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For the Kim Stanley Robinson novel see Antarctica (novel)

Antarctica (from Greek ἀνταρκτικός, opposite the arctic) is a continent surrounding the Earth's South Pole. It is the coldest place on earth and is almost entirely covered by ice. It is not to be confused with the Arctic, which is located near the Earth's North Pole on the opposite side of the planet.

Although legends and speculation about a Terra Australis ("Southern Land") go back to antiquity, the first commonly accepted sighting of the continent occurred in 1820 and the first verified landing in 1821. A 1513 map by Admiral Piri Reis, however, contains a southern continent that bears a possible resemblance to the Antarctic coast. (See also History of Antarctica.)

With 13,200,000 km², Antarctica is the fifth largest continent in area, after Eurasia, Africa, North America, and South America. However, it is by far the smallest in population: indeed, it has no permanent population at all. It is also the continent with the highest average altitude, and the lowest average humidity of any continent on Earth, as well as the lowest average temperature.

It has been assigned the Internet ccTLD .aq.


Antarctic climate

Main article: Climate of Antarctica.

Antarctica is the coldest place on earth. Weather patterns rarely penetrate far into the continent, leaving the center cold and dry. There is little precipitation over the continent, but ice there can last for a long time. Nearly all of Antarctica is covered by an ice sheet that is, on average, 2.5 kilometers thick.

See-also: sea level rise.


Region around Antarctica
Region around Antarctica

Main article: Geography of Antarctica

The continent of Antarctica is located mostly south of the Antarctic Circle, surrounded by the Southern Ocean. Physically Antarctica is divided in two by mountains close to the neck between the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. The portion of the continent west of the Weddell Sea and east of the Ross Sea is called Western Antarctica and the remainder Eastern Antarctica , since they correspond roughly to the eastern and western hemispheres relative to the Greenwich meridian. Western Antarctica is covered by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

See also: Extreme points of Antarctica

Territorial claims

Territorial claims of Antarctica
Territorial claims of Antarctica

Several nations, particularly those close to the continent, made territorial claims in the 20th century. These claims have little practical relevance due to the Antarctic Treaty which came into effect in 1961, but continue to be observed by cartographers.

Most countries that have observation or study facilities in Antarctica have those facilities within their claimed territory. The Antarctic Treaty defers these claims and most other nations do not recognize them. No other nations have made claims themselves, although the United States and Russia assert the right to do so. All claim areas except Peter I Island (see below) are sectors extending to the South Pole, the borders of which are defined by degrees of longitude. In terms of latitude, the northern border is the 60° S parallel that does not cut through any piece of land, continent or island, which is the northern limit of the Antarctic treaty. The southern border of all sectors collapses in one point, the South Pole.

No formal claims have been made in the sector between 90 degrees west and 150 degrees west, except for the Norwegian claim to Peter I Island (see above).

Historic claims

Tabletop in Antarctica
Tabletop icebergs in Antarctica


Palmer Station
Palmer Station

It is usually estimated that at a given time there are at least 1,000 people living in Antarctica. This varies strongly with season. Generally, stations use their home country's time zone, but not always; where known, a base's UTC offset is listed. Antarctica has no permanent residents, but a number of governments maintain permanent research stations on the continent. Many of the stations are staffed around the year. These include:

Emilio Marcos Palma was the first person born in Antarctica (Base Esperanza) in 1978, his parents being sent there along with seven other families.

Literature set in Antarctica


The Antarctic Treaty prohibits any measures of a military nature in Antarctica, such as the establishment of military bases and fortifications, the carrying out of military manoeuvers, or the testing of any type of weapon. It permits the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes.

The United States military issues the Antarctica Service Medal to those members of the military who perform research duty on the Antarctica continent.

See also

External links

Educative External links

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