Antarctic plate

The Antarctic Plate is a tectonic plate, which encompasses the continent of Antarctica and further stretches outward under the surrounding oceans. The Plate borders the African Plate, the South American Plate, the Nazca Plate, the Indo-Australian Plate and the Scotia Plate. Creating the Pacific-Antarctic Bridge, it has a different border with the Pacific Plate.

What is the historical background of Antarctic Plate?

Around 400 million years ago, the earth had only one continent named Pangea. This landmass, along with the land under the oceans, was situated on a semi-liquid layer known as asthenosphere. However, the land, above and below water, began breaking into pieces called ‘Plates’, due to the unstable nature of the semi-liquid layer. Eventually, Pangea was split into two super-continents; namely Laurentia and Gondwanaland. Asia, Europe, North America formed Laurentia; whereas Antarctica, South America, Australia and Africa formed Gondwanaland. Gradually, Antarctica split away from the other continents and moved southwards, reaching its current location about 30–60 million years ago.

What are its dimensions and how can its movements be described?

Being the 5th largest tectonic plate in the world, it is roughly around 60,900,000 sq. km. Generally, it is estimated that the plate moves around one centimetre per year towards the Atlantic Ocean. 

Why is the Antarctic Plate important?

The fossilized remains of freshwater fishes, ferns, reptiles and amphibians, which are normally found in Non-Arctic areas are now found throughout Antarctica because of the plate tectonics.

Are there any underwater volcanoes or earthquakes in the Antarctic Plate?

Earthquakes rarely occur in Antarctica, as it has 19 operating seismograph stations in the continent. Some big earthquakes, which occurred, had a magnitude of 8. However, frequent ice quakes occur within the ice sheet itself, instead of the land beneath the ice and hence are comparatively smaller and thus not easily noticeable. Antarctica does not have any underwater volcanoes. Its most active volcano above the surface of the Earth is Mount Erebus, which is less than 1,392 km from the South Pole and its eruptions are usually hot, molten rock underneath the icy surface of the continent. 

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