Who knows what other hidden mysteries and treasures there are to unlock and uncover within these colossal Arctic ice wastes? In Siberia recently, for the very first time, the body of a woolly mammoth has been exhumed some 20,000 years after it perished. Named Zharkov, after the family who found it, the mammoth is undergoing extensive examinations and tests in order to find out as much detailed information as possible about this enormous, two-tusked animal that lived in the distant past. The mammoth is male, more than three metres high, up to eight tonnes in weight and judging by the tusk rings was nearly fifty years old.
This is truly information frozen in time. With the rapid advancement in gene technology scientists are taking DNA samples from various parts of the mammoth and although it is unlikely to be successful initially, they hope eventually to try and recreate this prehistoric creature, possibly by injecting its DNA into another living colossus, probably the African elephant. The last mammoth died out only as recently as 4,000 years ago but no one is certain why this actually occurred. Now answers to some mammoth questions may be possible.
Arctic Wolf Habitat Map Photo Gallery
There is a caveat in unlocking some of the Arctic’s mysteries. There could be deadly, prehistoric viruses, lying dormant for centuries but still capable of being revived. Recently researchers have found a bug, usually found in tomato plants but fortunately not harmful to human beings, buried within certain ice packs. This raises the literally chilling prospect of ancient strains of potentially deadly diseases such as polio, smallpox, even kinds of flu being allowed back into the Earth’s air, perhaps even transmitted to modern civilisation through the scientists and explorers who have first released them. This rather frightening possibility is also being brought nearer by global warming which could cause these viruses to emerge naturally as the ancient ice melts.
The Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees from the plane of the Earth’s orbit. Because of this tilt, if you are at a location 23.5 degrees from the North Pole on 21 June, the summer solstice, the sun will not completely set. Similarly if you are at a location 23.5 degrees from the North Pole on 21 December, the winter solstice, the sun will not completely rise. This special but invisible location zone of 23.5 degrees from the North Pole (latitude of 66.5 oN) is known as the Arctic Circle. As the Earth’s axis is wobbling slightly the tilt is constantly changing and therefore the Arctic Circle is constantly moving. The summer solstice (also known as Midsummer’s day) is the day of the year when the midday sun appears to be highest in the sky. The winter solstice is the day when the midday sun appears to be lowest.
Of course it is completely the reverse in the Southern hemisphere. The period when the sun does not rise above the horizon, north of the Arctic Circle is called the Polar Night. The North Pole has effectively the shortest calendar of anywhere in the Arctic. Just two days, although they are effectively six months long. During half the year the sun circles the sky, low on the horizon, its long, glowing rays dappling across the ice. The North Pole is approximately 725 km from the northern tip of Greenland, the world’s largest island.
The Arctic Ocean is the smallest of the world’s five oceans. It is just six per cent of the size of the Pacific, the largest. It has an undersea range of mountains, the Lomonosov Ridge approximately 3,000m high but no part actually rising above the water. In winter the ocean is almost completely covered by ice. This freezing doesn’t occur in any of the other oceans, including the Southern Ocean, which surrounds the Antarctic. The ice melts partly in summer at the edges but three-quarters of it remains frozen. The ice moves and drifts, freezing and fracturing in a never-ending cycle.
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