Vast, more frigid than most can imagine, barren and quiet possibly the most fragile ecosystem known to man, Antarctica has been dubbed the “Last Frontier”. The ski culture has hopes to some day put ski resorts on the continent and become a tourist attraction. Many countries have their hand in oil, coal mining and the like because of the possible large quantity of natural resources. However, the expense to employ the workers and get the commodities back to the developed world far out weigh any viable profit.
What most do not realize is the ecosystem on Antarctica is quite possibly one of the most fragile. Even a minute interaction between the true inhabitants of the land and mankind, specifically penguins, has proven to be devastating to their way of life, nesting and reproduction. Researchers use extreme caution when observing these subjects so as to not disrupt their natural balance of life. Allowing the birds and other wildlife to carry on with daily life.
Global warming too has proven to be a detrimental long lasting impact to the krill population. Warming of the waters and accelerated melting of the ice shelves have significantly decreased the reproduction of the tiny organisms that make up the diet of differing whale species such as the Right Whale, Blue Whale, etc. A ripple effect that will have crippling results for the populace of such wonderful, awe-inspiring creatures.
While the melting of the shelves is a creating a smorgasbord of ecological issues, it is also allowing geologists a glimpse into what lies beneath. In 2009, kimberlite was discovered on the continent, strong evidence supporting the presence of diamonds.
Diamonds form below the Earths crust and are driven to the surface by volcanic eruptions, embedded within a kimberlite vessel. Since the discovery of the bluish rock in 2013, geological interest in Antarctica has exceedingly peaked.
There are, however, a multitude of obstacles if large deposits are discovered. One being the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, banning the removal of any mineral resources for any purpose beyond that of scientific research. Though the treaty is up for review in 2041 and could allow mining to be legal, one still has the elements to conquer. Not only are the subzero temperatures a force to be reckoned with, Antarctica is much like its cousin to the north, and experiences a full month of darkness, making for impossible working conditions.
Much has been revealed yet much is still relatively unknown of The Last Frontier. It will be interesting to learn what will become of this inhospitable region of our ever-changing world.
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