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Almost blank map of 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 Transantarctic Mountains, this is the coldest, windiest, driest and most isolated land mass on earth, and includes a number of high mountains.

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Location and description

Almost completely covered in thick, permanent ice, East Antarctica comprises Coats Land, Queen Maud Land, Enderby Land, Mac Robertson Land, Wilkes 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 more than 90 years (Balch, 1902; Nordenskiöld, 1905), 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 US) 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 three largest mountain ranges in Antarctica are the West Antarctica Ranges, the Transantarctic Mountains, and the East Antarctica Ranges. 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.

Flora and fauna

Very little of East Antarctica is not covered with ice, but the small areas that are, including the McMurdo Dry Valleys inland, constitute a tundra-type biodiversity region known as Maudlandia Antarctic desert, after Queen Maud Land. Only a very limited plant life that can survive here, certainly no trees or shrubs, and the flora consists of lichens, moss, bacteria, nematodes, and algae, adapted to the cold and wind and living on and between the 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), Ross Seal (Ommatophoca rossii).

There are no land animals but there are communities of springtails, mites, and midges living on the mosses and lichens [1].

Threats and preservation

The remote and extremely cold bulk of Antarctica remains almost entirely unspoiled 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 unspoilt plant life.

See also

References

External links

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Geological Survey document "East Antarctica" (content from the Geographic Names Information System). Coordinates: 80°S 80°E / 80°S 80°E / -80; 80

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Antarctica : East Antarctica
Lenin's bust at the Pole of Inaccessibility
Lenin's bust at the Pole of Inaccessibility

East Antarctica is a region of Antarctica. Although the term is a bit counterintuitive for a continent straddling the south pole (meaning one could continue traveling eastward indefinitely), it refers to the region's location in the "eastern" hemisphere, nearest Australia.

  • Adélie Land — comprising most of the home to France's Dumont d'Urville Station
  • Enderby Land — most interesting for the Enderby Land Coast Range of mountains up to 2830 meters tall, readily viewable from the Indian Ocean
  • Mac Robertson Land — home to the Prince Charles Mountains, forming a ridge along some 260 miles
  • Princess Elizabeth Land — housing a cluster of old research stations, as well as current stations operated by Australia (Davis Station) and Romania (Law Racovita Station)
  • Queen Mary Land — home of the Shackleton Ice Shelf
  • Queen Maud Land — a huge swath of Antarctic coastline, most of it bounded by impressive ice cliffs, containing a long list of research stations, including two of claimant Norway's; the unending Polar Plateau in the south of the region includes the highest ice formations on the continent, including Dome Argus (and the Pole of Inaccessibility)
  • Victoria Land — the land just west of the Ross Sea, with a good share of the beautiful and enormous Transantarctic Mountains
  • Wilkes Land — east of Victoria land is Wilkes Land, where you'll find Mawson's Huts, in Commonwealth Bay; you might also be interested to know that Wilkes Land was the fictional setting for much of the X Files movie
The Russian Vostok Research Station
The Russian Vostok Research Station
  • Dumont d'Urville — Research Station (France)
  • Vostok — Antarctica's most isolated station, operated by Russia near the Southern Geomagnetic Pole; this is the main stop for expeditions crazy enough to try and reach the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility, and is the site of the lowest recorded temperature on Earth
  • Cape Denison - Commonwealth Bay (Mawson's Hut)
  • Mertz and Ninnis Glaciers
  • Southern Pole of Inaccessibility
At Mawson's Huts
At Mawson's Huts
Dome C on the endless Antarctic Plateau
Dome C on the endless Antarctic Plateau
  • Dome Argus (Dome A). Antarctica's highest ice formation, located in Queen Maud Land on the Antarctic Plateau. Given its height, extreme continental climate, and proximity to both the South Pole and the Vostok Research Station (where the coldest temperature on Earth was recorded), its peak is suspected to be the coldest place in the world.  edit
  • Isachsen Mountain. The highest mountain of the East Antarctica Ranges, near the coast of Queen Maud Land.  edit
  • Mawson's Huts.  edit
  • Shackleton Ice Shelf.  edit
  • The Southern Pole of Inaccessibility.  edit
  • Vostok Research Station.  edit
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