Antarctica – General Information, Geography and Climate, FAQ

Emperor Penguins in Antarctica and Ice Around

Antarctica is the seventh planet and it is located in the southernmost part of the planet. It is also where the geographical South Pole can be found. Surrounded by the Southern Ocean, it can be found in the Antarctic region of the Southern hemisphere which is almost fully south of the Antarctic Circle. It covers an area of about 14.2 million square kilometers (which is approximately 5.5 million square miles).


Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent on Earth and its size is almost twice the size of Australia. However, despite its huge size, Antarctica is by far the least densely populated continent with just about 0.00008 people per square kilometer. This is mainly because of the fact that 98% of the continent’s land space is covered in ice that has an average thickness of 1.9 km (which is about 1.2 miles or 6,200 ft). This ice also extends to every part of the continent except the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Is Antarctica a desert?

On average, Antarctica is considered to be the driest, coldest and windiest continent. It also has the highest elevation of all the continents in the world. Also due to the fact that most of Antarctica are a polar desert, it has an annual precipitation of 20 cm (which is about 7.9 inches) along the coast and even lesser inland.

All year round, about 1,000 to 5,000 people reside on this continent and they mostly stay at research stations that are spread across the continent. Examples of organisms that are native to this continent include fungi, Protista, algae, plants, bacteria and certain animals like the penguins, seals, mites, tardigrades, and nematodes. The vegetation on this continent is very scarce but if you see one, it is most likely tundra.


The last region of the planet to be discovered in recorded history is Antarctica and it was not known to the world before 1820 when the Russian Expedition of Mikhail Lazarev and Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen on Mirny and Vostok saw the Fimbul ice shelf in Antarctica. However, this region still remains ignored for the remaining part of the 19th century due to the fact that its environment does not generally favor human living. It was also neglected due to its isolation and absence of accessible resources. However, in 1895 a team of Norwegians made the first confirmed landing on Antarctica.

This continent would have been basically circle in shape if it was not for the extending Antarctic Peninsula which moves in the direction of the southernmost part of another continent, South America (it is just about 970 km (600 miles) away) and the two major bay formations; the Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea. These bay formations are very deep and can be found in the southernmost part of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. These make the continent somewhat pear shapes. It is divided into two parts, the larger one being regarded as East Antarctica due to that fact that most of this portion can be found in the east longitudes; while the smaller one is regarded as West Antarctica. The two regions of Antarctica are about 3,200 km (2,000 miles) away from each other, the space between them being filled by the long Transantarctic Mountains. While West Antarctica is made up mostly of an archipelago of mountainous islands covered and joined together by ice; East Antarctica is made up of a mostly high ice-covered plateau.


About 70% of the freshwater on the planet can be found in Antarctica. The volume of the ice sheet on Antarctica is about 29 million cubic km (which is approximately 7 million cubic miles) of ice. This volume accounts for about 90% of the entire volume of ice sheets in the world. The Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea have most of their areas covered by ice shelves or ice sheets floating on the water body. These shelves are known as the Ross Ice Shelf and the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf. These two shelves together with the remaining shelves around the continental margins make up about 10% of the area of the ice on the continent. Icebergs are discharged into the seas by the shelves, ice sheets, and glaciers constantly around the Antarctic coast.

One of the most popular places on this continent is the Lemaire Channel and paradise harbor; both passageways flanked on both sides by icebergs. Another popular place on this continent is the Port Lockroy which was a research station turned into a museum.


The climate of Antarctica is very cold and dry and the temperature during the winter along the coast of Antarctica is often within the range of -10° Celsius to -30° Celsius (14° Fahrenheit to -22° Fahrenheit). While the temperature during the summer is usually around 0°C (32°F) but occasionally it is able to get to temperatures as high as 9°C (48°F).

When we move inland, the temperatures become colder even dropping as much as below -60°C (-76°F) in winter and -20°C (-4°F) in summer. The coldest temperature ever measured on Earth was in Antarctica in 1983 when Vostok, a Russian Research Station in Antarctica recorded a temperature of -89.2°C (-128.6°F). However, an even lower temperature was measure in 2010 with the help of a satellite; -93.2°C (-135.8°F).

It is not very easy to measure the precipitation rate of Antarctica. However, it always falls as snow. The Precipitation level of the interior of Antarctica is believed to be about 50 cm to 100 cm (2 inches to 4 inches) of water which falls from the atmosphere in the form of snow. When we are talking about one of the driest deserts in the world, Antarctica is one of them.

Who owns Antarctica?

The continent of Antarctica is governed internationally with the Antarctic Treaty System. The Antarctic Treaty System was signed in 1959 by 12 countries that had active participation in the region at the time. Some of the original signatories of this treaty include New Zealand, Argentina, United Kingdom, Norway, France, and Chile. Since this time a total of 38 countries have signed this treaty.

The Antarctic Treaty prohibits mineral mining, nuclear waste disposal, military activities, and nuclear explosions. This Treaty, however, supports scientific research. About 4,000 scientists reside in Antarctica during the summer while about 1,000 reside there during the winter. However, there are no permanent residents of this continent.

All the articles on our website about Antarctica:

Flora and Fauna of Antarctica

Antarctica beaches list

Interesting facts about Antarctica

How to get ready for the trip to Antarctica

Is it really responsible to visit Antarctica?

Frequently Asked Questions:

Where from is the best to head to Antarctica?

The best popular locations to start your trip are Australia, South Africa and South America.

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