Geography Awareness Week is celebrated every year during the third week of November. The goal of the week is to get people excited about geography and help them learn more about the world around them. Every year, Help Teaching presents fun facts to help you get excited about this special week, and this year is no exception. We have rounded up 10 fun facts about one of the most majestic and awe-inspiring geographical features on Earth – mountains!
1) What is a Mountain?
There are no universally agreed upon rules for what makes a mountain a mountain.
It’s generally acknowledged that a mountain is a landform that is taller than the surrounding area and bigger than a hill. Of course, there is also no agreed upon definition of a hill either. This controversy is famously portrayed in the 1995 feature comedy film The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain starring Hugh Grant.
Because there is not an official definition of a mountain, countries define what a mountain is in different ways. For example, in Ireland and the United Kingdom, only a landform over two thousand feet tall is considered a mountain, while in the United States, a mountain can be thus named as long as it’s over one thousand feet tall. This means that a mountain in one country might be considered a hill in another.
Mountains are found all over the world. Each of the seven continents have its own mountains. Here are some fun facts about the mountains on each of the continents.
2) North America: Oldest Mountains
Many geologists believe the Appalachians are over 480 million years old. It’s thought they were formed during the Ordovician period when the North American tectonic plate crashed into another plate during the creation of the super-continent of Pangaea. The Appalachians may have once been as tall as the Rocky Mountains, but have perhaps been worn down over time.
3) South America: Longest Mountain Range
The Andes extend over 4,300 miles through Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. It’s believed the mountains were pushed up when the Nazca and Antarctic plates started slipping under the South American Plate. The highest volcanoes in the world, and the highest mountains outside of Asia, are located in the Andes mountain range.
4) Asia: Highest Mountains
With more than ten mountains over 26,000 feet in height, the Himalayas are the tallest mountains in the world. The biggest jewel in the crown of Himalayan peaks is Mount Everest. With a height of five-and-a-half miles, Everest is the tallest mountain in the world.
But hold on… there is some dispute over whether or not Mount Everest is actually the tallest mountain on the planet. Mountain height is measured by how high the peak of a mountain is above sea level, not how tall the slopes of the mountain are. The base of Mount Everest sits in the Tibetan Plateau, which is more than 13,000 feet above sea level, meaning that the slopes are around 15,000. Denali in Alaska, on the other hand, has a base that is less than 3,000 feet above sea level and slopes that are almost 19,000 feet.
It’s believed the Himalayas are among the world’s youngest mountains formed when the Indian continental plate collided with the Eurasian plate. The Indian plate moves 67mm per year, which means that that the Himalayas are still growing!
5) Africa: Tallest Free-Standing Mountain
Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is a volcano that is not part of any mountain range. The mountain has three distinct volcanic cones, two of which are extinct, but the third is only dormant and could erupt again at some point. It is unclear when Mt. Kilimanjaro last erupted, but it is suspected to have been during the 19th century. Because of its height, Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the only mountains in Africa to have a permanent snowcap.
6) Australia: Smallest Mountain
Not every continent has tall mountains. Mount Wycheproof in Australia is officially the smallest mountain in the world. To most of the world Mount Wycheproof would barely be considered a hill. The mountain measures in at a staggering 486 feet above sea level. You would have to stack up almost sixty Mount Wycheproofs to reach the height of Mount Everest.
7) Europe: Most Photographed Mountain
Though it is impossible to accurately verify, residents of the town of Zermatt, Switzerland claim that the nearby Matterhorn is the most photographed mountain in the world. Even without that designation, the Matterhorn is an extremely popular tourist attraction and its image has become a symbol of Switzerland.
8) Antarctica: Mountains Covered in the Most Snow
Did you know that even Antarctica has mountains? They might not be the highest or the longest mountains in the world, but the Gamburtsev Mountains are the only mountains that are completely covered with snow. No one has actually seen the mountains because they are currently buried under two thousand feet of snow and ice. From 2007 to 2009, scientists used ice penetrating radar to survey mountain range. From their findings it has been determined that the mountains probably are around 6,500 feet tall and resemble the Alps in Europe.
9) The World’s Tallest Mountain: It’s Not What You Think
Ok, so every school kid knows that the aforementioned Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on the planet, right? Not so fast… the truth is there is a mountain taller than Everest from base to peak, but it so happens to be mostly underwater! Mauna Kea, a volcano on the big island of Hawaii, is 32,696 feet (6.2 miles), some 3,661 feet taller than Everest. More than half of Mauna Kea’s height is below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, and 2.6 miles of the volcano is above sea level.
10) The Tallest Known Mountain: It’s Out of this World!
We couldn’t resist including this mountain fun fact even though it technically doesn’t qualify as Earth geography. The tallest mountain in the solar system is Olympus Mons on the planet Mars. This otherworldly peak is 13 miles high, making it two and a half times taller than Mount Everest. In fact, there are four other mountains on the Red Planet that surpass Everest. There is even a mountain on the planet Venus that is taller than Everest!
Do you have any fun mountain facts? If so, share them in the comments. For more fun geography facts, check out 10 Fun Facts for Geography Awareness Week and 10 More Fun Facts for Geography Awareness Week, and be sure to check back next year for even more facts!
If you’re looking for fun and engaging worksheets for elementary and middle school kids on geography and deserts, take a look at KidsKonnect.com, it has hundreds of Geography activities and topics related to Mount Everest, K2, Manaslu, Gasherbrum I and II, and more! For older students, be sure to check out Geography Revision for teaching resources that will save you hours of preparation time.
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