| ||Antartica is a vast and frozen continental land mass, one and a half times bigger than Europe and covered with the largest ice cap in the world. It is so thick and so extensive that it covers 98% of the continent and holds captive 70% of the planet’s reserves of fresh water. Close to the American scientific base at Mc Murdo, the region of the Dry Valleys is one of the rare terrains not covered with ice. The katabatic winds that blow from the heart of the continent are so cold and so violent that snow cannot drift. In some places, the landscape reveals sedimentary rock, interspersed with black basalt, which is volcanic in origin. There are some forms of life in this mineral environment that have adapted themselves to these conditions : bacteria and unicellular algae, endolithic lichens that grow in the rocks themselves, and also nematodes (cylindrical worms), which dehydrate and go to sleep as winter approaches, but wake up again when weather conditions improve.
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