Antarctica ias pedia upsc world
  • Antarctica is the Coldest and the Fifth largest continent on Earth.
  • Its name means “opposite to the Arctic” (the Arctic is the region around the North Pole).
  • Its landmass is almost wholly covered by a vast ice sheet averaging 6,500 ft (2,000 m) thick.
  • It is the southernmost continent in the world.

Geography Of Antarctica

  • It is surrounded by the southern portions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.
  • It would be circular except for the out-flaring Antarctic Peninsula and two principal bays, the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea.
  • It lies concentrically about the South pole.
  • It is divided into two subcontinents:
    • East Antarctica, consists mainly of a high, ice-covered plateau, and
    • West Antarctica, consists largely of an archipelago of mountainous islands covered with ice.
  • These two are separated by the long chain of the Trans-antarctic Mountains.

Living Conditions

  • The extreme cold has kept the continent almost empty of life.
  • There are no permanent human inhabitants.
  • About 2 per cent of Antarctica is ice-free.
    • These unusual land areas are called oases and are mostly found near the coast.
    • They include the dry valleys of southern Victoria Land and the Bunger Oasis in Wilkes Land.
  • It does not have 24-hour periods divided into days and nights.
    • At the South Pole, the sun rises on about September 21 and moves in a circular path until it sets on about March 22.
    • This “day,” or summer, is six months long.
    • From March 22 until September 21 the South Pole is dark, and Antarctica has its “night,” or winter.

Plants And Animals

  • Two types of flowering plantsmosses, and liverworts, grow in ice-free areas along the coast.
  • Native land animals are limited to certain kinds of arthropods.
  • About 45 kinds of birds live in Antarctica.
  • The emperor penguins and the Adélie penguins are found in large numbers around the entire coastline.
  • Several kinds of seals and whales inhabit the waters around Antarctica.
  • Fishes limited to the Antarctic include the Antarctic cod and the ice fish.


  • The Russian F.G. von Bellingshausen, the Englishman Edward Bransfield, and the American Nathaniel Palmer all claimed the first sightings of the continent in 1820.
  • The first recorded landing on Antarctica was on Cape Adare in 1895.
  • In the early 20th century, Robert Falcon Scott did Deep expeditions into the continent’s interiors.
  • In 1911, Roald Amundsen of Norway became the first person to reach the South Pole.

Politics Over The Land

  • Seven nations claimed sectors of the continent, while many other nations carried out explorations.
  • In the International Geophysical Year of 1957–58, 12 nations established over 50 stations on the continent for cooperative study.
  • In 1961, the Antarctic Treaty, reserving Antarctica for free and nonpolitical scientific study, entered into full force.
  • A 1991 agreement imposed a ban on mineral exploitation for 50 years.

Interesting Facts about the continent:

  • It contains 90 per cent of the world’s ice and 70 per cent of the world’s freshwater.
  • In 1983, it recorded the world’s lowest recorded temperature at −128.6 °F (−89.2 °C).
  • At its thickest point, the ice sheet is 15,670 feet (4,776 meters) deep.

Quick Data about the continent:

  • Area : 5,400,000 sq mi (14,200,000 sq km)
  • Population: No permanent population
  • Coldest Recorded Temperature: −129° F (−89° C) [July 21, 1983, Vostock Station].
  • Hottest Recorded Temperature: 59° F (15° C) [January 5, 1974, Lake Vanda]
  • Highest point: Vinson masiff 16066 feet (4,897 meters)
  • Lowest point: Bentley subglacial trench -8,327 feet (-2, 538 meters)

Latest News

  1. 18 July 2022: Antarctica sky lights up in the fiery purple afterglow of the Tonga volcano eruption.
  2. 18 July 2022: Capt Preet Chandi, alias ‘Polar Preet‘, can be the first woman to trek solo, unaided across Antarctica.


  1. Britannica
  2. Wikipedia

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