Antarctica is Earth’s most southernmost continent, where the geographic South Pole is located. The unspoilt landscape, which is home to more than 1,000 scientists and reaches blistering temperatures of -90C, has been key to understanding climate change on Earth. Al Gore, a keen environmentalist who was also Bill Clinton’s running mate in 1992 and 1996 revealed a “surprising fact” during his book “An Inconvenient Truth”.
The 71-year-old wrote in 2006: “Antarctica is the largest mass of ice on the planet by far.
“Antarctica is the closest thing to another planet we can experience to this one.
“It is surreal – completely and unremittingly white in every direction, so vast and so cold – much colder than the Arctic.
“The enormity of all that snow masks a surprising fact – Antarctica is actually a desert.
Al Gore revealed a surprising fact about Antarctica
Al Gore was Bill Clinton’s running mate
Think about it – an icy desert, a freeze-dried oxymoron
“It meets the technical definition in that it receives less than one inch of precipitation per year.
“Think about it – an icy desert, a freeze-dried oxymoron.”
Antarctica is, in fact, the largest desert on Earth, measuring a total of 5.3 million miles, despite 98 percent being covered in mile-thick ice.
This also means there are no permanent residents, however, Mr Gore detailed why it of such interest to governments around the world.
He added: “Antarctica is neutral territory, it is governed by an international treaty that prevents any territorial claims or military activity and reserves the entire continent for peaceful scientific endeavours, which are pursued by more than a dozen countries.
“The United States has the largest presence in Antarctica, under the auspices of the National Science Foundation, and also operates under the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
“The principal US base of operations, Ross Island, sits on the edge of the continent, where it can be supplied by ships during the summer.
“The island base is bound by permanent sea ice to the nearby mainland at McMurdo Sound, due south of New Zealand, beyond the roughest seas of the planet.
“Most visitors fly in on specially configured planes that land on an ice runway open for only part of the year.”
Despite Mr Gore’s claims, several countries claim sovereignty in certain regions, but few of these counties recognise each other’s claims, therefore they are not universally accepted.
Antarctica is a vast untouched continent
Antarctica is seperated into sovereign states
Antarctica’s status is regulated by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and other related agreements collectively called the Antarctic Treaty System.
The treaty was signed by 12 countries including the Soviet Union (later Russia), the United Kingdom, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and the US.
It set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation and environmental protection.
The treaty also prohibits any military activity in Antarctica, including the establishment of military bases and fortifications, military manoeuvres, and weapons testing. Military personnel or equipment are permitted only for scientific research or other peaceful purposes.
Mr Gore also detailed during his book his first excavation to the South Pole and how he was stunned by just how cold it was.
He wrote: “When I went to the South Pole, several things surprised me.
“First, the ice-and-snow pack there is more than 10,000 feet thick – so I experienced the same altitude sickness that most first-time visitors feel – a slight headache and nausea that soon passes as one acclimates to the height.
“It didn’t occur to me beforehand that the average altitude in Antarctica is far higher than the average altitude on any other continent of the planet.
“The ice and snow have piled later upon layer so many hundreds of thousands of years that they’ve pushed up the top of the ice cap high into the sky.”