Sitting down at the southern tip of the globe and isolated from the rest of the world, the Antarctic has remained somewhat of an undiscovered enigma. While no single country actually has ownership claims to the continent (that's right, it IS a continent, after all), a number of different nations do still have research bases stationed down in the icy expanses.
Year after year, we discover more and more about this fascinating, sometimes-unsettling piece of land - from gold-spurting volcanos to underwater rivers and even a blood-red waterfall.
So grab your mittens and keep warm because we're about to dive into the curious world of Antarctica (read: not the Arctic - that's the one up at the North Pole with Santa and the polar bears).
20 Hundreds Of Researchers Have Disappeared
As much as we all want to go high-five the penguins down at the south pole, there's a good reason why average Joes aren't allowed to visit. Simply put, the conditions are some of the most brutal on the planet. Over the years, scientists and explorers have been forced to learn that the hard way.
19 It Used To Be A Rainforest
It might be a little hard to come to terms with considering that, these days, Antarctica is nothing more than a vast expanse of frostbite-inducing ice and emptiness. However, way back in the day, before the ice age struck, the area actually played host to a lush tropical rainforest.
18 Dinosaurs Once Strolled Around
So, when the lush rainforests called Antarctica home, among the countless species of wildlife roaming the plains were, of course, the dinosaurs. One hundred million years ago, long before the disastrous meteor would come down and squash our favourite long-done Jurassic beasts, they skipped around the expanses freely.
17 More Meteorites Are Found Here Than Anywhere Else
While we're on the topic of meteorites, head to the Antarctic to find some. First of all, it's because the Antarctic has remained relatively untouched all this time, we're yet to dig them up to make room for skyscrapers, and secondly, the extremely dry climate better preserves the rock compared to say, jungles.
16 The Two Types of Ice
As we look in from the outside, the Antarctic seems like nothing more than one giant slab of slowly-melting, penguin-abundant ice. However, that's not quite the case. In reality, there are two types of ice down there - land ice, which is formed over land, and sea ice, over water.
15 It's The Largest Desert On Earth
Move over, Sahara Desert. You might boast 3,300,000 square miles of scorching sands and dusty plains but that doesn't even come close to the whopping expanse of the deep southern Antarctic. Officially the largest desert in the world - a 'cold desert', technically - Antarctica covers 5,500,000 square miles.
14 The Presence Of Gold-Spurting Volcanoes
They say that money doesn't grow on trees (although we all wish it did), however, down in the icy abyss of Antarctica, gold really does shoot out from volcanoes. As part of what is already a miraculous environment and ecosystem, the eruptions from Mount Erebus contain microscopic particles of our favourite shiny mineral - gold.
13 It's Home To A Blood-Red Waterfall
Ah, Mother Nature. The almighty builder of our world sometimes becomes bored with her regular, clear water features, and, as is the case here, decides to add a splash of violent colour. The devilish tinge is actually a result of the sediment underneath the water mixing with the current, creating the b-grade horror set you see before you.
12 The Endless Maze Of Underwater Rivers
Hold on a second. How could water flow underneath a frozen slab of ice? This of it this way: when you put a tray of soon-to-be ice cubes in the freezer, the top solidifies before the middle and the bottom, right? Therefore, we see water continue to flow underneath the solid ice.
11 Who Actually Owns Antarctica?
We have to wind the clock all the way back to 1959, where 12 countries (although now it has expanded to 52) came together and decreed that the Antarctic would not belong to any single nation. Instead, it would be shared land, governed by the Antarctic Treaty, and a place solely for scientific exploration and preservation.
10 It's WAY Bigger Than We Think
We're never been there, it sits all the way at the bottom of most maps, and frankly, whatever happens down in Antarctica doesn't really affect us on a day-to-day basis (excluding global warming). Without much of a focus on it, people are often shocked to hear that Antarctica dwarfs the USA in size.
9 The Mystery Of 'The Bloop'
Back in 1997 an aquatic mystery called 'the Bloop' occurred, a sound so incredibly loud that it was captured by multiple hydrophones (underwater microphones) thousands of miles apart. While many pinned the sound to aquatic dinosaurs or undiscovered species, it was eventually assumed (read: still not proven) to be ice crashing into the sea bed.
8 There's A Canyon As Deep As The Grand Canyon
At around two-thirds the size of Manhattan and almost 1,000 feet deep (according to NASA), the enormous cavity developing over on the western side of Antarctica is a force to be reckoned with. It's located toward the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier, and if it continues to grow then, sorry folks, we could be in trouble.
7 The 15-Million-Year-Old Lake
If you thought that your great-grandma turning 90 was old, wait 'til you take a look at the intimidating Lake Vostok. It's found over in the eastern side of the continent in Princess Elizabeth Land, and, surprisingly, despite its age, the 15-million-year-old was only officially discovered a few decades ago.
6 It's Melting More Than We Think...
It was only a matter of time before we came across this sad reality. We can't keep sweeping it under the rug - Antarctica is melting, and fast! According to Scientific American, we're waving goodbye to 252 gigatons of precious ice every single year over the last decade, which is a formidable increase on decades prior.
5 ... Causing Sea Levels To Rise...
What happens to ice when it melts? It turns to water, of course. As expected, this is causing our sea levels to rise. As told by Scientific American, that ice "has raised global sea levels by 14 millimeters since 1979." While 14 millimeters might not seem like much, just wait until you hear what's still possible...
4 ... And If It All Melted, We'd Be Screwed
This, ladies and gentlemen, is when reality starts to hit home.
From the wise people over at the American Museum of Natural History, "If all the ice covering Antarctica... were to melt, sea level would rise about 70 meters (230 feet). The ocean would cover all the coastal cities. And land area would shrink significantly."
3 It Lacks An Official Timezone
If you hop on a plane at LAX in Los Angeles and deplane out in New York City, you'll have added an extra three hours to your journey. If you fly from one corner of Antarctica to the other, however, you might just be in exactly the same timezone. Without large populations, the continent has no official time zone.
2 Sled Dogs Are Banned
Since 1994, our beloved sled dogs have been banned from visiting Antarctica. That's a lot of disallowed cuteness. While they would have been beneficial for a number of reasons, ultimately, the decision was based on the fact that they could be a disturbance or even a threat to the local wildlife.
1 Tinder Actually Exists Down There
The ice is melting, volcanoes are erupting, and there might be a sea monster making all kinds of noise down there. But enough of that nightmarish stuff: don't forget that an American scientist got a Tinder match down in Antarctica, another researcher who was a mere 45-minute helicopter ride away.
Sources: NASA, AMNH, Scientific American, boredpanda