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Antarctica Facts

Southernmost continent, containing the geographic South Pole

  • Antarctica is nearly twice the size of Australia.
  • About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages at least 1 mile (1.6 km) in thickness.
  • It is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents.
  • It is used as a continental name in the 1890s, first by Scottish cartographer John George Bartholomew.
  • The Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 prohibits military activities and mineral mining, prohibits nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal, supports scientific research, and protects the continent's ecozone.
  • Vinson Massif located in the Ellsworth Mountains is the highest peak in Antarctica at 4,892 m (16,050 ft). Ellsworth Mountains are one of the Seven Summits of the world.
  • Antarctica has more than 70 lakes that lie at the base of the continental ice sheet.
  • In 2008, a NASA team embarked on a mission to Lake Untersee, searching for extremophiles in its highly alkaline waters.
  • It has no permanent residental population although a number of governments maintain permanent manned research stations throughout the continent.
  • The Snow Petrel is one of only three birds that breed exclusively in the region.
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