Random Facts about the South Pole
THE ANTARCTIC POLAR REGIONS
The climate of the southern polar regions is much more severe than that at the north pole, the icefields extending in degrees nearer the equator from the south than from the north. Within the arctic circle there are tribes of men living on the borders of the icy ocean on both the east and west hemispheres, but within the antarctic all is one dreary, uninhabitable waste. In the extreme north the reindeer and the musk-ox are found in numbers, but not a single land quadruped exists beyond 50 degrees of southern latitude. Flowers are seen in summer by the arctic navigator as far as 78 degrees north, but no plant of any description, not even a moss or a lichen, has been observed beyond Cockburn Island, in 64 degrees 12 minutes south latitude. In Spitzbergen, 79 degrees north, vegetation ascends the mountain slopes to a height of 3,000 feet, but on every land within or near the antarctic circle the snow-line descends to the water's edge. The highest latitude ever reached at the south is 78 degrees 10 minutes, while in the north navigators have penetrated to 84 degrees. The reason for this remarkable difference is the predominance of large tracts of land in the northern regions, while in the south is a vast expanse of ocean. In the north continental masses form an almost continuous belt around the icy sea, while in the southern hemisphere the continents taper down into a broad extent of frigid waters. In the north the plains of Siberia and of the Hudson's Bay territories, warmed by the sunbeams of summer, become at that season centers of radiating heat, while the antarctic lands, of small extent, isolated in the midst of a polar ocean and chilled by cold sea winds, act at every season as refrigerators of the atmosphere. Further in the north the cold currents of the polar sea, having but two openings of any estent through which they can convey drift ice, have their chilly influence confined to comparatively narrow limits, but the cold currents of the antarctic seas have scope to branch out freely on all sides and carry their ice even into temperate waters. Finally, at the northern hemisphere, the Gulf Stream conveys warmth even to the shores of Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla, while on the opposite regions of the globe no traces of warm currents have been observed beyond 55 degrees of south latitude.