Glasgow Digital Library Voyage of the Scotia BRUCE PEOPLE SHIP ANTARCTIC INDEX
Scotland and the Antarctic

Section 1: Background - Arctic and Antarctic ... The Nature of Antarctica

The ice

image from Voyage of the Scotia

The great ice sheet on the continent of Antarctica is divided into two by one of the world's great mountain ranges - the Transantarctic Mountains. Most of these mountains cannot be seen and only their tops appear out of the ice as 'nunataks'. The highest is the Vinson Massif at 4,897 metres (16,066 feet) - higher than Mont Blanc in Europe.

Antarctica is the highest continent in the world, with an average height of 2,300 metres (7,500 feet). If you flew direct to the South Pole you would notice the altitude as it is 2,800 metres (9,186 feet) above sea level. At the Russian base at Vostok the altitude is 3,488 metres (11,440 feet).

The thickness of the Antarctic ice cap is enormous. The average thickness is over 2,500 metres (8,200 feet) and at its greatest depth 4,700 metres (15,420 feet, or three miles thick). Huge glaciers leave the ice plateau - the world's largest is the Lambert Glacier, 400km (250 miles) long, which enters the sea in the Australian sector. The Beardmore Glacier - used by Scott and Shackleton - is 322km (200 miles) long and over 48km (30 miles) wide.

In the Ross Sea and Weddell Sea a huge floating ice barrier presented cliffs of over 60 metres (200 feet) in height to the explorers. The thickness of the barrier ice on the landward side can be 600 metres (2,000 feet) and nearer the sea 200 metres (660 feet).

Great tabular icebergs may break off from the ice shelves to form the largest icebergs in the world.

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Glasgow Digital Library Voyage of the Scotia BRUCE PEOPLE SHIP ANTARCTIC INDEX