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For the Kim Stanley Robinson novel, see Antarctica (novel)
"Antarctic" redirects here; see also Antarctic Circle
Location of Antartica
Area 13,200,000 km²
Population ~1,000
Government None, governed by the Antarctic Treaty System
Territorial claims Argentina Argentina
Australia Australia
Chile Chile
France France
New Zealand New Zealand
Norway Norway
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Internet TLD .aq
Calling Code +672
A satellite composite image of Antarctica
A satellite composite image of Antarctica

Antarctica (from Greek ἀνταρκτικός, "opposite the Arctic"; see also List of traditional Greek place names) is a continent surrounding the Earth's South Pole. It is the coldest place on Earth and is almost entirely covered by ice; however, it is also the world's largest desert. 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 myths 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 by the Russian expedition of Mikhail Lazarev and Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen. (See also History of Antarctica.)

With an area of 13,200,000 km², Antarctica is the fifth largest continent, after Asia, 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. Temperatures reach a minimum of between -85 and -90 degrees Celsius in the winter and about 30 degrees higher in the summer months. Weather fronts 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 extended time periods. Nearly all of Antarctica is covered by an ice sheet that is, on average, 2.5 kilometers thick.

At the edge of the continent, strong katabatic winds off the polar plateau often blow at storm force. In the interior, however, windspeeds are often moderate.

Depending on the latitude, long periods of constant darkness, or constant sunlight, mean that climates familiar to humans are not generally available on the continent.


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, Antarctica territories.


Territorial claims of Antarctica
Territorial claims of 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 considerably with season. Generally, stations use their home country's time zone, but not always; where known, a base's UTC offset is listed. Although Antarctica has no permanent residents, a number of governments maintain permanent research stations throughout 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.

Tabletop icebergs in Antarctica
Tabletop icebergs in Antarctica


The international dialing code for Antarctica is +672.

Antarctica has wireless telephone services. There is a single cell tower using AMPS technology at Argentina's Marambio Base and an Entel Chile GSM tower on King George Island. Communications are otherwise limited to satellite connections.


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 manoeuvres, 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 or civilians who perform research duty on the Antarctica continent. The medal, including the winter-over bar issued to those who remain on the continent for two complete, six-month seasons, is properly awarded by the United States Congress.

The only documented large-scale land military maneuver was "Operación 90," undertaken 10 years before the Antarctic Treaty by the Argentinian military.

See also

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Continents and regions of the World







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Geological supercontinents :
Gondwana • Laurasia • Pangea • Rodinia

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