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Facts about Antarctica

Antarctica, fifth largest of the Earth's seven continents. The southernmost,

coldest, windiest, highest, most remote, and most recently discovered continent,
it surrounds the South Pole, the point at the southern end of the Earth's axis.
Almost completely covered by ice, Antarctica has no permanent human
population. The continent is ringed by the Southern Ocean. The entire area
south of the Antarctic Convergence, which serves as the northern boundary of
the Southern Ocean, is referred to as the Antarctic region. Antarctica means
"opposite to the Arctic," the Earth's northernmost region.

Seven nations-Argentina, Australia, the United Kingdom, Chile, France, New

Zealand, and Norway-claim territory in Antarctica. Other nations, including the
United States and Russia, do not acknowledge these claims and make no claims
of their own, but reserve rights to claim territory in the future. Since 1961 the
continent has been administered under the Antarctic Treaty, an international
agreement to preserve the continent for peaceful scientific study.

From a supercontinent, Gondwanaland

Two hundred million years ago Antarctica was joined to Africa, Australia, India,
New Zealand and South America forming the supercontinent, Gondwanaland.
Forces within the Earth affecting the crust caused these continents to separate and
drift apart. Thirty million years ago the continents, as we know them today,
reached their approximate present positions.
Antarctica, having drifted into the area of the Earth's southern pole, then
experienced four or more months of winter darkness, was surrounded by an ocean,
and was almost totally ice-covered. Those processes which produced the early and
gradual separation of the continents, with concurrent climatic changes, were
responsible for the extinction of a number of plants and animals.

Scientists work on all kinds of unique projects in Antarctica, including

penguins, Antarctic cod (they have a special antifreeze agent in their
blood!), whales, seals, global warming, climatology, meteorites, glaciology,

astronomy, volcanoes, UV radiation, and more. Scientists also study humans

in Antarctica, doing research on how the human body adapts to cold and
how the human mind and heart react to extreme isolation.
The Antarctic continent wasn't even actually seen until 1820. No man set
foot in Antarctica until 1895. The first human landing there is claimed by
Henryk Bull, with a party from a whaling ship. They landed at Cape Adare .
It was 1935 before the first woman set foot there. Her name was Catherine
Mikkelson, and she was the wife of a Norwegian whaling captain. The
South Pole was first reached by a Norwegian named Roald Amundsen in
1911, and shortly after by British explorer Robert Scott.
Plants grow in Antarctica in ice-free regions (only about 2 percent of the
continent is ice-free). Lichens and moss grow in any favorable niche,
including in sand, soil, rock and on the weathered bones and feathers of
dead animals. Algae also grows in Antarctica.
Fifty million years ago Antarctica had a temperate climate, evergreen forests
and many more kinds of animals than it has today. As the icecap slowly
formed, most of the animals that lived there in ancient times were
obliterated. Evidence of this once warm climate is in the fossils of plants,
including fossil ferns, found by scientists.

A domestic deep freeze runs at about -20C (-4F). The mean summer
temperature on the great East Antarctica icecap is -30C (-22F) and mean
winter temperature around -60C (-76F). That's a lot colder than your freezer!

The lowest ever temperature recorded was at the Russian Vostok station. It was 89.6C (-129F)

Snow falling at the South Pole takes about 100 000

years to "flow" to the coast of Antarctica before it drops off the
end as part of an iceberg.

11/ The Antarctic ice cap has 29 million cubic kilometres of

ice. This is 90% of all the ice on the planet and between 60 and
70 % of all of the world's fresh water. Only about 0.4% of
Antarctica is not covered by ice.

Antarctica is the southernmost continent on Earth.

The South Pole is found in Antarctica.
Antarctica is surrounded by the Southern Ocean.
Antarctica is bigger than Europe and almost double the size of Australia.
Most of Antarctica is covered in ice over 1.6 kilometres thick (1 mile).
Because it experiences such little rain, Antarctica is considered a
The coldest recorded temperature on Earth occurred in 1983 at Vostok
Station, Antarctica, measuring a rather chilly 89.2 C (128.6 F).
While humans dont permanently reside in Antarctica, several thousand
people live and work at various research facilities found on the
While Antarctica features harsh living conditions, a number of plants
and animals have adapted to survive and call the icy continent home.
Well known animals that live in Antarctica include penguins and seals.
The name Antarctica comes from a Greek word meaning opposite to
the north.

Around 90% of the ice on Earth is found in Antarctica.

Sea levels would rise around 60m (200ft) if all the ice in Antarctica were
to melt.
Head to the opposite end of the globe and check out our

The Antarctic Treaty

The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington on 1 December

1959 by the twelve countries whose scientists had been active in
and around Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year
(IGY) of 1957-58. It entered into force in 1961 and has since been
acceded to by many other nations. The total number of Parties to
the Treaty is now 52.
Some important provisions of the Treaty:
Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only (Art. I)
Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation
toward that end shall continue (Art. II).
Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be
exchanged and made freely available (Art. III).