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Views of Antarctica - Unusual Pictures of Antarctica

It is sometimes difficult to envisage a whole continent and its place in the world. You can look at a map and see the shape of it and where places are in relation to other places and you can look at aerial photographs, but it requires quite a lot of imagination and not a small amount of experience to get an idea of the larger picture.

Here are a few composite and artist-impression pictures that have been borrowed from various sources that give a good impression of Antarctica in three dimensions and also in relation to how it fits into the globe.


Antarctica, composite polar night shot
Use of picture courtesy of NASA

Composite image of Antarctica and southern hemisphere at night showing lights from major cities on South America (top left), Africa (top right) and Australia / New Zealand (bottom right). The earth could never be viewed in this way as in reality one half of this view would be in daylight and the other in darkness

The outline of Antarctica is frequently different in different images as some represent the continent during the summer, some during the winter and some in between. At its greatest extent the winter sea-ice just about doubles the size of Antarctica.

Even in the summer the shape of the coast-line varies as very little of it consists of rock leading down to the sea. Much of the edge of Antarctica is an ice-edge of constantly flowing and ebbing glaciers, ice shelves and sea-ice that sometimes may break out each year, sometimes not for a few years. A bit of a map-makers night-mare in fact. No sooner is a map made, than it's out of date.

For more unusual views of Antarctica (and the rest of the world too) take a look at the excellent Earth viewer, this allows you to choose your position above the earth according to longitude and latitude and even the day and time of year to follow where the sun goes with the seasons.


 
Antarctica under the icesheets - video from NASA


This image is in the public domain
Antarctica as it would be if the covering of ice was removed, much of the continental "land" area is actually currently depressed below sea level due to the weight of the ice above it. The above image does not take into consideration that sea-level would rise due to the melted ice or that the land would slowly rise again over the period of a few tens of thousands of years.

It is estimated that the land is pushed down about 1,625ft (500m) by the ice. These maps shows the underlying land with the ice sheet peeled away. The average depth of the ice sheet is more than 6,600ft (more than 2,000m).

Antarctica in 3-D computer generated image
Use of picture courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

A 3-D computer generated image taken from hundreds of data points. I particularly like this as it gives a feeling for the height of Antarctica. The average height of the continent is 8,000ft (over 2,400m) as against the next highest which is Asia at an average of 3,000ft (just over 900m).

The high dome of East Antarctica is clearly seen as is the elevation of the South Pole and the formidable barrier presented by the Trans-Antarctic Mountains which usually just appear as a diffuse line running across maps.


Sea ice average minimum - FebruarySea ice average maximum - October
Use of pictures courtesy NASA

These two pictures show the average sea-ice accumulation around Antarctica at the minimum in February (left) and the maximum in October (right). These were taken with a satellite equipped with the ability to distinguish between ice at sea and ice on the land (freshwater or sea-water ice).

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