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高中外研版英语教材选修8课文

Module 1

Antarctica:the last continent

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Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth. It’s also the driest. With annual rainfall close to zero, Antarctica is technically a desert. Covering about 14 million square kilometres around the South Pole, it is the fifth largest continent in the world. A high mountain range, the Trans-Antarctic range, runs from east to west, cutting the continent in two. There are volcanoes too, but they are not very active. Antarctica holds 90% of the world’s ice, and most of its fresh water (70%) is in a frozen state, of course. 98% of the surface is covered permanently in the ice cap. On average it is two kilometres thick, but in some places it reaches a depth of five kilometres.Strong winds driven by gravity blow from the pole to the coastline, while other winds blow round the coast. It is difficult to imagine a more inhospitable place.

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Yet Antarctica is full of wildlife, which has adapted to its extreme conditions.There are different types of penguins, flying birds, seals, and whales. But the long Antarctic winter night, which lasts for 182 days (the longest period of continuous darkness on earth), as well as the extreme cold and lack of rainfall, means that few types of plants can survive there. Only two types of flowering plants are found, while there are no trees on the large continent. The rest of the plants are made up of mosses, algae and lichen. Some forms of algae have adapted to grow on ice.

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Most of the ice has been there for thousands of years. As a result, it has become a window on the past, and can give researchers lots of useful information. Gases and minerals, in the form of volcanic dust trapped in the ice, can tell us a lot about what the worlds climate was like in past ages. Antarctic rocks are also very important for research. Most of them are meteorites from outer space. One rock, known us the “Alien” rock, may contain evidence of extra-terrestrial life. Since most Antarctic rocks arc dark in colour, they stand out against the while background and are easy to identify and collect.

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Antarctica was the last continent to be discovered. But more than two thousand years ago Greek geographers believed that there was a large land mass in the south which balanced the land in the north. They called it Anti-Arktikos, or Antarctica: the opposite of Arctic. When Europeans discovered the continent of America in the 15th century, the great age of exploration began. However, progress to the South Pole was slow. Not until the late 18th century did the British explorer James Cook cross the Antarctic Circle, but he never saw land. Then in 1895, a Norwegian called Carstens Borchgrevink became the first man to set foot on the Antarctic mainland. The race to the pole had begun. It was finally reached on 11th December, 1911 by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen.

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