Antarctic Polar Desert
Comprising most of the interior of Antarctica, the Antarctic Polar Desert is the largest desert on Earth.
A desert is defined by the amount of precipitation (rain, snow, mist and fog) in an area. A region that receives very little precipitation is classified as a desert. There are many types of deserts, including subtropical, coastal and polar deserts. What they all have in common is a barren, windswept landscape, which makes it difficult for plants and animals alike to gain a foothold on land. This certainly applies to Antarctica.
The McMurdo Dry Valleys represent the largest of the ice-free oases on the Antarctic continent (ca. 4800 km2). They are among the coldest and driest terrestrial environments on Earth. The dry valley landscape is a mosaic of perennially ice-covered lakes, ephemeral streams, soils and glaciers. Despite the extreme conditions, biological communities exist in these lakes, streams and soils. It snows and rains on the coastal Antarctic Peninsula, but in the McMurdo Dry Valleys in East Antarctica, it never rains. Scientists believe that in some parts of the Dry Valleys it hasn’t snowed or rained for 14 million years.
Microbial ecologist and Antarctic explorer Dr Craig Carey donated a sample of Antarctic sand to Mirage collected from the McMurdo Dry Valleys.