The Arctic in the north and the Antarctic in the south are at opposite ends of the planet, but they are similar in many ways. Both are lands of ice and snow, where the temperature in winter can be so low that your skin can freeze in seconds – it can be as low as –80°C. Very few animals are able to survive these conditions, but there are some both in the north and in the south. The Arctic has more plants and animals than the Antarctic, including polar bears, the largest bear in the world. In the south there are no land animals because of the extreme cold, but there are penguins and other sea animals that live on or near the coast – although both in the north and the south the sea is frozen for much of the year.
One difference between the Arctic and the Antarctic is the human population. In parts of the Arctic there are towns and villages. Greenland, for example, the largest island in the world, has a population of 55,000 people. Many of these people work in fishing. They have a difficult life. There aren’t many roads between towns and villages, so people travel by snowmobile or with dogs. From November to January it’s dark for 24 hours a day, but from May to July there are 24 hours of daylight. In the Antarctic there are no normal towns and villages. Only scientists live there all year round, in special buildings called ‘stations’. They study the sea animals and learn about the history of the world’s climate by studying the weather and the ice. It’s a hard place to live, especially in winter, but many of them love it there and return again and again.