Happy Antarctica Day: Fun Facts and Recommended Reading

December 1, 2023

Happy Antarctica Day!

I’ll be honest: I have no idea how it’s even December already, so today’s post celebrating Antarctica is a little less polished and a little more… random. We’ll start with a couple fun facts leftover from Polar research, and end with a few gift-giving suggestions for the best of all winter holidays, Iceland’s Jolabokaflod, or Christmas Book Flood.

Fun Facts

The earliest written record of penguins is from 1499, in an account of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India. He described “birds as large as ganders and with a cry resembling the braying of asses, which could not fly.” Historians are pretty sure he was talking about African penguins, also called “jackass penguins” for the similarity between their call and a donkey’s!

Europeans discovered Antarctica (and its penguins) in the 18th century. But they weren’t the first to arrive. There are Polynesian legends describing “the frozen ocean,” which suggests that Pacific Islanders had already been there.

Antarctica’s Mount Erebus is the southernmost active volcano in the world.

The continent has been covered in ice for about 15 million years. But it wasn’t always! There be dinosaur bones down there.


For the junior book lover on your list, might I suggest my very own Polar: Wildlife at the Ends of the Earth? It is full of incredible facts about the animals of Antarctica (and the Arctic). And the illustrations, by Byron Eggenschwiler, are absolutely stunning. You can buy Polar for the art alone and feel like you got your money’s worth.

Book Cover - Polar Wildlife at the Ends of the Earth by L.E. Carmichael

Buying for grown-ups? How about the memoir of an Antarctic scientist? Check out My Penguin Year, by Lindsay McCrae.

Want something more historical? Try Madness at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey Into the Dark Antarctic Night. Bonus fun fact: Belgica is the genus name of Antarctica’s largest true land animal – an insect called the Antarctic midge (Belgica antarctica).

And for the hard-core science fan on your list: Dinosaurs of Darkness, Second Edition, by Thomas H. Rich and Patricia Vickers-Rich. It’s about the discovery of dinosaurs in the Australia of 120 to 100 million years ago – a period when Australia was part of Antarctica!

Do you have a favourite book or fact about Antarctica? Share in the comments!

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