Views of Antarctica
Composite Pictures of Unusual Perspectives

It can be difficult to envisage a whole continent and its place in the world.  Here are some composite pictures that give a good impression of Antarctica in three dimensions with and without ice and in relation to how it fits into the globe.

Antarctica from space

Composite image of Antarctica and southern hemisphere South America (left), Africa (top right) and Australia / New Zealand (lower right). The earth could never be viewed in this way as in reality one half of this view would be in daylight and the other in darkness

The outline of Antarctica is frequently different in different images as some represent the continent during the summer, some during the winter and some in between. At its greatest extent the winter sea-ice just about doubles the size of Antarctica.

Even in the summer the shape of the coast-line varies as very little of it consists of rock leading down to the sea. Much of the edge of Antarctica is an ice-edge of constantly flowing and ebbing glaciers, ice shelves and sea-ice that sometimes may break out each year, sometimes not for a few years. A bit of a map-makers night-mare in fact. No sooner is a map made, than it's out of date.

For other views of Antarctica (and the rest of the world too) take a look at the excellent Earth viewer, this allows you to choose your position above the earth according to longitude and latitude and even the day and time of year to follow where the sun goes with the seasons.

Bedrock - Under the Ice

Antarctica bedrock

The bedrock of Antarctica under the ice, green to brown areas are above sea level, blue to purple are below
Picture: Paul V. Heinrich, used under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike licence 3.0 Unported

Antarctica bedrock beneath the ice

Antarctica as it would be seen if the ice were removed, this is the amount of the bedrock that is above sea level, if the ice were removed, the rock would slowly spring back again as the weight of the ice is pushing the rock further into the planets surface.
Picture: Memtgs, used under Creative Commons Attribution licence 3.0 Unported

Antarctica under the icesheets - video from NASA

Much of the continental "land" area of Antarctica is actually currently depressed below sea level due to the weight of the ice above it. The above images do not take into consideration that sea-level would rise due to the melted ice or that the land would slowly rise again over the period of a few tens of thousands of years.

It is estimated that the land is pushed down about 1,625ft (500m) by the ice. The average depth of the ice sheet is more than 2,000ft (6,600ft).

3D Views

3D Antarctica ice cover
Antarctica in 3D showing ice cover
3D Antarctica bedrock
Antarctica in 3D showing bedrock beneath the ice

3-D computer generated images taken from hundreds of data points. I particularly like these as they give a feeling for the height of Antarctica. The average height of the continent is 2,400m (8,000ft) as against the next highest which is Asia at an average of 900m (3,000ft).

The high dome of East Antarctica is clearly seen as is the elevation of the South Pole and the formidable barrier presented by the Trans-Antarctic Mountains which usually just appear as a diffuse line running across maps as seen from above.

Sea Ice Cover
Winter sea-ice around Antarctica

Winter sea-ice around Antarctica, 2nd August 2016

Winter sea-ice around Antarctica

Another view of winter sea-ice around Antarctica, the red line shows the annual average

Antarctic seasonal sea ice

The overall area of Antarctica including sea-ice cover doubles in size between the minimum and maximum extents. This sea-ice (along with extreme cold, storms and darkness) is what shuts Antarctica off from the outside world during the winter months.

Unless otherwise noted, pictures used courtesy of NASA