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Antarctic & islands

South Africa’s formal association with the Antarctic Continent commenced in January 1960 when the first South African National Antarctic Expedition (SANAE) took over the Norway Station near the edge of the ice shelf in Dronning Maud Land. The original Norway Station (renamed SANAE I), has been successively replaced over the years. South African scientists currently occupy SANAE IV, an above-ground station away from the ice edge at Vesleskarvet in the northern Ahlmannryggen.
South Africa annexed the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands (Mario n and Prince Edward) in the southern Indian Ocean in 1948 and has occupied Marion Island ever since. Annually, teams of scientists visit and stay on Marion Island to conduct research into the natural sciences and gather meteorological data.  The current base on the island will be replaced with a modern complex of linked buildings by 2007.  The smaller Prince Edward Islands is rarely visited and has no permanent structures.  Since 1957 South Africa has operated a meteorological base on Gough Island in the South Atlantic. Gough Island forms part of the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Tristan da Cunha.
Antarctic facts
  • It is the fifth largest continent on earth but has no permanent population.
  • Around 80 % of the world's fresh water lies frozen in the ice sheet covering the continent. Were it to melt, global sea levels would rise by about 75 metres.
  • It is the continent with the highest average altitude above sea level: 2 500m.
  • Average winter temperatures are around -40ºC, although the coldest temperature ever recorded was -89ºC at Vostok Base.
  • Antarctica is technically speaking a desert, having very little precipitation, even in the form of snowfall. The continent also has the world's lowest average humidity.
  • Static electricity poses a major hazard as far as sensitive electronic equipment is concerned.
  • Considering its name, there are no polar bears in Antartica (arktos being the Greek for bear)
  • There are no longer any sledge dogs on the continent. All dogs were withdrawn as an environmental safeguard in the early 1990s.
  • At consultative meetings of the Antarctic Treaty members, all decisions are made by consensus and not by vote.

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This page was last updated 13/11/2007