HOME

TheInfoList




Antarctica ( or ) is
Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 70.8% is Water distribution on Earth, covered wi ...

Earth
's southernmost
continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of th ...

continent
. It contains the geographic
South Pole The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole, Terrestrial South Pole or 90th Parallel South, is one of the two points where Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on Earth and lies on the ...
and is situated in the
Antarctic The Antarctic (US English or , UK English or and or ) is a around 's , opposite the region around the . The Antarctic comprises the continent of , the and other located on the or south of the . The Antarctic region includes the , wa ...

Antarctic
region of the
Southern Hemisphere The Southern Hemisphere is the half (hemisphere Hemisphere may refer to: * A half of a sphere As half of the Earth * A hemispheres of Earth, hemisphere of Earth ** Northern Hemisphere ** Southern Hemisphere ** Eastern Hemisphere ** Western He ...

Southern Hemisphere
, almost entirely south of the
Antarctic Circle 350px, ''Map of the Antarctic with the Antarctic Circle in blue.'' The Antarctic Circle is the most southerly of the five major circle of latitude, circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. The region south of this circle is known as the An ...

Antarctic Circle
, and is surrounded by the
Southern Ocean The Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean, comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60° S latitude and encircling Antarctica. As such, it is regarded as the second-smallest of t ...

Southern Ocean
. At , it is the fifth-largest continent and nearly twice the size of
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...
. At 0.00008 people per square kilometre, it is by far the least densely populated continent. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by
ice Ice is water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an , transparent, tasteless, odorless, and , which is the main constituent of 's and the s of all known living organisms (in which it acts as a ). It is vital for all known forms of , eve ...

ice
that averages in thickness, which extends to all but the northernmost reaches of the
Antarctic Peninsula The Antarctic Peninsula, known as O'Higgins Land in Chile and Tierra de San Martin in Argentina, and originally as the Palmer Peninsula in the US and Graham Land in the United Kingdom, is the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica. T ...

Antarctic Peninsula
. While the
McMurdo Dry Valleys The McMurdo Dry Valleys are a row of largely Antarctic oasis, snow-free valleys in Antarctica, located within Victoria Land west of McMurdo Sound. The Dry Valleys experience extremely low humidity and surrounding mountains prevent the flow of ...
is the driest place is the world, and has not seen rain for nearly 2 million years. Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average
elevation The elevation of a geographic Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and Solar Sy ...

elevation
of all the continents. Most of Antarctica is a
polar desert Ice desert with ground pattern characteristic of freeze-thaw alternationIce deserts are the regions of Earth that fall under an ice cap climate upright=1.4, Effect of Sun angle on climate, Solar radiation has a lower intensity in polar regions bec ...
, with annual
precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the (which include and ), with a major focus on . The study of meteorology dates back , though significant progress in meteorology did not begin until the 18th century. The 19th century saw mod ...

precipitation
of along the coast and far less inland; yet 80% of the world
freshwater Fresh water or freshwater is any naturally occurring liquid or frozen water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an , transparent, tasteless, odorless, and , which is the main constituent of 's and the s of all known living organisms (in ...
reserves are stored there, enough to raise global
sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an average In colloquial, ordinary language, an average is a single number taken as representative of a list of numbers, usually the sum of the numbers divided by how many numbers are in th ...

sea level
s by about if all of it were to melt. The temperature in Antarctica has dropped to (or even −94.7 °C (−135.8 °F) as measured from space), though the average for the third quarter (the coldest part of the year) is −63 °C (−81 °F). Organisms native to Antarctica include many types of
algae Algae (; singular alga ) is an informal term for a large and diverse group of photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert Conversion or convert may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Co ...

algae
,
bacteria Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are ubiquitous, mostly free-living organisms often consisting of one Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typ ...

bacteria
,
fungi A fungus (plural The plural (sometimes abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full ...

fungi
,
plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical energy that, through cellular respiration, can later be released to fuel ...

plant
s,
protist A protist () is any eukaryotic Eukaryotes () are organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells (cell theory). Organisms are c ...
a, and certain
animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular A multicellular organism is an organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells ...

animal
s, such as
mite Mites are small arachnid Arachnida () is a class Class or The Class may refer to: Common uses not otherwise categorized * Class (biology), a taxonomic rank * Class (knowledge representation), a collection of individuals or objects * Cl ...
s,
nematode The nematodes ( or grc-gre, Νηματώδη; la, Nematoda) or roundworms constitute the phylum Nematoda (also called Nemathelminthes), with plant-parasitic nematodes also known as eelworms. They are a diverse animal phylum inhabiting a bro ...

nematode
s,
penguin Penguins (order Order or ORDER or Orders may refer to: * Orderliness Orderliness is associated with other qualities such as cleanliness Cleanliness is both the abstract state of being clean and free from germs, dirt, trash, or waste, and t ...

penguin
s,
seals Seals may refer to: * Pinniped Pinnipeds (pronounced ), commonly known as seals, are a widely and diverse of , -footed, , mostly s. They comprise the (whose only living member is the ), (the eared seals: s and s), and (the earless sea ...
and
tardigrade Tardigrades (), known colloquially as water bears or moss piglets, are a phylum In biology, a phylum (; plural The plural (sometimes list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatica ...

tardigrade
s. Vegetation, where it occurs, is
tundra In physical geography Physical geography (also known as physiography) is one of the two fields of geography Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα ...

tundra
. Antarctica was the last region on Earth to be discovered, unseen until 1820 when the Russian expedition of
Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen Fabian Gottlieb Thaddeus von Bellingshausen (russian: Фадде́й Фадде́евич Беллинсга́узен, translit=Faddéj Faddéevič Bellinsgáuzen; – ) was a Russian Empire, Russian naval officer, cartographer and explorer, ...

Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen
and
Mikhail Lazarev Admiral Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navy, navies, and in many navies is the highest rank. In the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth nations and the United States, a "full" admiral is equivalent to a "full" general officer, ...
on '' Vostok'' and '' Mirny'' sighted the
Fimbul ice shelf The Fimbul Ice Shelf is an Antarctic ice shelf about long and wide, nourished by Jutulstraumen Glacier, bordering the coast of Queen Maud Land from 3°W to 3°E. It was photographed from the air by the Third German Antarctic Expedition (1938 ...
. The continent remained largely neglected for the rest of the 19th century because of its harsh environment, lack of easily accessible resources, and isolation. In January 1840, land at Antarctica was discovered for the first time, almost simultaneously, by the
United States Exploring Expedition The United States Exploring Expedition of 1838–1842 was an exploring and surveying expedition of the Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north t ...
, under Lieut.
Charles Wilkes Charles Wilkes (April 3, 1798 – February 8, 1877) was an American naval officer, ship's captain, and explorer Exploration is the act of searching for the purpose of discovery Discovery may refer to: * Discovery (observation) Discovery ...
, and a separate French expedition under
Jules Dumont d'Urville Jules Sébastien César Dumont d'Urville (; 23 May 1790 – 8 May 1842) was a French List of explorers, explorer and French Navy, naval officer who explored the south and western Pacific Ocean, Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica. ...
. The latter made a temporary landing; while the Wilkes expedition, though it did not make a landing, did remain long enough in the region to survey and map some 800 miles of the continent. The first confirmed landing was by a team of Norwegians in 1895. Antarctica is governed by parties to the
Antarctic Treaty System russian: link=no, Договор об Антарктике es, link=no, Tratado Antártico , name = Antarctic Treaty System , image = Flag of the Antarctic Treaty.svgborder , image_width = 180px , caption ...
. Twelve countries signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, and thirty-eight have signed it since then. The treaty prohibits military activities, mineral mining, nuclear explosions and
nuclear waste disposal Radioactive waste is a type of hazardous waste that contains radioactive material. Radioactive waste is a result of many activities, including nuclear medicine, nuclear research, nuclear power generation, Rare-earth element, rare-earth mining, and ...
. It supports scientific research and protects the continent's
ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. Ecology considers organisms In biol ...
. Between 1,000 and 5,000 people from many countries reside at research stations scattered across the continent.


Etymology

The name ''Antarctica'' is the
romanised Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas ...
version of the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
compound word ἀνταρκτική (''antarktiké''), feminine of ἀνταρκτικός (''antarktikós''), meaning "opposite to the
Arctic The Arctic ( or ) is a polar regions of Earth, polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Danish Realm, ...

Arctic
", "opposite to the north".
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Aristotle
wrote in his book ''Meteorology'' about an ''Antarctic region'' in c. 350 BC.
Marinus of Tyre Marinus of Tyre ( grc-gre, Μαρῖνος ὁ Τύριος, ''Marînos ho Týrios'';  70–130) was a Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Rep ...
reportedly used the name in his unpreserved world map from the 2nd century CE. The
Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Laz ...
authors
Hyginus Gaius Julius Hyginus (; 64 BC – AD 17) was a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Lat ...
and
Apuleius Apuleius (; also called Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis; c. 124 – c. 170 AD) was a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

Apuleius
(1–2 centuries CE) used for the South Pole the romanised Greek name ''polus antarcticus,'' from which derived the
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular o ...
''pole antartike'' (modern ''pôle antarctique'') attested in 1270, and from there the
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured sys ...
''pol antartik'' in a 1391 technical treatise by
Geoffrey Chaucer Geoffrey Chaucer (; – 25 October 1400) was an English poet and author. Widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and coll ...

Geoffrey Chaucer
(modern ''Antarctic Pole'').


Change of name

The long-imagined (but undiscovered) south polar continent was originally called ''
Terra Australis Terra Australis (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be ...
'', sometimes shortened to ''Australia'' as seen in a woodcut illustration titled "Sphere of the winds", contained in an astrological textbook published in Frankfurt in 1545. In the early 19th century, the colonial authorities in
Sydney Sydney ( ; Dharug The Darug or Dharug people are an Aboriginal Australian people, who share strong ties of kinship and, in Colonial Australia, pre-colonial times, survived as skilled hunters in family groups or clans, scattered througho ...

Sydney
removed the Dutch name from New Holland. Instead of inventing a new name to replace it, they took the name ''Australia'' from the south polar continent, leaving it nameless for some eighty years. During that period, geographers had to make do with clumsy phrases such as "the Antarctic Continent". They searched for a more poetic replacement, suggesting various names such as Ultima and Antipodea. Eventually ''Antarctica'' was adopted as the continental name in the 1890s—the first use of the name is attributed to the Scottish
cartographer Cartography (; from Greek χάρτης ''chartēs'', "papyrus, sheet of paper, map"; and γράφειν ''graphein'', "write") is the study and practice of making and using maps. Combining science Science (from the Latin word ''scienti ...
John George Bartholomew John George Bartholomew (22 March 1860 – 14 April 1920) was a Scottish cartographer Cartography (; from Greek χάρτης ''chartēs'', "papyrus, sheet of paper, map"; and γράφειν ''graphein'', "write") is the study and practice ...
.


History of exploration

Antarctica has no indigenous population. In February 1775, during his second voyage,
Captain Cook Captain (Royal Navy), Captain James Cook (7 November 1728Old Style and New Style dates, Old Style date: 27 October14 February 1779) was a British explorer, navigator, Cartography, cartographer, and Captain (Royal Navy), captain in the British ...

Captain Cook
called the existence of such a polar continent "probable" and in another copy of his journal he wrote: " firmly believe it and it's more than probable that we have seen a part of it". However, belief in the existence of a ''Terra Australis''—a vast continent in the far south of the globe to "balance" the northern lands of
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

Europe
,
Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the cont ...

Asia
and
North Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...

North Africa
—had prevailed since the times of
Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemy (; grc-koi, Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος, , ; la, Claudius Ptolemaeus; AD) was a mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes ...
in the 1st century AD. Even in the late 17th century, after explorers had found that South America and Australia were not part of the fabled "Antarctica", geographers believed that the continent was much larger than its actual size. Integral to the story of the origin of Antarctica's name is that it was not named ''Terra Australis''—this name was given to Australia instead, because of the misconception that no significant landmass could exist further south. Explorer
Matthew Flinders Captain (Royal Navy), Captain Matthew Flinders (16 March 1774 – 19 July 1814) was a British navigator and cartographer who led the first littoral zone, inshore circumnavigate, circumnavigation of the landmass that is now known as Australia. ...

Matthew Flinders
, in particular, has been credited with popularising the transfer of the name ''Terra Australis'' to Australia. He justified the titling of his book ''
A Voyage to Terra Australis ''A Voyage to Terra Australis: Undertaken for the Purpose of Completing the Discovery of that Vast Country, and Prosecuted in the Years 1801, 1802, and 1803, in His Majesty's Ship the Investigator'' was a sea voyage journal written by English mari ...
'' (1814) by writing in the introduction: European maps continued to show this hypothetical land until Captain James Cook's ships, and , crossed the Antarctic Circle on 17 January 1773, in December 1773 and again in January 1774. Cook came within about of the Antarctic coast before retreating in the face of field ice in January 1773. According to various organisations (the
National Science Foundation The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent agency of the United States government Independent or Independents may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Artist groups * Independents (artist group)The Independents were a group of ...

National Science Foundation
,
NASA The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; ) is an independent agency A regulatory agency or regulatory authority, is a Public benefit corporation Public-benefit corporation is a term that has different meanings in differen ...

NASA
, the
University of California, San Diego The University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego or, colloquially, UCSD) is a public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university in San Diego, California. Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Inst ...
, the Russian State Museum of the Arctic and Antarctic, among others), ships captained by three men sighted Antarctica or its ice shelf in 1820:
Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen Fabian Gottlieb Thaddeus von Bellingshausen (russian: Фадде́й Фадде́евич Беллинсга́узен, translit=Faddéj Faddéevič Bellinsgáuzen; – ) was a Russian Empire, Russian naval officer, cartographer and explorer, ...

Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen
, a captain in the
Imperial Russian Navy The Imperial Russian Navy () operated as the navy A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a Nation's armed forces principally designated for naval warfare, naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake-borne, riverine, littoral ...
,
Edward Bransfield Edward Bransfield (c. 1785 – 31 October 1852) was an Irish sailor who became an officer in the British Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's Navy, naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish ...
, a captain in the
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A ...
, and
Nathaniel Palmer Nathaniel Brown Palmer (August 8, 1799June 21, 1877) was an American seal hunter, explorer, sailing captain, and ship designer. He gave his name to Palmer Land Palmer Land () is the portion of the Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica that lies south o ...

Nathaniel Palmer
, an American . The First Russian Antarctic Expedition led by Bellingshausen and
Mikhail Lazarev Admiral Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navy, navies, and in many navies is the highest rank. In the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth nations and the United States, a "full" admiral is equivalent to a "full" general officer, ...
on the 985-ton
sloop-of-war In the 18th century and most of the 19th, a sloop-of-war in the Royal Navy was a warship A warship or combatant ship is a that is built and primarily intended for . Usually they belong to the of a state. As well as being armed, warships ...
''Vostok'' ("East") and the 530-ton support vessel ''Mirny'' ("Peaceful") reached a point within of Queen Maud's Land and recorded the sight of an ice shelf at , on 27 January 1820, which became known as the
Fimbul ice shelf The Fimbul Ice Shelf is an Antarctic ice shelf about long and wide, nourished by Jutulstraumen Glacier, bordering the coast of Queen Maud Land from 3°W to 3°E. It was photographed from the air by the Third German Antarctic Expedition (1938 ...
. This happened three days before Bransfield sighted the land of the
Trinity Peninsula Trinity Peninsula is the northernmost part of the Antarctic Peninsula. It extends northeastward for about 130 km (80 mi) to Cape Dubouzet from an imaginary line connecting Cape Kater on the north-west coast and Cape Longing on the sout ...

Trinity Peninsula
of Antarctica, as opposed to the ice of an ice shelf, and ten months before Palmer did so in November 1820. The first documented landing on Antarctica was by the American sealer John Davis, apparently at
Hughes Bay Hughes Bay is a bay lying between Cape Sterneck and Cape Murray (Graham Land), Cape Murray along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is wide and lies south of Chavdar Peninsula and north of Pefaur (Ventimiglia) Peninsula, indenting the ...
, near Cape Charles, in
West Antarctica West Antarctica, or Lesser Antarctica, one of the two major regions of Antarctica Antarctica ( or ) is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere ...
on 7 February 1821, although some historians dispute this claim. The first recorded and confirmed landing was at Cape Adair in 1895 (by the Norwegian-Swedish whaling ship ''Antarctic''). On 22 January 1840, two days after the discovery of the coast west of the
Balleny Islands The Balleny Islands () are a series of uninhabited islands in the Southern Ocean The Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean or the Austral Ocean, comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be sout ...

Balleny Islands
, some members of the crew of the 1837–40 expedition of
Jules Dumont d'Urville Jules Sébastien César Dumont d'Urville (; 23 May 1790 – 8 May 1842) was a French List of explorers, explorer and French Navy, naval officer who explored the south and western Pacific Ocean, Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica. ...
disembarked on the highest islet of a group of coastal rocky islands about 4 km from Cape Géodésie on the coast of
Adélie Land Adélie Land (french: Terre Adélie) is a Territorial claims in Antarctica, claimed territory on the continent of Antarctica. It stretches from a portion of the Southern Ocean coastline all the way inland to the South Pole. France has administere ...
where they took some mineral, algae, and animal samples, erected the French flag and claimed French sovereignty over the territory. File:Atlas pittoresque pl 169.jpg, Discovery and claim of French sovereignty over
Adélie Land Adélie Land (french: Terre Adélie) is a Territorial claims in Antarctica, claimed territory on the continent of Antarctica. It stretches from a portion of the Southern Ocean coastline all the way inland to the South Pole. France has administere ...
by
Jules Dumont d'Urville Jules Sébastien César Dumont d'Urville (; 23 May 1790 – 8 May 1842) was a French List of explorers, explorer and French Navy, naval officer who explored the south and western Pacific Ocean, Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica. ...
, in 1840. File:James Weddell Expedition.jpg, Painting of
James Weddell James Weddell (24 August 1787 – 9 September 1834) was a British sailor A sailor, seaman, mariner, or seafarer is a person who works aboard a watercraft as part of its crew, and may work in any one of a number of different fields that a ...

James Weddell
's second expedition in 1823, depicting the brig ''Jane'' and the cutter ''Beaufoy'' File:TheSouthernParty.jpg,
Nimrod Expedition The ''Nimrod'' Expedition of 1907–1909, otherwise known as the British Antarctic Expedition, was the first of three successful expeditions to the Antarctic led by Ernest Shackleton. Its main target, among a range of geographical and scientif ...

Nimrod Expedition
South Pole Party (left to right):
Wild Wild, wild or wild may refer to: Common meanings * Wild animal ''Wild Animal'' is the debut solo studio album by Canadian singer Vanity Vanity is the excessive belief in one's own abilities or attractiveness to others. Prior to the 14th centu ...
, ,
Marshall Marshall may refer to: Places United States * Marshall, Alaska * Marshall, Arkansas * Marshall, California * Lotus, California, former name Marshall * Marshall Pass, a mountain pass in Colorado * Marshall, Illinois * Marshall, Indiana * Marshall, ...
and Adams
Explorer
James Clark Ross Sir James Clark Ross (15 April 1800 – 3 April 1862) was a British Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's Navy, naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish kings from the early medieval p ...

James Clark Ross
passed through what is now known as the
Ross Sea The Ross Sea is a deep bay of the Southern Ocean The Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean, comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60° S latitude and encircling Antarctic ...

Ross Sea
and discovered
Ross Island Ross Island is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atoll An atoll (), sometim ...

Ross Island
(both of which were named after him) in 1841. He sailed along a huge wall of ice that was later named the
Ross Ice Shelf The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf An ice shelf is a large floating platform of ice that forms where a glacier A glacier ( or ) is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight. A glacier form ...

Ross Ice Shelf
.
Mount Erebus Mount Erebus () is an active volcano A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and Volcanic gas, gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface. On Earth, ...

Mount Erebus
and Mount Terror are named after two ships from his expedition: and . Mercator Cooper landed in East Antarctica on 26 January 1853. During the ''Nimrod'' Expedition led by Ernest Shackleton in 1907, parties led by Edgeworth David became the first to climb Mount Erebus and to reach the South Magnetic Pole. Douglas Mawson, who assumed the leadership of the Magnetic Pole party on their perilous return, went on to lead several expeditions until retiring in 1931. In addition, Shackleton and three other members of his expedition made several firsts in December 1908 – February 1909: they were the first humans to traverse the Ross Ice Shelf, the first to traverse the Transantarctic Mountains (via the Beardmore Glacier), and the first to set foot on the South Polar Plateau. Amundsen's South Pole expedition, An expedition led by Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen from the ship ''Fram'' became the first to reach the geographic South Pole on 14 December 1911, using a route from the Bay of Whales and up the Axel Heiberg Glacier. One month later, the doomed Terra Nova Expedition, Scott Expedition reached the pole. Richard E. Byrd led several voyages to the Antarctic by plane in the 1930s and 1940s. He is credited with implementing mechanised land Transport in Antarctica, transport on the continent and conducting extensive geological and biological research. The first women to set foot on Antarctica were Caroline Mikkelsen, who landed on an island of Antarctica in 1935,"Women in Antarctica: Sharing this Life-Changing Experience"
, transcript of speech by Robin Burns, given at the 4th Annual Phillip Law Lecture; Hobart, Tasmania, Australia; 18 June 2005. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
and Ingrid Christensen who stepped onto the mainland in 1937.Bogen, H. (1957). ''Main events in the history of Antarctic exploration''. Sandefjord: Norwegian Whaling Gazette, page 85 It was not until 31 October 1956, that anyone set foot on the South Pole again; on that day a U.S. Navy group led by Rear Admiral George J. Dufek successfully landed an aircraft there. The first women to step onto the South Pole were Pam Young, Jean Pearson, Lois Jones (scientist), Lois Jones, Eileen McSaveney, Kay Lindsay and Terry Tickhill in 1969. In the southern hemisphere summer of 1996–97 the Norwegian explorer Børge Ousland became the first person to cross Antarctica alone from coast to coast. Ousland got aid from a kite on parts of the distance. All attempted crossings, with no kites or resupplies, that have tried to go from the true continental edges, where the ice meets the sea, have failed due to the great distance that needs to be covered. For this crossing, Ousland also holds the record for the fastest unsupported journey to the
South Pole The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole, Terrestrial South Pole or 90th Parallel South, is one of the two points where Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on Earth and lies on the ...
, taking just 34 days. File:Aan de Zuidpool - p1913-160.jpg, Roald Amundsen and his crew looking at the Norwegian flag at the
South Pole The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole, Terrestrial South Pole or 90th Parallel South, is one of the two points where Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on Earth and lies on the ...
, 1911 File:Base Dumont d'Urville - Dumont d'Urville station.jpg, The French Dumont d'Urville Station, an example of modern human settlement in Antarctica File:Børge Ousland at Zero 2010.jpg, In 1997 Børge Ousland became the first person to make a solo crossing.


Geography

Positioned asymmetrically around the South Pole and largely south of the Antarctic Circle, Antarctica is the southernmost continent and is surrounded by the
Southern Ocean The Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean, comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60° S latitude and encircling Antarctica. As such, it is regarded as the second-smallest of t ...

Southern Ocean
; alternatively, it may be considered to be surrounded by the southern Pacific Ocean, Pacific, Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, or by the southern waters of the World Ocean. There are a number of rivers and lakes in Antarctica, the longest river being the Onyx River, Onyx. The largest lake, Lake Vostok, Vostok, is one of the largest sub-glacial lakes in the world. Antarctica covers more than , making it the fifth-largest continent, about 1.3 times as large as Europe. The coastline measures and is mostly characterised by ice formations, as the following table shows: Antarctica is divided in two by the Transantarctic Mountains close to the neck between the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. The portion west of the Weddell Sea and east of the Ross Sea is called West Antarctica and the remainder East Antarctica. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by the Antarctic ice sheet, a ice sheet, sheet of ice averaging at least thick. The continent has about 90% of the world's ice (and thus about 70% of the world's fresh water). If all of this ice were melted, sea levels would rise about . In most of the interior of the continent, Precipitation (meteorology), precipitation is very low, down to per year; in a few "Blue-ice area, blue ice" areas precipitation is lower than mass loss by sublimation (phase transition), sublimation, and so the local mass balance is negative. In the McMurdo Dry Valleys, dry valleys, the same effect occurs over a rock base, leading to a desiccated landscape. West Antarctica is covered by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The sheet has been of recent concern because of the small possibility of its collapse. If the sheet were to break down, Sea level change, ocean levels would rise by several metres in a relatively short Geologic time scale, geologically period of time, perhaps a matter of centuries. Several Antarctic ice streams flow to one of the many Ice shelf#Antarctic ice shelves, Antarctic ice shelves, a process known as ice-sheet dynamics. East Antarctica lies on the Indian Ocean side of the Transantarctic Mountains and comprises Coats Land, Queen Maud Land, Enderby Land, Mac. Robertson Land, Mac. Robertson Land, Wilkes Land, and Victoria Land. All but a small portion of this region lies within the Eastern Hemisphere. East Antarctica is largely covered by the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Vinson Massif, the highest peak in Antarctica at , is located in the Ellsworth Mountains. Antarctica contains List of mountains in Antarctica, many other mountains, on both the main continent and the surrounding islands. Mount Erebus on Ross Island is the world's southernmost active volcano. Another well-known volcano is found on Deception Island, which is famous for a giant eruption in 1970. Minor eruptions are frequent, and lava flow has been observed in recent years. Other dormant volcanoes may potentially be active. In 2004, a potentially active underwater volcano was found in the
Antarctic Peninsula The Antarctic Peninsula, known as O'Higgins Land in Chile and Tierra de San Martin in Argentina, and originally as the Palmer Peninsula in the US and Graham Land in the United Kingdom, is the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica. T ...

Antarctic Peninsula
by American and Canadian researchers. Antarctica is home to more than 70 lakes that lie at the base of the continental ice sheet. Lake Vostok, discovered beneath Russia's Vostok Station in 1996, is the largest of these subglacial lakes. It was once believed that the lake had been sealed off for 500,000 to one million years, but a recent survey suggests that, every so often, there are large flows of water from one lake to another. There is some evidence, in the form of ice cores drilled to about above the water line, that Lake Vostok's waters may contain microorganism, microbial life. The frozen surface of the lake shares similarities with Jupiter's moon Europa (moon), Europa. If life is discovered in Lake Vostok, it would strengthen the argument for the possibility of life on Europa. In 2008, a NASA team embarked on a mission to Lake Untersee, searching for extremophiles in its highly alkaline waters. If found, these resilient creatures could further bolster the argument for extraterrestrial life in extremely cold, methane-rich environments. In September 2018, researchers at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency released a high resolution terrain map (detail down to the size of a car, and less in some areas) of Antarctica, named the "Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica" (REMA).


Geology

More than 100 million years ago, Antarctica was part of the supercontinent Gondwana. Over time, Gondwana gradually broke apart, and Antarctica as we know it today was formed around 25 million years ago, when the Drake Passage opened between it and South America. Antarctica was not always cold, dry, and covered in ice sheets. At a number of points in its history, it was farther north, experienced a tropical or temperate climate, and was covered in forests.


Palaeozoic era (540–250 Ma)

During the Cambrian, Cambrian period, Gondwana had a mild climate. West Antarctica was partially in the Northern Hemisphere, and during this period large amounts of sandstones, limestones and shales were deposited. East Antarctica was at the equator, where seafloor invertebrates and trilobites flourished in the tropical seas. By the start of the Devonian, Devonian period (416 annum, Ma), Gondwana was in more southern latitudes and the climate was cooler, though fossils of land plants are known from this time. Sand and silts were laid down in what is now the Ellsworth, Horlick Mountains, Horlick and Pensacola Mountains. Glaciation began at the end of the Devonian period (360 Ma), as Gondwana became centred on the South Pole and the climate cooled, though Antarctic flora, flora remained. During the Permian period, the land became dominated by seed plants such as ''Glossopteris'', a pteridosperm which grew in swamps. Over time these swamps became deposits of coal in the Transantarctic Mountains. Towards the end of the Permian period, continued warming led to a dry, hot climate over much of Gondwana.


Mesozoic era (250–66 Ma)

As a result of continued warming, the polar ice caps melted and much of Gondwana became a desert. In Eastern Antarctica, seed ferns or pteridosperms became abundant and large amounts of sandstone and shale were laid down at this time. Synapsids, commonly known as "mammal-like reptiles" and which included species such as ''Lystrosaurus'', were common in Antarctica during the Early Triassic. The Antarctic Peninsula began to form during the Jurassic period (206–146 Ma). Ginkgo trees, conifers, bennettites, horsetails, ferns and cycads were plentiful during this period. In West Antarctica, coniferous forests dominated through the entire Cretaceous period (146–66 Ma), though Nothofagus, southern beech became more prominent towards the end of this period. Ammonites were common in the seas around Antarctica, and dinosaurs were also present, though only three Antarctic dinosaur genera (''Cryolophosaurus'' and ''Glacialisaurus'', from the Hanson Formation, and ''Antarctopelta'') have been described to date. It was during this era that Gondwana began to break up. There is some evidence of Antarctic marine glaciation during the Cretaceous period.


Gondwana breakup (160–23 Ma)

The cooling of Antarctica occurred stepwise, as the continental spread changed the oceanic currents from longitudinal equator-to-pole temperature-equalising currents to latitudinal currents that preserved and accentuated latitude temperature differences. Africa separated from Antarctica in the Jurassic, around 160 Ma, followed by the Indian subcontinent in the early Cretaceous (about 125 Ma). By the end of the Cretaceous, about 66 Ma, Antarctica (then connected to Australia) still had a subtropical climate and flora, complete with a marsupial fauna. In the Eocene epoch, about 40 Ma Australia-New Guinea separated from Antarctica, so that latitudinal currents could isolate Antarctica from Australia, and the first ice began to appear. During the Eocene–Oligocene extinction event about 34 million years ago, CO2 levels have been found to be about 760 ppm, and had been decreasing from earlier levels in the thousands of ppm.Around 25 Ma, the Drake Passage opened between Antarctica and South America, resulting in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current that completely isolated the continent. Models of the changes suggest that declining CO2 levels became more important. The ice began to spread, replacing the forests that until then had covered the continent. Since about 15 Ma, the continent has been mostly covered with ice.


Pliocene and Pleistocene

Fossil ''Nothofagus'' leaves in the Meyer Desert Formation biota, Meyer Desert Formation of the Sirius Group show that intermittent warm periods allowed ''Nothofagus'' shrubs to cling to the Dominion Range as late as 3–4 Ma (mid-late Pliocene). After that, the Pleistocene ice age covered the whole continent and destroyed all major plant life on it. A study from 2014 estimated that during the Pleistocene, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) thinned by at least , and that thinning since the Last Glacial Maximum for the EAIS area is less than and probably started after c. 14 ka. About 2,200 years ago, a volcano erupted under Antarctica's ice sheet, as detected by an aerial survey, airborne survey with radar images. The biggest eruption in Antarctica in the last 10,000 years, the volcanic ash was found deposited on the ice surface under the Hudson Mountains, close to Pine Island Glacier.


Present-day

The geological study of Antarctica has been greatly hindered by nearly all of the continent being permanently covered with a thick layer of ice. However, new techniques such as remote sensing, ground-penetrating radar and satellite imagery have begun to reveal the structures beneath the ice. Geologically, West Antarctica closely resembles the Andes mountain range of South America. The
Antarctic Peninsula The Antarctic Peninsula, known as O'Higgins Land in Chile and Tierra de San Martin in Argentina, and originally as the Palmer Peninsula in the US and Graham Land in the United Kingdom, is the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica. T ...

Antarctic Peninsula
was formed by uplift and metamorphism of sea bed sediments. The most common rocks in West Antarctica are andesite and rhyolite volcanics formed during the Jurassic period. There is also evidence of volcanic activity, even after the ice sheet had formed, in Marie Byrd Land and Alexander Island. The only anomalous area of West Antarctica is the Ellsworth Mountains region, where the stratigraphy is more similar to East Antarctica. East Antarctica is geologically varied, dating from the Precambrian era, with some rocks formed more than 3 billion years ago. It is composed of a Metamorphic rock, metamorphic and igneous platform which is the basis of the Shield (geology), continental shield. On top of this base are coal and various modern rocks, such as sandstones, limestones and shales laid down during the Devonian and Jurassic periods to form the Transantarctic Mountains. In coastal areas such as the Shackleton Range and Victoria Land some fault (geology), faulting has occurred. The main mineral resource known on the continent is coal. It was first recorded near the Beardmore Glacier by Frank Wild on the Nimrod Expedition, and now low-grade coal is known across many parts of the Transantarctic Mountains. The Prince Charles Mountains contain significant deposits of iron ore. The most valuable resources of Antarctica lie offshore, namely the oil field, oil and natural gas fields found in the Ross Sea in 1973. Exploitation of all mineral resources is Ban (law), banned until 2048 by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.


Climate

Antarctica is the coldest of
Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 70.8% is Water distribution on Earth, covered wi ...

Earth
's continents. It was ice-free until about 34 million years ago, when it became covered with ice. The lowest natural air temperature ever recorded on Earth was at the Russian Vostok Station in Antarctica on 21 July 1983. A lower air temperature of was recorded in 2010 by satellite—however, it may have been influenced by ground temperatures and was not recorded at a height of above the surface as required for official air temperature records. Temperatures reach a minimum of between and in the interior in winter and reach a maximum of between and near the coast in summer. Northern Antarctica recorded a temperature of on 9 February 2020, the highest recorded temperature on the continent. Antarctica is a frozen desert with little precipitation; the South Pole receives less than per year, on average. Sunburn is often a health issue as the snow surface reflects almost all of the ultraviolet light falling on it. Given the latitude, long periods of constant darkness or constant sunlight create climates unfamiliar to human beings in much of the rest of the world. The aurora australis, commonly known as the southern lights, is a glow observed in the night sky near the South Pole created by the plasma-full solar winds that pass by the Earth. Another unique spectacle is diamond dust, a ground-level cloud composed of tiny ice crystals. It generally forms under otherwise clear or nearly clear skies, so people sometimes also refer to it as clear-sky precipitation. A sun dog, a frequent atmospheric optical phenomenon, is a bright "spot" beside the true sun.


Regional climate

East Antarctica is colder than its western counterpart because of its higher elevation. Weather fronts rarely penetrate far into the continent, leaving the centre cold and dry. Despite the lack of precipitation over the central portion of the continent, ice there lasts for extended periods. Heavy snowfalls are common on the coastal portion of the continent, where snowfalls of up to in 48 hours have been recorded. At the continent's edge, strong katabatic winds off the polar plateau often blow at storm force. In the interior, wind speeds are typically moderate. During clear days in summer, more solar radiation reaches the surface at the South Pole than at the equator because of the 24 hours of sunlight each day at the Pole. Antarctica is colder than the Arctic for three reasons. First, much of the continent is more than above sea level, and temperature decreases with elevation in the troposphere. Second, the Arctic Ocean covers the north polar zone: the ocean's relative warmth is transferred through the icepack and prevents temperatures in the Arctic regions from reaching the extremes typical of the land surface of Antarctica. Third, the Earth is at aphelion in July (i.e., the Earth is farthest from the Sun in the Antarctic winter), and the Earth is at perihelion in January (i.e., the Earth is closest to the Sun in the Antarctic summer). The orbital distance contributes to a colder Antarctic winter (and a warmer Antarctic summer) but the first two effects have more impact.


Climate change

Some of Antarctica has been warming up; particularly strong warming has been noted on the Antarctic Peninsula. A study by Eric Steig published in 2009 noted for the first time that the continent-wide average surface temperature trend of Antarctica was slightly positive from 1957 to 2006. Over the second half of the 20th century, the Antarctic Peninsula was the fastest-warming place on Earth, closely followed by West Antarctica, but these trends weakened in the early 21st-century. Conversely, the South Pole in East Antarctica barely warmed last century, but temperatures shall have three times the global average in the last three decades. In February 2020, the continent recorded its highest temperature of , which was a degree higher than the previous record of in March 2015. There is some evidence that surface Climate change, warming in Antarctica is due to human Greenhouse gas, greenhouse gas emissions, but this is difficult to determine due to Climate variability and change, internal variability. A main component of climate variability in Antarctica is the Southern Annular Mode, which showed strengthened winds around Antarctica in summer of the later decades of the 20th century, associated with cooler temperatures over the continent. The trend was at a scale unprecedented over the last 600 years; the most dominant driver of this mode of variability is likely the depletion of ozone above the continent. In 2002 the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen Ice Shelf#Larsen A, B & C sectors, Larsen-B ice shelf collapsed. Between 28 February and 8 March 2008, about of ice from the Wilkins Sound, Wilkins Ice Shelf on the southwest part of the peninsula collapsed, putting the remaining of the ice shelf at risk. The ice was being held back by a "thread" of ice about wide, prior to its collapse on 5 April 2009.


Ice loss and global sea level

Due to its location at the South Pole, Antarctica receives relatively little solar radiation except along the southern summer. This means that it is a very cold continent where water is mostly in the form of ice. Precipitation is low (most of Antarctica is a desert) and almost always in the form of snow, which accumulates and forms the giant ice sheets which cover the continent. Parts of this ice sheet form moving glaciers known as ice streams, which flow towards the edges of the continent. Next to the continental shore are many ice shelf, ice shelves. These are floating extensions of outflowing glaciers from the continental ice mass. Offshore, temperatures are also low enough that ice is formed from seawater through most of the year.


Sea ice and ice shelves

Sea ice extent expands annually in the Antarctic winter and most of this ice melts in the summer. This ice is formed from the ocean water and floats in the same water and thus does not contribute to a rise in sea level. The extent of sea ice around Antarctica, in terms of square kilometres of coverage, has seen no significant trend in the satellite era (1978–2018), with initial growth being reversed in the last years of the record. A possible explanation for the difference between the Antarctic and the Arctic, which has seen rapid sea ice loss, is that thermohaline circulation transports warmed water to deeper layers in the ocean. The amount of variation it has experienced in its thickness is unclear with satellite techniques just emerging as of 2019. Melting of floating ice shelves (ice that originated on the land) does not in itself contribute much to sea-level rise, since the ice displaces only its own mass of water. However, ice sheets work as a stabilizer of the land ice, and are vulnerable to warming water. Recent decades have witnessed several dramatic collapses of large ice shelves around the coast of Antarctica, especially along the Antarctic Peninsula. This loss of ice shelf ''buttressing'' has been identified as the major cause of ice loss on the West Antarctic ice sheet, but has also been observed around the East Antarctic ice sheet.


Ice sheet loss and sea level rise

The Antarctic ice sheet is losing mass as ice flows faster into the ocean than before. This effect is partially offset by additional snow falling back onto the continent. A 2018 systematic review study estimated that ice loss across the entire continent was 43 gigatonnes per year on average during the period from 1992 to 2002 but accelerated to an average of 220 gigatonnes per year during the five years from 2012 to 2017. The total contribution to sea level rise has been estimated as 8 mm to 14 mm of sea level rise. On the continent itself, the large volume of ice present stores around 70% of the world's fresh water. East Antarctica is a cold region with a ground base Height above mean sea level, above sea level and occupies most of the continent. This area is dominated by small accumulations of snowfall which becomes ice and thus eventually seaward glacial flows. Estimates of the mass balance of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet as a whole range from slightly positive to slightly negative. Increased ice outflow has been observed in some regions. Future projections of ice loss depend on the speed of climate change mitigation and are uncertain. Tipping points in the climate system, Tipping points have been identified in some regions; when a certain threshold warming is reached, these regions may start melting significantly faster and irreversibly. That is, even when temperatures come down again, the ice will not immediately regrow.


Ozone depletion

There is a large area of low ozone concentration or "ozone hole" over Antarctica. The hole, reoccurring every spring since the 1970s, was detected by scientists in 1985. This hole covers almost the whole continent and was at its largest in September 2006; the longest-lasting event occurred in 2020. The ozone hole is attributed to the Atmospheric emissions, emission of chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs into the atmosphere, which decompose the ozone into other gases. In 2019, the ozone hole was at its smallest in the previous thirty years, due to the warmer polar stratosphere weakening the polar vortex. This reduced the formation of the 'polar stratospheric clouds' that enable the chemistry that leads to rapid ozone loss. Ozone depletion may have a dominant role in governing climatic change in Antarctica (and a wider area of the Southern Hemisphere). Ozone absorbs large amounts of ultraviolet radiation in the stratosphere. Ozone depletion over Antarctica can cause a cooling of around 6 °C in the local stratosphere. This cooling has the effect of intensifying the westerly winds which flow around the continent (the polar vortex) and thus prevents outflow of the cold air near the South Pole. As a result, the continental mass of the East Antarctic ice sheet is held at lower temperatures, and the peripheral areas of Antarctica, especially the Antarctic Peninsula, are subject to higher temperatures, which promote accelerated melting. Models suggest that ozone depletion and the enhanced polar vortex effect also account for the period of increased sea ice just offshore of the continent.


Biodiversity

The terrestrial and native year-round species appear to be the descendants of ancestors who lived in geothermally warmed environments during the last ice age when these areas were the only places on the continent not covered by ice.


Animals

Invertebrate life of Antarctica includes microscopic
mite Mites are small arachnid Arachnida () is a class Class or The Class may refer to: Common uses not otherwise categorized * Class (biology), a taxonomic rank * Class (knowledge representation), a collection of individuals or objects * Cl ...
s like the ''Alaskozetes antarcticus'', lice, Roundworm, nematodes,
tardigrade Tardigrades (), known colloquially as water bears or moss piglets, are a phylum In biology, a phylum (; plural The plural (sometimes list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatica ...

tardigrade
s, rotifers, krill and springtails. The flightless midge ''Belgica antarctica'', up to in size, is the largest purely terrestrial animal in Antarctica. Members of Chironomidae include ''Parochlus steinenii''. Antarctic krill, which congregate in large Shoaling and schooling, schools, is the keystone species of the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean, and is an important food organism for whales, seals, leopard seals, fur seals, squid, Notothenioidei, icefish, penguins, albatrosses and many other birds. Few terrestrial vertebrates live in Antarctica, and those that do are limited to the sub-Antarctic islands. Some species of marine animals exist and rely, directly or indirectly, on the phytoplankton. Antarctic sea life includes
penguin Penguins (order Order or ORDER or Orders may refer to: * Orderliness Orderliness is associated with other qualities such as cleanliness Cleanliness is both the abstract state of being clean and free from germs, dirt, trash, or waste, and t ...

penguin
s, blue whales, orcas, colossal squids and fur seals. The emperor penguin is the only penguin that breeds during the winter in Antarctica; it and the Adélie penguin breed farther south than any other penguin. The snow petrel is one of only three birds that breed exclusively in Antarctica. The Antarctic fur seal was very heavily hunted in the 18th and 19th centuries for its pelt by sealers from the United States and the United Kingdom. The Weddell seal, a "true seal", is named after Sir James Weddell, commander of British sealing expeditions in the Weddell Sea. The leopard seal is an apex predator in the Antarctic ecosystem, and they migrate across the Southern Ocean in search for food. A census of sea life carried out during the International Polar Year and which involved some 500 researchers was released in 2010. The research is part of the global Census of Marine Life and has disclosed some remarkable findings. More than 235 marine organisms live in both polar regions, having bridged the gap of . Large animals such as some cetaceans and birds make the round trip annually. More surprising are small forms of life such as sea cucumbers and free-swimming snails found in both polar oceans. Various factors may aid in their distribution – fairly uniform temperatures of the deep ocean at the poles and the equator which differ by no more than 5 °C, and the major current systems or marine conveyor belt which transport eggs and larval stages.


Fungi

About 1,150 species of fungi have been recorded from Antarctica, of which about 750 are non-lichen-forming and 400 are lichen-forming. Some of these species are endolith, cryptoendoliths as a result of evolution under extreme conditions, and have significantly contributed to shaping the impressive rock formations of the
McMurdo Dry Valleys The McMurdo Dry Valleys are a row of largely Antarctic oasis, snow-free valleys in Antarctica, located within Victoria Land west of McMurdo Sound. The Dry Valleys experience extremely low humidity and surrounding mountains prevent the flow of ...
and surrounding mountain ridges. The apparently simple morphology, scarcely differentiated structures, metabolic systems and enzymes still active at very low temperatures, and reduced life cycles shown by such fungi make them particularly suited to harsh environments such as the McMurdo Dry Valleys. In particular, their thick-walled and strongly melanised cells make them resistant to UV light. Those features can also be observed in algae and cyanobacteria, suggesting that these are adaptations to the conditions prevailing in Antarctica. This has led to speculation that, if life ever occurred on Mars, it might have looked similar to Antarctic fungi such as ''Cryomyces antarcticus'', and ''Cryomyces minteri''. Some of these fungi are also apparently endemic to Antarctica. Endemic Antarctic fungi also include certain dung-inhabiting species which have had to evolve in response to the double challenge of extreme cold while growing on dung, and the need to survive passage through the gut of warm-blooded animals.


Plants

About 300 million years ago Permian forests started to cover the continent, and
tundra In physical geography Physical geography (also known as physiography) is one of the two fields of geography Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα ...

tundra
vegetation survived as late as 15 million years ago, but the climate of present-day Antarctica does not allow extensive vegetation to form. A combination of freezing temperatures, poor soil quality, lack of moisture, and lack of sunlight inhibit plant growth. As a result, the diversity of plant life is very low and limited in distribution. The flora of the continent largely consists of bryophytes. There are about 100 species of mosses and 25 species of Marchantiophyta, liverworts, but only three species of flowering plants, all of which are found in the Antarctic Peninsula: ''Deschampsia antarctica'' (Antarctic hair grass), ''Colobanthus quitensis'' (Antarctic pearlwort) and the non-native ''Poa annua'' (annual bluegrass). Growth is restricted to a few weeks in the summer.


Other organisms

Seven hundred species of algae exist, most of which are phytoplankton. Multicoloured snow algae and diatoms are especially abundant in the coastal regions during the summer. Bacteria have been found living in the cold and dark as deep as under the ice.


Conservation

The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (also known as the Environmental Protocol or Madrid Protocol) came into force in 1998, and is the main instrument concerned with conservation and management of biodiversity in Antarctica. The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting is advised on environmental and conservation issues in Antarctica by the Committee for Environmental Protection. A major concern within this committee is the risk to Antarctica from unintentional introduction of non-native species from outside the region. The passing of the Antarctic Conservation Act (1978) in the U.S. brought several restrictions to U.S. activity on Antarctica. The introduction of introduced species, alien plants or animals can bring a criminal penalty, as can the extraction of any indigenous species. The overfishing of krill, which plays a large role in the Antarctic ecosystem, led officials to enact regulations on fishing. The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a treaty that came into force in 1980, requires that regulations managing all Southern Ocean fisheries consider potential effects on the entire Antarctic ecosystem. Despite these new acts, unregulated and illegal fishing, particularly of Patagonian toothfish (marketed as Chilean Sea Bass in the U.S.), remains a serious problem. The illegal fishing of toothfish has been increasing, with estimates of in 2000.


Population

Several governments maintain permanent, staffed research stations on the continent. The number of people conducting and supporting scientific research and other work on the continent and its nearby islands varies from about 1,000 in winter to about 5,000 in the summer, giving it a population density between 70 and 350 inhabitants per million square kilometres (180 and 900 per million square miles) at these times. Many of the stations are staffed year-round, the winter-over personnel typically arriving from their home countries for a one-year assignment. An Russian Orthodox Church, Orthodox church—Trinity Church (Antarctica), Trinity Church, opened in 2004 at the Russian Bellingshausen Station—is manned year-round by one or two priests, who are similarly rotated every year. The first semi-permanent inhabitants of regions near Antarctica (areas situated south of the Antarctic Convergence) were British and American sealers who used to spend a year or more on South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, South Georgia, from 1786 onward. During the whaling era, which lasted until 1966, the population of that island varied from over 1,000 in the summer (over 2,000 in some years) to some 200 in the winter. Most of the whalers were Norwegian, with an increasing proportion of Britons. The settlements included Grytviken, Leith Harbour, King Edward Point, Stromness, South Georgia, Stromness, Husvik, Prince Olav Harbour, Ocean Harbour and Godthul. Managers and other senior officers of the whaling stations often lived together with their families. Among them was the founder of Grytviken, Captain Carl Anton Larsen, a prominent Norwegian whaler and explorer who, along with his family, adopted British citizenship in 1910. The first child born in the southern polar region was a Norwegian girl, Solveig Gunbjørg Jacobsen, born in Grytviken on 8 October 1913, and her birth was registered by the resident British Magistrate of South Georgia Island, South Georgia. She was a daughter of Fridthjof Jacobsen, the assistant manager of the whaling station, and Klara Olette Jacobsen. Jacobsen arrived on the island in 1904 and became the manager of Grytviken, serving from 1914 to 1921; two of his children were born on the island. Emilio Marcos Palma was the first person born south of the 60th parallel south, the first born on the Antarctic mainland, and the only living human to be the first born on any continent. He was born in 1978 at Esperanza Base, on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula; his parents were sent there along with seven other families by the Government of Argentina, Argentine government to determine if the continent was suitable for family life. In 1984, Juan Pablo Camacho was born at the Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, Frei Montalva Station, becoming the first Chilean born in Antarctica. Several bases are now home to families with children attending schools at the station. As of 2009, eleven children were born in Antarctica (south of the 60th parallel south): eight at the Argentine Esperanza Base and three at the Chilean Frei Montalva Station.


Politics

Several countries claim sovereignty in certain regions. While a few of these countries have mutually recognised each other's claims, "Australia, New Zealand, France, Norway and the United Kingdom reciprocally recognize the validity of each other's claims." the validity of these claims is not recognised universally. New claims on Antarctica have been suspended since 1959, although in 2015 Norway formally defined Queen Maud Land as including the unclaimed area between it and the South Pole. Antarctica's status is regulated by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and other related agreements, collectively called the
Antarctic Treaty System russian: link=no, Договор об Антарктике es, link=no, Tratado Antártico , name = Antarctic Treaty System , image = Flag of the Antarctic Treaty.svgborder , image_width = 180px , caption ...
. Antarctica is defined as all land and ice shelves south of 60° S for the purposes of the Treaty System. The treaty was signed by twelve countries including the Soviet Union (and later Russia), the United Kingdom, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and the United States. It set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation and environmental protection, and banned military activity on Antarctica. This was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War. In 1983 the Antarctic Treaty Parties began negotiations on a convention to regulate mining in Antarctica. A coalition of international organisations launched a public pressure campaign to prevent any minerals development in the region, led largely by Greenpeace International, which operated its own scientific station—World Park Base—in the Ross Sea region from 1987 until 1991 and conducted annual expeditions to document environmental effects of humans on Antarctica. In 1988, the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resources (CRAMRA) was adopted. The following year, however, Australia and France announced that they would not ratify the convention, rendering it dead for all intents and purposes. They proposed instead that a comprehensive regime to protect the Antarctic environment be negotiated in its place. The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (the "Madrid Protocol") was negotiated as other countries followed suit and on 14 January 1998 it entered into force. The Madrid Protocol bans all mining in Antarctica, designating the continent as a "natural reserve devoted to peace and science". The Antarctic Treaty prohibits any Military activity in the Antarctic, military activity in Antarctica, including the establishment of military bases and fortifications, military manoeuvres, and weapons testing. Military personnel or equipment are permitted only for scientific research or other peaceful purposes. The only documented military land manoeuvre has been the small Operación 90, Operation NINETY by the Military of Argentina, Argentine military in 1965.


Antarctic territories

The Argentine, British and Chilean claims all overlap, and have caused friction. On 18 December 2012, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office named a previously unnamed area Queen Elizabeth Land in tribute to Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. On 22 December 2012, the UK ambassador to Argentina, John Freeman (diplomat), John Freeman, was summoned to the Argentine government as a protest against the claim. Argentine–UK relations had previously been damaged throughout 2012 due to disputes over the sovereignty of the nearby Falkland Islands, and the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War. The areas shown as Australia's and New Zealand's claims were British territory until they were handed over following the countries' independence. Australia currently claims the largest area. The claims of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France and Norway are all recognised by each other. Other countries participating as members of the Antarctic Treaty have a territorial interest in Antarctica, but the provisions of the Treaty do not allow them to make their claims while it is in force.Afese.com
. (PDF) . Retrieved on 19 July 2011.
* has a designated "Brazilian Antarctica, zone of interest" that is not an actual claim. * has formally reserved its right to make a claim. * has inherited the Soviet Union's right to claim territory under the original Antarctic Treaty. * has formally reserved its right to make a claim. * reserved its right to make a claim in the original Antarctic Treaty.


Economy

There is current economic activity in Antarctica outside of fishing off the coast and small-scale Tourism in Antarctica, tourism. Although coal, hydrocarbons, iron ore, platinum, copper, chromium, nickel, gold and other minerals have been found, they have not been in large enough quantities to exploit. The 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty also restricts a struggle for resources. In 1998, a compromise agreement was reached to place an indefinite ban on mining, to be reviewed in 2048, further limiting economic development and exploitation. The primary economic activity is the capture and offshore trading of fish. Antarctic fisheries in 2000–01 reported landing 112,934 tonnes. Small-scale "expedition tourism" has existed since 1957 and is currently subject to Antarctic Treaty and Environmental Protocol provisions, but in effect self-regulated by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). Not all vessels associated with Antarctic tourism are members of IAATO, but IAATO members account for 95% of the tourist activity. Travel is largely by small or medium ship, focusing on specific scenic locations with accessible concentrations of iconic wildlife. A total of 37,506 tourists visited during the 2006–07 Southern Hemisphere, Austral summer with nearly all of them coming from commercial ships; 38,478 were recorded in 2015–16. As of 2015, there are two Wells Fargo Automated teller machine, ATMs in Antarctica, both located at McMurdo Station. There has been some concern over the potential adverse environmental and ecosystem effects caused by the influx of visitors. Some environmentalists and scientists have made a call for stricter regulations for ships and a tourism quota. The primary response by Antarctic Treaty Parties has been to develop, through their Committee for Environmental Protection and in partnership with IAATO, "site use guidelines" setting landing limits and closed or restricted zones on the more frequently visited sites. Antarctic sightseeing flights (which did not land) operated out of Australia and New Zealand until the fatal crash of Air New Zealand Flight 901 in 1979 on Mount Erebus, which killed all 257 aboard. Qantas resumed commercial overflights to Antarctica from Australia in the mid-1990s. About thirty countries maintain about seventy research stations (40-year-round or permanent, and 30 summer-only) in Antarctica, with an approximate population of 4000 in summer and 1000 in winter. The ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 "AQ" is assigned to the entire continent regardless of jurisdiction. Different country calling codes and currency, currencies are used for different settlements, depending on the administrating country. The Antarctican dollar, a souvenir item sold in the United States and Canada, is not legal tender.


Research

Each year, scientists from 28 nations conduct experiments not reproducible in any other place in the world. In the summer more than 4,000 scientists operate research stations; this number decreases to just over 1,000 in the winter. McMurdo Station, which is the largest research station in Antarctica, is capable of housing more than 1,000 scientists, visitors, and tourists. Researchers include biologists, geologists, Oceanography, oceanographers, physicists, astronomers, Glaciology, glaciologists, and Meteorology, meteorologists. Geologists tend to study plate tectonics, meteorites from outer space, and resources from the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana. Glaciologists in Antarctica are concerned with the study of the history and dynamics of floating ice, snow, seasonal snow, glaciers, and ice sheets. Biologists, in addition to examining the wildlife, are interested in how harsh temperatures and the presence of people affect adaptation and survival strategies in a wide variety of organisms. Medical physicians have made discoveries concerning the spreading of viruses and the body's response to extreme seasonal temperatures. Since the 1970s an important focus of study has been the ozone layer in the atmosphere above Antarctica. In 1985, three British scientists working on data they had gathered at Halley Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf discovered the existence of a hole in this layer. It was eventually determined that the destruction of the ozone was caused by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) emitted by human products. With the ban of CFCs in the Montreal Protocol of 1989, climate projections indicate that the ozone layer will return to 1980 levels between 2050 and 2070. In 2007, The Polar Geospatial Center was founded. The Polar Geospatial Center uses Geospatial technology, geospatial and remote sensing technology to provide mapping services to American federally funded research teams. Currently, the Polar Geospatial Center can image all of Antarctica at resolution every 45 days. In 2007 the Belgian-based International Polar Foundation unveiled the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica, Princess Elisabeth station, the world's first zero-emissions polar science station in Antarctica, to research climate change (general concept), climate change. The prefabricated station, which is part of the International Polar Year, was shipped to the South Pole from Belgium by the end of 2008 to monitor the health of the polar regions. The project includes research in climatology, glaciology and microbiology.


Astrophysics

Astrophysicists at Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station study the celestial dome and cosmic microwave background radiation. Many astronomical observations are better made from the interior of Antarctica than from most surface locations because of the high elevation, which results in a thin atmosphere; low temperature, which minimises the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere; and absence of light pollution, thus allowing for a view of space clearer than anywhere else on Earth. Antarctic ice serves as both the shield and the detection medium for the largest IceCube Neutrino Observatory, neutrino telescope in the world, built below Amundsen–Scott station. Meteorites from Antarctica are an important area of study of material formed early in the solar system; most are thought to come from asteroids, but some may have originated on larger planets. The first meteorite was found in 1912 and named the Adelie Land meteorite. In 1969, a Japanese expedition discovered nine meteorites. Most of these meteorites have fallen onto the ice sheet in the last million years. The motion of the ice sheet tends to concentrate the meteorites at blocking locations such as mountain ranges, with wind erosion bringing them to the surface after centuries beneath accumulated snowfall. Compared with meteorites collected in more temperate regions on Earth, the Antarctic meteorites are well-preserved. This large collection of meteorites allows a better understanding of the abundance of meteorite types in the solar system and how meteorites relate to asteroids and comets. New types of meteorites and rare meteorites have been found. Among these are pieces blasted off the Moon and Mars by impacts. These specimens, particularly ALH84001 discovered by ANSMET, were at the centre of the controversy about possible evidence of microbial life on Mars. Because meteorites in space absorb and record cosmic radiation, the time elapsed since the meteorite hit the Earth can be determined from laboratory studies. The elapsed time since fall, or terrestrial residence age, of a meteorite represents more information that might be useful in environmental studies of Antarctic ice sheets.


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * J. Stewart
''Antarctica: An Encyclopedia''.
Jefferson, N.C. and London: McFarland, 2011. 1771 pp. * B. Riffenburgh, ed
''Encyclopedia of the Antarctic''.
New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 2006. 1272 pp.


External links

* High resolution map (2018)
Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica
(REMA) *
Antarctica
''The World Factbook''. Central Intelligence Agency.
Antarctic Treaty Secretariat
''de facto'' government
British Antarctic Survey (BAS)

U.S. Antarctic Program Portal
{{Featured article Antarctica, Antarctic region Continents Demilitarized zones Extreme points of Earth Polar regions of the Earth Articles containing video clips Geographical articles missing image alternative text