General information: According to Ask 4 Beauty, the hypothesis of the existence of the South Land was confirmed only in the early 1820s, when British and American whalers, as well as British and Russian national expeditions, began to explore the region of the Antarctic Peninsula and the area south of the Antarctic Circle. Only in 1838 was it established that Antarctica was indeed a continent and not a group of islands. At the beginning of the 20th century, numerous explorers visited Antarctica, among whose achievements were: the first balloon flight in 1902 (British Robert Falcon SCOTT); reaching the South Pole in 1912 (five Norwegians led by Roald AMUNDSEN); airplane flight in 1928 (Australian adventurer Hubert WILKINS); the first flight over the South Pole in 1929 (Americans Richard BYRD, Bernt BELCHEN); first transantarctic flight in 1935 (American Lincoln Ellsworth). After World War II, there was a surge in scientific research. Several countries have built permanent research stations. Seven states have territorial claims in Antarctica, but other countries do not recognize them. The current Antarctic Treaty neither recognizes nor denies any territorial claims. Treaty signed in 1959, entered into force in 1961.
Location: A continent mostly located beyond the Antarctic Circle.
Geographic coordinates: 90° 00′ S latitude, 0° 00′ E
Reference map: Antarctic region.
Area: total: 14 million square kilometers; land surface area: 14 million km2 (280,000 sq. km ice-free, 13.72 million sq. km ice-covered) (est.); note: fifth largest continent, after Asia, Africa, North America and South America, but larger than Australia and the European subcontinent. Comparative area: slightly less than 1.5 US area.
Land borders: 0 km;
Coastline: 17,968 km.
Maritime claims: No; 20 of the 27 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties have not made any claims regarding Antarctica (although Russia and the United States reserve such a right) and do not recognize the claims of other countries; see also see section “International Disputes”.
Climate: low temperatures vary with latitude, altitude and distance from the ocean; East Antarctica is colder than West Antarctica, as there are more elevations; the most temperate climate on the Antarctic Peninsula; January sees warmer temperatures along the coast, with average temperatures slightly below freezing.
Relief: about 98% is covered with a thick layer of continental ice, 2% – rocks, the average height varies from 2,000 to 4,000 m; mountain ranges have a height of up to 5,140 m; coastal areas, including the southern part of Victoria Land, Wilkes Land, the Antarctic Peninsula, as well as part of Ross Island near McMurdo Sound, are ice-free; glaciers form an ice shelf that stretches along about half of the coastline, and drifting ice shelves make up 11% of the continent’s area.
Maximum and minimum heights: lowest point: Bentley subglacial trench -2540 m; highest point: Vinson massif 5,140 m; note: the lowest point of Antarctica is hidden in the subglacial Bentley Trench; its surface is the deepest patch of ice discovered to date and the lowest point uncovered by water.
Natural resources: no subsoil is currently being developed; iron ore, chromium, copper, gold, nickel, platinum, other minerals, coal and hydrocarbons are found in small quantities and have no industrial value; krill, Patagonian toothfish, crabs are caught by commercial anglers.
Land use: arable land: 0%; cultivated land: 0%; pasture: 0%; forests and plantations: 0%; others: 100% (ice 98%, rocks 2%).
Irrigated land: 0 sq. km. (1993).
Natural Hazards: katabatic (moving under the action of gravity) winds from the highland interior, blowing towards the sea; frequent snow storms that form at the foot of mountain plateaus; cyclonic storms that form in the ocean and move clockwise along the coast; volcanic events on Deception Island and in some other areas of West Antarctica; other types of seismic activity are rare and insignificant; large icebergs can break off the ice shelf.
Current environmental issues: according to NASA satellite data in 1998, the ozone hole over Antarctica was the largest officially recorded; it occupied an area of 27 million square kilometers; in 1997, scientists discovered that increasing ultraviolet radiation passing through the ozone hole adversely affects the DNA of marine fish and that Antarctic fish have a lack of hemoglobin; ozone depletion has previously been shown to harm Antarctic single-celled marine organisms.
International agreements on environmental protection:
Note to the section “Geography”: the coldest, windiest, highest (on average) and driest continent on earth; in summer at the South Pole there is a greater solar radiation than at the same time at the equator; Antarctica is basically uninhabitable.
Population: there is no indigenous population, there are research stations operating on a seasonal basis; note: Approximately 29 Antarctic Treaty signatories provide staff to conduct seasonal (summer) and year-round research on the continent and adjacent seas; the number of scientists doing scientific work on the continent and islands south of 60° south latitude (this area is governed by the Antarctic Treaty) ranges from approximately 4,000 in summer to 1,000 in winter, as well as approximately 1,000 people, including members of ships’ crews and scientists conducting research on board ships are located in the waters of the region covered by the treaty; the number of people in the summer (January) – a total of 3,687; Australia 201, Argentina 302, Belgium 13, Bulgaria 16, Brazil 80, UK 192, Germany 51, India 60, Spain 43, Italy 106, China 70, Netherlands 10, New Zealand 60, Norway 40, Peru 28, Poland 70, Russia 254, USA 1378, Finland 11, France 100, Chile 352, Sweden 20, South Africa 80, South Korea 14, Japan 136 (1998-99); the number of people in winter (July) – a total of 964; Australia 75, Argentina 165, Brazil 12, UK 39, Germany 9, India 25, China 33, New Zealand 10, Poland 20, Russia 102, US 248, France 33, Chile 129, South Africa 10, South Korea 14, Japan 40 ( 1998-99); stations operating all year round – 42 in total; Australia 4, Argentina 6, Brazil 1, UK 2, Germany 1, India 1, Spain 1, Italy 1, China 2, New Zealand 1, Norway 1, Poland 1, Russia 6, US 3, Ukraine 1, Uruguay 1, Finland 1, France 1, Chile 4, South Africa 1, South Korea 1, Japan 1 (1998-99); stations operating only in the summer – 32 in total; Australia 4, Argentina 3, Bulgaria 1, UK 5, Germany 1, India 1, New Zealand 1, Peru 1, Russia 3, Chile 7, Sweden 2, Japan 3 (1998-99); in addition, during the austral summer, some countries equip residential sites (tent camps, temporary buildings) for research and use mobile sledges.