Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole, is a virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass.
Antarctica is surrounded by the Southern Ocean.
It is the fifth-largest continent at 14,200,000 square kilometers (5,500,000 square miles). For comparison, Antarctica is roughly the size of the United States and Mexico combined or about 1.3 times as large as Europe.
About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages 1.9 kilometer (1.2 mile) in thickness.
Antarctica contains 90% of all of the ice on the planet and thereby about 70% of the world’s fresh water.
Despite its thick ice, Antarctica is classified as a desert because so little moisture falls from the sky. It is the world’s largest desert.
Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent.
It is also the world’s highest continent, with an average elevation of 2300 meters (about 7500 feet).
Mount Vinson is the highest peak in Antarctica, with an elevation of 4,897 meters (16,066 feet).
The lowest point in Antarctica is within the Bentley Subglacial Trench, which reaches 2,555 meters below sea level. This is also the lowest place on Earth not covered by ocean (although it is covered by ice).
Antarctica has two seasons: summer and winter. Earth is tilted in space and the direction of tilt never changes. During summer, Antarctica is on the side of Earth tilted toward the sun. It is always sunny. In winter, Antarctica is on the side of Earth tilted away from the sun. Then, the continent is always dark. Summer runs from October to February and winter covers the remainder of the year.
In the winter Antarctica doubles in size due to the sea ice that forms around the coasts.
The coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was -89.2°C (-128.6°F), registered on July 21, 1983, at Antarctica’s Vostok station.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica was 17.5 °C (63.5 °F) at Hope Bay, on the Antarctic Peninsula, on 24 March 2015 .
The average annual temperature is around -50°C (-58°F ).
The total precipitation on Antarctica, averaged over the entire continent, is about 166 millimeters (6.5 inches) per year. About 200 millimeters (8 in) along the coast and far less inland. The precipitation in Antarctica is mainly snow.
The driest place on Earth is in Antarctica in an area called the Dry Valleys, which have seen no rain for nearly 2 million years. There is absolutely no precipitation in this region and it makes up a 4800 square kilometer (1,850 square miles) region of almost no water, ice or snow.
The continent is buffeted by strong winds, calm periods are rare and typically last just a few hours or less. A wind speed of 320 km/h (200 mph) was recorded at the French Dumont d’Urville base in July 1972.
Antarctica has 17,968 kilometers (11,165 miles) of coastline and is mostly characterized by ice.
Antarctica is divided by the Transantarctic Mountains into two regions, known as East and West Antarctica. East Antarctica, also called Greater Antarctica, constitutes the majority (two-thirds) of the Antarctic continent. West Antarctica is also known as Lesser Antarctica.
There are a number of rivers and lakes in Antarctica, the longest river being the Onyx with only 32 kilometers (20 miles) in length.
Lake Vostok is the largest of Antarctica’s almost 400 known subglacial lakes. The surface of this fresh water lake is approximately 4,000 m (13,100 ft) under the surface of the ice. Measuring 250 km (160 mi) long by 50 km (30 mi) wide at its widest point, and covering an area of 12,500 sq km (4,830 sq mi) and an average depth of 432 m (1,417 ft), it has an estimated volume of 5,400 cubic kilometers (1,300 cu mi). It is the world’s sixth-largest lake by volume.
There are at least two active volcanoes in Antarctica, Mount Erebus (3,794 m/12,448 ft) [photo below] is the highest and has a permanent molten lava lake. The other is on Deception Island, situated just north of the Antarctic Peninsula, a popular stop-off for tourist ships where it is possible to have a warm bath in the volcanically warmed waters while being surrounded by ice.
Antarctica has no trees or bushes. Vegetation on the continent is composed of mosses, lichen, and algae.
Antarctica’s most famous inhabitants are penguins, of which the Emperor penguin and Adélie Penguin, are endemic to Antarctica. In addition, 6 species of seals and 8 species of whales can be found in Antarctic waters.
There are no indigenous populations of people on the frozen continent.
The first explorer to gather evidence of Antarctica’s existence was Captain James Cook between 1772 and 1775. It was not until subsequent expeditions (1819-1820) by William Smith and James Bransfield that the shore was sighted. It was another year before the American Captain John Davis actually landed on the continent.
As of 2016, there are about 135 permanent residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent.
In 1977, Argentina sent a pregnant mother to Antarctica in an effort to claim a portion of the continent. The boy (born 7 January 1978) became the first human known to be born in Antarctica.
There’s a treaty signed by 38 countries that prohibits military activities, mineral mining, nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal in Antarctica.
There are at least seven Christian churches in Antarctica.
There are no huskies pulling sleds in Antarctica. Back in the 1980’s the Environmental Protocol (conservation of Antarctic plants and animals) called for all non-native species, except humans, to be removed from Antarctica. The dogs had to be removed from Antarctica by April of 1994. This ban was introduced due to concerns that the dogs might transfer diseases such as canine distemper to the seal population. It was also a concern that the dogs might break free and disturb the wildlife.
Discovery of microbes surviving without air beneath Antarctic strengthens hope of finding life on other planets. The organisms were found beneath an Antarctic glacier and had learned to survive on only the remnants of minerals and decomposing sea life in a briny pool sealed more than 400 meters (1,300 feet) below the ice. Instead of breathing oxygen, they adapted to ‘breathe’ iron to produce energy.
The largest icebergs (also referred to as ice islands) originate from the vast ice shelves surrounding Antarctica. The largest-known iceberg was from this region. It measured around 295 kilometers (183 mi) long and 37 kilometers (23 mi) wide, with a surface area of 11,000 square kilometers (4,200 sq mi) — larger than the whole island of Jamaica.
If the Antarctic Ice Sheet melted, sea level would rise by 60 to 65 meters (200 to 210 feet).
Millions of years ago, Antarctica had a much warmer climate and boasted evergreen forests and a variety of nimals. Fossils of this earlier period provide scientists with clues about life before Antarctica became a vast icy shelf.
Antarctica is the only continent without a time zone.
South America, the point of which is shared by Argentina and Chile, is the closest continent to Antarctica.
The name ‘Antarctica’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘opposite to the north’.
Antarctica is the best place in the world to find meteorites; the dark rocks stand out easily on the white backdrop.
There are 2 ATM machines in Antarctica.