The miracle of Antarctica is simply this: despite being the coldest, windiest, and driest continent (The World Factbook) on Earth, it is teeming with life! According to Wikipedia, the coldest temperature recorded here has been -89 degrees Centigrade (-129 degrees Fahrenheit) on July 21, 1983. There are no permanent human settlements, only research stations with manned rotations of six to twelve months. Yet I have already written about some of the birds that thrive in this cold environment! Penguins actually birth their young in this frigid place!
I learned that penguins have extra down feathers as well as waterproof feather tips to stay warm. Not only that, but they have special circulation in their feet to keep them from freezing! I had to wear muck boots and special socks with wicking and heat-trapping fibers to keep my feet warm, yet the penguins’ featherless feet are walking on the snow all the time, and they don’t get frostbitten! Amazing creations by an even more amazing Creator!
What attracts these animals to what appears to us to be a frozen wintry wasteland? In the onboard lectures I learned that cold water has more oxygen, and therefore more marine life! At the bottom of the food chain are abundant krill, which supports animals as small as chinstrap penguins and as large as whales! Krill! Tiny pink shrimp! It is like the wonder food of Antarctica! Ascending the food chain, it supports such animal life as fish, birds, seals, and Orcas. I also learned that Antarctica has two flowering plants, lichens, two insects, and one land carnivore, a mite.
Yes, Antarctica is truly God’s miracle! Frozen but full of life, it is home to plants and animals. Birds, delicate and graceful, fly through the cold air currents of this winter wonderland; and red, orange and yellow lichens adorn its gray-black mountainous walls. Seals, penguins and whales swim comfortably through its freezing waters, in stark contrast to the 63 humans on our cruise who took the polar plunge in Paradise Bay on November 26, 2012! I watched this event and each person stayed in the water for half a second. During that half second we observers were privileged to hear all kinds of vocalizations and expletives in a dozen languages! Such an experience makes Antarctica all the more miraculous!
The first picture shows crabeater seals. These magnificent animals have coats that glisten like gold and silver in the sun! The black and white bird sitting on the iceberg is a cormorant. Other pictures show birds of the air. The white bird on the volcanic rock is a snowy sheathbill. The white bird in flight over the ocean is a snow petrel. Small and totally white, it is known as the angel of Antarctica. We saw several different species of petrels; they spend 80% of their lives in the air and they followed our ship. I thought of them as angels that God sent to watch over me! (Psalm 91:11-12) Another picture shows reddish-orange lichens growing on the mountain in Paradise Bay. At the foot of the mountain is a cormorant colony. The people with the blue towels and bare shoulders are the brave polar plungers of our voyage! They wore their bathing suits – bikinis, trunks, and speedos – and were rushed back to the ship immediately!
1. The World Factbook, www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ay.html, 1/1/2013
2. Antarctica, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctica, 1/1/2013