Antarctica, the “South Pole,” is the southernmost continent on Earth and it is also the coldest place on the planet! Meaning “opposite to the north” in Greek, Antarctica is at the bottom of planet earth. Surrounded by the Southern Ocean, Antarctica is bigger than Europe and nearly double the size of Australia with an area of 5,400,000 square miles!
Most of Antarctica is covered in a thick layer of ice—more than one mile thick! Around 90% of the Earth’s ice is found on Antarctica and the coldest temperature ever recorded was on Antarctica in 1983 when the degrees plummeted to -128.6 Fahrenheit! Ironically, despite being loaded with ice (aka frozen water) Antarctica is considered to be a desert since it experiences such little rain!
Antarctica is so extremely cold that no humans permanently reside there. However, several thousands of people live and work in research facilities that are located on the continent. Although Antarctica’s conditions are too harsh to support and sustain human life in the elements, it has a rich variety of plants and animals that make it an interesting place for researchers to conduct studies.
Antarctica is essential to the Earth’s ecosystem and many countries have recognized a need to protect its natural resources—especially in these times of global warming. In 1959 “The Antarctic Treaty” was created to prohibit military activities, mineral mining, nuclear explosions, and nuclear waste disposal on the land. The treaty supports scientific research and protects the ecozone. Initially signed by 12 countries, there are now 49 countries involved with the treaty’s causes.
Among the most well-known animals that live in Antarctica are seals and penguins. Notably, “Emperor Penguins” reside on the continent. As the subjects of the hit 2005 documentary “March of the Penguins,” interest in these creatures has given many people a reason to show additional interest in Antarctica and a desire to maintain its natural resources.