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Antarctica Facts For Kids


Antarctica is Earth’s southernmost continent, containing the geographic South Pole. It is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. Antarctica is nearly twice the size of Australia. Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents.

  • Antarctica is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 8 inches along the coast and far less inland.
  • There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent.
  • The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries; to date, 49 countries have signed the treaty.
  • 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.
  • The first documented landing on mainland Antarctica was by the American sealer John Davis in West Antarctica on 7 February 1821, although some historians dispute this claim.
  • 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 Whalesand up the Axel Heiberg Glacier.
  • Centered asymmetrically around the South Pole and largely south of the Antarctic Circle, Antarctica is the southernmost continent and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean; alternatively, it may be considered to be surrounded by the southern Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, or by the southern waters of the World Ocean.
  • The coastline measures 11,165 mi and is mostly characterized 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, because they roughly correspond to the Western and Eastern Hemispheres relative to the Greenwich meridian.
  • About 98% of Antarctica is covered by the Antarctic ice sheet, a sheet of ice averaging at least 1 mi thick.
  • In most of the interior of the continent, precipitation is very low, down to 20 mm per year; in a few “blue ice” areas precipitation is lower than mass loss by sublimation and so the local mass balance is negative.
  • Lake Vostok, discovered beneath Russia’s Vostok Station in 1996, is the largest of these subglacial lakes.
  • The Antarctic Peninsula began to form during the Jurassic period (206–146 Ma), and islands gradually rose out of the ocean.
  • Exploitation of all mineral resources is banned until 2048 by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
  • First, much of the continent is more than 2 mi above sea level, and temperature decreases with elevation. 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.
  • 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.