difference between Antarctica and the arctic.

The difference between Antarctica and the Arctic?

Expedition Advice

The Earth’s Polar regions are significantly different, the most significant different, although perhaps not the most obvious, is that Antarctica is a continent surrounded by water, while the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land. This difference alone is the precursor for why the Polar regions are so different.


The diversity of wildlife in the Arctic is far greater than Antarctica. For example, the majority of wildlife in Antarctica comprises of mammals (Seals and Whales) and seabirds (Penguins, Petrels, Albatross, Cormorants, Skuas etc).  

While in the European Arctic the list of wildlife includes; Arctic Fox, Arctic Wolf, Arctic Hare, Seabirds (including Puffins, Snowy Owl and Snow Goose), Whales (including; Blue, Humpback, Orca, Greenland whale, Beluga and the infamous Narwhal), Greenland Shark, Musk Ox, Seals, Walrus and of course, the mighty Polar Bear.

In the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic regions, on top of the above species, you may also find; Bald Eagle, Moose and Grizzly Bear.

Ultimately Polar Bears are in the Arctic and Penguins are in Antarctica. Although centuries ago, it is believed that Penguin species did exist in the Arctica and the Auk’s that still exist are thought to be relatives of these early species.

2: FLORA: 

The diversity of flora species between the two regions is significant. This is due to Antarctica’s vast expanses of ice and glaciers, which mean there is little soil. The climate in Antarctica also prohibits flora species from flourishing. There are just two known species that exist in Antarctica; Antarctic Hairgrass and Antarctic Pearlwort and are found on the reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula and islands.

In the Arctic where the climate is more temperate and the landscape more diverse and with less ice coverage, flora species flourish and there are approximately 1,700 species of plants that survive. In the High Arctic you will not find any trees, this is due to the long winter months and permafrost. As the ground freezes over during the winter and with not enough days above 10 degrees, trees simply do not receive the amount of photosynthesis to grow. It’s for this reason that all flora species in the Arctic are characterised by; small plants, which grow both close together and near to the ground. Types of species found in the Arctic include; flowering plants, dwarf shrubs, herbs, grasses, mosses and lichens.


Antarctica is a Land surrounded by sea, while the Arctic is a Sea surrounded by land.

While Antarctica is a continent in itself, the Arctic is mainly an ocean boarded by the European, Russian and North American continents. This, of course, makes it viable to visit the North Pole by ship, while in Antarctica visiting the South Pole is only possible by a long overland traverse or flying into one of the most isolated lodges in the world, which is also one of the most expensive.

The Antarctic landscape is mainly shaped by the vast glaciers, pack ice and icebergs and is 98% covered in ice. Around the Antarctic Peninsula the Andes Mountains reach skywards from the depths of the ocean floor, while in the Ross Sea, Vinson Massif reaches 4,892 metres, while Mount Erebus, is Antarctica’s only active volcano.  

The Arctic geology makeup is for more diverse than Antarctica, mainly because it stretches across 3 unique continents. Iceland, for example, is one of the most volcanically active regions on Earth, here almost all forms of geothermal and volcanic activity can be found. Sitting atop two tectonic plates, Iceland is equally diverse both above and below sea level. On land, you will find lush rolling countrysides and waterfalls of immense power, desolate regions of hot springs and geysers, as well as lava fields and luna-like craters.

From Iceland, you can travel west to Greenland, a land covered in huge glaciers and with mountains which are rising at a rate of 1-3cm per year. You may travel north to Svalbard, an island also of incredible natural diversity. When you are this far north, you can travel to Franz Joseph Land, the North Pole or consider the Northwest or Northeast Passages.


In Antarctica, permanent residence is not an option. To reside in Antarctica, you must be an active member for one of the 45 Antarctic research bases. Altogether it is possible that Antarctica’s semi-permanent residents can number up to 10,000 at the height of summer.  

Of course in the Arctic, with its much more temperate climate and access to land, the population here is much higher, with a population around 4 million. The Arctic regions are home to an amazing number of inspiring indigenous cultures which include; Sammi (Finland, Sweden, Norway & Northwest Russia), Nenets, Khanty, Evenk and Chukchi people (Russia), Aleut, Yupik and Inuit (Alaska), Inuits (Canada & Greenland).

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