Travels in Antarctica:

Antarctic Air Cruise (7 days)
Discover the white continent

Quick Facts:



14,000,000 km² (5,405,430 mi²)


Antarctica is the world's southernmost continent. About 98% of it is covered by ice which averages at least 1.6 km in thickness. Since there is little precipitation, except at the coasts, the interior of the continent is technically the largest desert in the world. There are no permanent human residents and Antarctica has never had an indigenous population. Only cold-adapted plants and animals survive there, including penguins, seals, mosses, lichens, and many types of algae.

The Antarctic Peninsula was formed by uplift and metamorphism of sea-bed sediments during the late Paleozoic and the early Mesozoic eras. There is also evidence of volcanic activity, even after the ice sheet had formed.


Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth. It is a frozen desert with little precipitation; the South Pole itself receives less than 10 cm (4 inches) per year, on average. Temperatures reach a minimum of between -80 ?C and -90 ?C (-112 ?F and -130 ?F) in the interior in winter and reach a maximum of between +5 ?C and +15 ?C (41 ?F and 59 ?F) near the coast in summer. Sunburn is often a health issue as the snow surface reflects almost all of the ultraviolet light falling on it.


Partial territorial claims by the following nations: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom.

Russia and the United states have reserved the right to make claims.


The name Antarctica comes from the Greek meaning "opposite to the Arctic." Although myths and speculation about a Terra Australis ("Southern Land") date back to antiquity, the first confirmed sighting of the continent is commonly accepted to have occurred in 1820 by a Russian expedition. However, the continent remained largely neglected for the rest of the 19th century because of its hostile environment, lack of resources, and isolated location.

In 1841, explorer James Clark Ross passed through what is now known as the Ross Sea and discovered Ross Island. He sailed along a huge wall of ice that was later named the Ross Ice Shelf.  On December 14th, 1911, a party led by Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen from the ship Fram became the first to reach the geographic South Pole.

The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries. The treaty prohibits military activities and mineral mining, supports scientific research, and protects the cintinent's ecozone. Ongoing experiments are conducted by more than 4,000 scientists of many nationalities and with different research interests.

This article is partly based on a free article of the encyclopaedia Wikipedia and is subject to GNU-licence for free documentation. A list of authors is available on Wikipedia


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