Antarctic Plateau

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The high, flat, and cold environment of the Antarctic Plateau at Dome C
Surface of Antarctic Plateau, at 150E, 77S

The Antarctic Plateau (sometimes referred to as the Polar Plateau) is a large area of central Antarctica which extends over a diameter of about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi), and which includes the region of the South Pole and the Amundsen-Scott Station. This plateau is at an average elevation of about 3,000 metres (9,800 ft).


This plateau was first sighted in 1903 during the Discovery Expedition to the Antarctic, which was led by Robert Falcon Scott. Ernest Shackleton became the first to cross parts of this plateau in 1909 during his Nimrod Expedition, which turned back in bad weather when it had reached a point just 97 nautical miles from the South Pole. Shackleton named this plateau the King Edward VII Plateau in honor of the King of the United Kingdom. Just two years later (in late 1911), the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen decided to name this plateau the Haakon VII Plateau in honor of the newly elected King Haakon VII of Norway, while Amundsen's expedition was returning from the first journey to the South Pole in December 1911.

The Antarctic Plateau was first observed and photographed from the air in 1929 from a Ford Trimotor airplane carrying four men on the first flight to the South Pole and back to the seacoast. The chief pilot of this flight was Bernt Balchen, a native of Norway, and the navigator and chief organizer of this expedition was Richard E. Byrd of Virginia, an officer in the U.S. Navy. The other two members of its crew were the co-pilot and the photographer.


The high elevations of the Antarctic Plateau, combined with its high latitudes, and its extremely long sunless winters, mean that the temperatures here are the lowest in the world in most years (compare with central Siberia in the Northern Hemisphere).


The nearly continual frigid winds that blow across the Antarctic Plateau, especially in the wintertime, make the outdoor conditions there very inhospitable to life. Hence there is practically no natural life, even at the microscopic level.[citation needed]

No penguins live on the Antarctic Plateau because there is nothing there for them to eat. Few or no birds fly over the Antarctic Plateau, and if any arrive there, they have been blown in by huge storms - usually to their deaths by freezing or thirst. There are no land animals on Antarctica, except for human beings and their laboratory animals.

Any microscopic life that could be found on the Antarctic Plateau would be either dead or dying microorganisms blown in by the wind, or "hitching a ride" on human land vehicles or aircraft, carried in on food supplies, or microorganisms living in the digestive systems or bloodstreams of human beings, their laboratory animals, or their pets.

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Coordinates: 77°00′S 150°00′E / 77.000°S 150.000°E / -77.000; 150.000