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Winter Web: Activity 1: The Coldest Continent:
Pre-Research Reading Activity

Read the following paragraphs about Antarctica, then answer the 4 questions that follow.

Antarctica, which lies on the South Pole, is the coldest continent. It is without sun for months at a time. Even when the sun does shine, its angle is so slanted that the land receives little warmth. Temperatures often drop to 100 degrees below zero, and a fierce wind blows almost endlessly. Most of the land is covered by snow heaped thousands of feet deep. The snow is so heavy and so tightly packed that it forms a great ice cap covering more than 90 percent of the continent.

It is no wonder that there are no towns or cities in Antarctica. There is no permanent population at all, only small scientific research stations. Many teams of explorers and scientists have braved the freezing cold sine Antarctica was first spotted in 1820. Some have died in their efforts, but a great deal of information has been learned about he continent.

From fossils, pieces of coal, and bone samples, we know that Antarctica was not always an ice-covered land. Scientists believe that 200 million years ago it was connected to southern Africa, South America, Australia, and India. Forests grew in warm swamps, and insects and reptiles thrived there. Today there are animals that live in and around the waters that border the continent. In fact, the waters that surround Antarctica hold more life than oceans in warmer areas of the world.


1. When was Antarctica first sighted by explorers?

2. What do you think they saw as they approached the cold continent?

3. What are some of the clues that lead us to believe that Antarctica was not always so cold?

4. What do you think happened to make Antarctica as cold as it is today?

Back to Activity 1


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