi). The nearest permanent science station is Dumont d'Urville Station. Wilkes Land contains a large gravitational mass concentration.

South Pole

The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is one of the two points where Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on the surface of Earth and lies on the opposite side of Earth from the North Pole.

Situated on the continent of Antarctica, it is the site of the United States Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, which was established in 1956 and has been permanently staffed since that year. The Geographic South Pole is distinct from the South Magnetic Pole, the position of which is defined based on Earth's magnetic field. The South Pole is at the center of the Southern Hemisphere.

Transantarctic Mountains

The Transantarctic Mountains (abbreviated TAM) comprise a mountain range of uplifted sedimentary rock in Antarctica which extend, with some interruptions, across the continent from Cape Adare in northern Victoria Land to Coats Land. These mountains divide East Antarctica and West Antarctica. They include a number of separately named mountain groups, which are often again subdivided into smaller ranges.

The range was first sighted by James Clark Ross in 1841 at what was later named the Ross Ice Shelf in his honor. It was first crossed during the British National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-1904.

Victoria Land

Victoria Land is a region of Antarctica which fronts the western side of the Ross Sea and the Ross Ice Shelf, extending southward from about 70°30'S to 78°00'S, and westward from the Ross Sea to the edge of the Antarctic Plateau. It was discovered by Captain James Clark Ross in January 1841 and named after the UK's Queen Victoria. The rocky promontory of Minna Bluff is often regarded as the southernmost point of Victoria Land, and separates the Scott Coast to the north from the Hillary Coast of the Ross Dependency to the south.

The region includes ranges of the Transantarctic Mountains and the McMurdo Dry Valleys (the highest point being Mount Abbott in the Northern Foothills), and the flatlands known as the Labyrinth. Early explorers of Victoria Land include James Clark Ross and Douglas Mawson.

West Antarctica

West Antarctica, or Lesser Antarctica, one of the two major regions of Antarctica, is the part of that continent that lies within the Western Hemisphere, and includes the Antarctic Peninsula. It is separated from East Antarctica by the Transantarctic Mountains and is covered by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. It lies between the Ross Sea (partly covered by the Ross Ice Shelf), and the Weddell Sea (largely covered by the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf). It may be considered a giant peninsula stretching from the South Pole towards the tip of South America.

West Antarctica is largely covered by the Antarctic ice sheet, but there have been signs that climate change is having some effect and that this ice sheet may have started to shrink slightly. The coasts of the Antarctic Peninsula are the only parts of West Antarctica that become (in summer) ice-free. These constitute the Marielandia Antarctic tundra and have the warmest climate in Antarctica. The rocks are clad in mosses and lichens that can cope with the intense cold of winter and the short growing-season.

Wilkes Land

Wilkes Land is a large district of land in eastern Antarctica, formally claimed by Australia as part of the Australian Antarctic Territory, though the validity of this claim has been placed for the period of the operation of the Antarctic Treaty, to which Australia is a signatory. It fronts on the southern Indian Ocean between Queen Mary Coast and Adelie Land, extending from Cape Hordern in 100°31' E to Pourquoi Pas Point, in 136°11' E. The region extends as a sector about 2600 km towards the South Pole, with an estimated land area of 2,600,000 km², mostly glaciated. It is further subdivided in the following coastal areas which can also be thought of as sectors extending to the South Pole:

Knox Land: 100°31' E to 109°16' E

Budd Land: 109°16' E to 115°33' E

Sabrina Land: 115°33' E to 122°05' E

Banzare Land: 122°05' E to 130°10' E

Clarie Land: (Wilkes Coast) 130°10' E to 136°11' EIn a wider sense, Wilkes Land extends further East to Point Alden in 142°02' E, thereby including Adélie Land, which is claimed by France.

Geographic regions
Famous explorers

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