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The New South Polar Times
Hot news from the South Pole, a newsletter written by the staff of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Arts & Culture
Antarctic Philatelic Home Page
The site is dedicated to the stamps, postal history and heroic explorers of the great white continent and it's surrounding islands.

Country Guides
The Antarctic Connection
Travel, and information website dedicated to Antarctica with Photo Gallery, Bookstore, Gift Shop, and Map Room
The Seventh Continent
Living and Working on the 7th Continent.

Heritage Antarctica
To promote the restoration, preservation and protection of the Antarctic environment and as an inspiration for future generations

Science & Research
Alfred Wegener Institute
The Foundation Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
Gateway to Antarctica
The International Centre for Antarctic Information and Research.
International Antarctic Centre
The New Zealand Gateway to Antarctica



Background:  Speculation over the existence of a "southern land" was
not confirmed until the early 1820s when British and American commercial
operators and British and Russian national expeditions began exploring
the Antarctic Peninsula region and other areas south of the Antarctic
Circle. Not until 1840 was it established that Antarctica was indeed a
continent and not just a group of islands. Several exploration "firsts"
were achieved in the early 20th century. Following World War II, there was
an upsurge in scientific research on the continent. A number of countries
have set up year-round research stations on Antarctica. Seven have made
territorial claims, but no other country recognizes these claims. In
order to form a legal framework for the activities of nations on the
continent, an Antarctic Treaty was negotiated that neither denies nor
gives recognition to existing territorial claims; signed in 1959, it
entered into force in 1961.

Geography Antarctica

Location:  continent mostly south of the Antarctic Circle

Geographic coordinates:  90 00 S, 0 00 E

Map references:  Antarctic Region

Area:  total: 14 million sq km note: fifth-largest continent, following
Asia, Africa, North America, and South America, but larger than Australia
and the subcontinent of Europe land: 14 million sq km (280,000 sq km
ice-free, 13.72 million sq km ice-covered) (est.)

Area - comparative:  slightly less than 1.5 times the size of the US

Land boundaries:  0 km note: see entry on International disputes

Coastline:  17,968 km

Maritime claims:  none; 20 of 27 Antarctic consultative nations have made
no claims to Antarctic territory (although Russia and the US have reserved
the right to do so) and do not recognize the claims of the other nations;
also see the Disputes - international entry

Climate:  severe low temperatures vary with latitude, elevation, and
distance from the ocean; East Antarctica is colder than West Antarctica
because of its higher elevation; Antarctic Peninsula has the most moderate
climate; higher temperatures occur in January along the coast and average
slightly below freezing

Terrain:  about 98% thick continental ice sheet and 2% barren rock, with
average elevations between 2,000 and 4,000 meters; mountain ranges up to
nearly 5,000 meters; ice-free coastal areas include parts of southern
Victoria Land, Wilkes Land, the Antarctic Peninsula area, and parts of
Ross Island on McMurdo Sound; glaciers form ice shelves along about half
of the coastline, and floating ice shelves constitute 11% of the area
of the continent

Elevation extremes:  lowest point: Bentley Subglacial Trench -2,555 m
highest point: Vinson Massif 4,897 m note: the lowest known land point
in Antarctica is hidden in the Bentley Subglacial Trench; at its surface
is the deepest ice yet discovered and the world's lowest elevation not
under seawater

Natural resources:  iron ore, chromium, copper, gold, nickel, platinum
and other minerals, and coal and hydrocarbons have been found in small
uncommercial quantities; none presently exploited; krill, finfish,
and crab have been taken by commercial fisheries

Land use:  arable land: 0% permanent crops: 0% other: 100% (ice 98%,
barren rock 2%) (1998 est.)

Irrigated land:  0 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards:  katabatic (gravity-driven) winds blow coastward from
the high interior; frequent blizzards form near the foot of the plateau;
cyclonic storms form over the ocean and move clockwise along the coast;
volcanism on Deception Island and isolated areas of West Antarctica; other
seismic activity rare and weak; large icebergs may calve from ice shelf

Environment - current issues:  in 1998, NASA satellite data showed
that the antarctic ozone hole was the largest on record, covering 27
million square kilometers; researchers in 1997 found that increased
ultraviolet light coming through the hole damages the DNA of icefish,
an antarctic fish lacking hemoglobin; ozone depletion earlier was shown
to harm one-celled antarctic marine plants; in 2002, significant areas
of ice shelves disintegrated in response to regional warming

Geography - note:  the coldest, windiest, highest (on average), and driest
continent; during summer, more solar radiation reaches the surface at
the South Pole than is received at the Equator in an equivalent period;
mostly uninhabitable

People Antarctica

Population:  no indigenous inhabitants, but there are seasonally staffed
research stations note: approximately 27 nations, all signatory to
the Antarctic Treaty, send personnel to perform seasonal (summer) and
year-round research on the continent and in its surrounding oceans; the
population of persons doing and supporting science on the continent and
its nearby islands south of 60 degrees south latitude (the region covered
by the Antarctic Treaty) varies from approximately 4,000 in summer to
1,000 in winter; in addition, approximately 1,000 personnel including
ship's crew and scientists doing onboard research are present in the
waters of the treaty region; summer (January) population - 3,687 total;
Argentina 302, Australia 201, Belgium 13, Brazil 80, Bulgaria 16, Chile
352, China 70, Finland 11, France 100, Germany 51, India 60, Italy 106,
Japan 136, South Korea 14, Netherlands 10, NZ 60, Norway 40, Peru 28,
Poland 70, Russia 254, South Africa 80, Spain 43, Sweden 20, UK 192,
US 1,378 (1998-99); winter (July) population - 964 total; Argentina 165,
Australia 75, Brazil 12, Chile 129, China 33, France 33, Germany 9, India
25, Japan 40, South Korea 14, NZ 10, Poland 20, Russia 102, South Africa
10, UK 39, US 248 (1998-99); year-round stations - 42 total; Argentina 6,
Australia 4, Brazil 1, Chile 4, China 2, Finland 1, France 1, Germany 1,
India 1, Italy 1, Japan 1, South Korea 1, NZ 1, Norway 1, Poland 1, Russia
6, South Africa 1, Spain 1, Ukraine 1, UK 2, US 3, Uruguay 1 (1998-99);
summer-only stations - 32 total; Argentina 3, Australia 4, Bulgaria 1,
Chile 7, Germany 1, India 1, Japan 3, NZ 1, Peru 1, Russia 3, Sweden 2,
UK 5 (1998-99); in addition, during the austral summer some nations have
numerous occupied locations such as tent camps, summer-long temporary
facilities, and mobile traverses in support of research (July 2002 est.)

Population growth rate:  NA

Government Antarctica

Country name:  conventional long form: none conventional short form:

Government type:  Antarctic Treaty Summary - the Antarctic Treaty,
signed on 1 December 1959 and entered into force on 23 June 1961,
establishes the legal framework for the management of Antarctica. The
24th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting was held in Russia in
July 2001. At the end of 2001, there were 45 treaty member nations:
27 consultative and 18 non-consultative. Consultative (voting) members
include the seven nations that claim portions of Antarctica as national
territory (some claims overlap) and 20 nonclaimant nations. The US and
Russia have reserved the right to make claims. The US does not recognize
the claims of others. Antarctica is administered through meetings of the
consultative member nations. Decisions from these meetings are carried out
by these member nations (within their areas) in accordance with their own
national laws. The year in parentheses indicates when an acceding nation
was voted to full consultative (voting) status, while no date indicates
the country was an original 1959 treaty signatory. Claimant nations are
- Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the UK.
Nonclaimant consultative nations are - Belgium, Brazil (1983), Bulgaria
(1998) China (1985), Ecuador (1990), Finland (1989), Germany (1981), India
(1983), Italy (1987), Japan, South Korea (1989), Netherlands (1990),
Peru (1989), Poland (1977), Russia, South Africa, Spain (1988), Sweden
(1988), Uruguay (1985), and the US. Non-consultative (nonvoting) members,
with year of accession in parentheses, are - Austria (1987), Canada
(1988), Colombia (1989), Cuba (1984), Czech Republic (1993), Denmark
(1965), Estonia (2001), Greece (1987), Guatemala (1991), Hungary (1984),
North Korea (1987), Papua New Guinea (1981), Romania (1971), Slovakia
(1993), Switzerland (1990), Turkey (1995), Ukraine (1992), and Venezuela
(1999). Article 1 - area to be used for peaceful purposes only; military
activity, such as weapons testing, is prohibited, but military personnel
and equipment may be used for scientific research or any other peaceful
purpose; Article 2 - freedom of scientific investigation and cooperation
shall continue; Article 3 - free exchange of information and personnel,
cooperation with the UN and other international agencies; Article 4 -
does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial claims and no
new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force; Article 5 -
prohibits nuclear explosions or disposal of radioactive wastes; Article 6
- includes under the treaty all land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees
00 minutes south and reserves high seas rights; Article 7 - treaty-state
observers have free access, including aerial observation, to any area and
may inspect all stations, installations, and equipment; advance notice
of all expeditions and of the introduction of military personnel must be
given; Article 8 - allows for jurisdiction over observers and scientists
by their own states; Article 9 - frequent consultative meetings take
place among member nations; Article 10 - treaty states will discourage
activities by any country in Antarctica that are contrary to the treaty;
Article 11 - disputes to be settled peacefully by the parties concerned
or, ultimately, by the ICJ; Articles 12, 13, 14 - deal with upholding,
interpreting, and amending the treaty among involved nations. Other
agreements - some 200 recommendations adopted at treaty consultative
meetings and ratified by governments include - Agreed Measures for Fauna
and Flora (1964) which were later incorporated into the Environmental
Protocol; Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972);
Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
(1980); a mineral resources agreement was signed in 1988 but remains
unratified; the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic
Treaty was signed 4 October 1991 and entered into force 14 January 1998;
this agreement provides for the protection of the Antarctic environment
through five specific annexes: 1) marine pollution, 2) fauna and flora,
3) environmental impact assessments, 4) waste management, and 5) protected
area management; it prohibits all activities relating to mineral resources
except scientific research.

Legal system:  Antarctica is administered through meetings of the
consultative member nations.  Decisions from these meetings are carried
out by these member nations (within their areas) in accordance with their
own national laws. US law, including certain criminal offenses by or
against US nationals, such as murder, may apply extra-territorially. Some
US laws directly apply to Antarctica. For example, the Antarctic
Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. section 2401 et seq., provides civil and
criminal penalties for the following activities, unless authorized
by regulation of statute:  plants and animals; entry into specially
protected areas; the discharge or disposal of pollutants; and the
importation into the US of certain items from Antarctica. Violation
of the Antarctic Conservation Act carries penalties of up to $10,000
in fines and one year in prison. The National Science Foundation and
Department of Justice share enforcement responsibilities. Public Law
95-541, the US Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978, as amended in 1996,
requires expeditions from the US to Antarctica to notify, in advance,
the Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs, Room 5801, Department of State,
Washington, DC 20520, which reports such plans to other nations as
required by the Antarctic Treaty. For more information, contact Permit
Office, Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation, Arlington,
Virginia 22230; telephone: Economy Antarctica

Economy - overview:  Fishing off the coast and tourism, both based abroad,
account for the limited economic activity. Antarctic fisheries in 2000-01
(1 July-30 June) reported landing 112,934 metric tons. Unregulated fishing
probably landed more fish than the regulated fishery, and allegedly
illegal fishing in antarctic waters in 1998 resulted in the seizure (by
France and Australia) of at least eight fishing ships. The Convention
on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources determines the
recommended catch limits for marine species. A total of 12,248 tourists
visited in the 2000-01 antarctic summer, down from the 14,762 who visited
the previous year. Nearly all of them were passengers on 21 commercial
(nongovernmental) ships and several yachts that made trips during the
summer. Most tourist trips lasted approximately two weeks.

Communications Antarctica

Telephones - main lines in use:  0 note: information for US bases only

Telephones - mobile cellular:  NA; Iridium system in use

Telephone system:   local systems at some research stations domestic:
Radio broadcast stations:  AM NA, FM 2, shortwave 1 note: information
for US bases only (2002)

Radios:  NA

Television broadcast stations:  1 (cable system with six channels;
American Forces Antarctic Network-McMurdo) note: information for US
bases only (2002)

Televisions:  several hundred at McMurdo Station (US) note: information
for US bases only (2001)

Internet country code:  .aq

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):  NA

Transportation Antarctica

Ports and harbors:  there are no developed ports and harbors in
Antarctica; most coastal stations have offshore anchorages, and
supplies are transferred from ship to shore by small boats, barges,
and helicopters; a few stations have a basic wharf facility; US coastal
stations include McMurdo (77 51 S, 166 40 E), Palmer (64 43 S, 64 03 W);
government use only except by permit (see Permit Office under "Legal
System"); all ships at port are subject to inspection in accordance with
Article 7, Antarctic Treaty; offshore anchorage is sparse and intermittent

Airports:  30 (2001) note: 27 stations, operated by 16 national
governments party to the Antarctic Treaty, have aircraft landing
facilities for either helicopters and/or fixed-wing aircraft; commercial
enterprises operate two additional aircraft landing facilities; helicopter
pads are available at 27 stations; runways at 15 locations are gravel,
sea-ice, blue-ice, or compacted snow suitable for landing wheeled,
fixed-wing aircraft; of these, 1 is greater than 3 km in length, 6 are
between 2 km and 3 km in length, 3 are between 1 km and 2 km in length,
3 are less than 1 km in length, and 2 are of unknown length; snow
surface skiways, limited to use by ski-equipped, fixed-wing aircraft,
are available at another 15 locations; of these, 4 are greater than 3 km
in length, 3 are between 2 km and 3 km in length, 2 are between 1 km and 2
km in length, 2 are less than 1 km in length, and 4 are of unknown length;
aircraft landing facilities generally subject to severe restrictions and
limitations resulting from extreme seasonal and geographic conditions;
aircraft landing facilities do not meet ICAO standards; advance approval
from the respective governmental or nongovernmental operating organization
required for landing; landed aircraft are subject to inspection in
accordance with Article 7, Antarctic Treaty

Airports - with unpaved runways:  total: 19 over 3,047 m: 6 2,438 to
3,047 m: 3 914 to 1,523 m: 4 under 914 m: 5 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

Heliports:  27 stations have helicopter landing facilities (helipads)

Military Antarctica

Military - note:  the Antarctic Treaty prohibits any measures of
a military nature, such as the establishment of military bases and
fortifications, the carrying out of military maneuvers, or the testing of
any type of weapon; it permits the use of military personnel or equipment
for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes

Transnational Issues Antarctica

Disputes - international:  Antarctic Treaty freezes claims (see Antarctic
Treaty Summary in Government type entry); sections (some overlapping)
claimed by Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, NZ, Norway, and UK;
the US and most other states do not recognize the territorial claims
of other states and have made no claims themselves (the US and Russia
reserve the right to do so); no claims have been made in the sector
between 90 degrees west and 150 degrees west; several states with land
claims in Antarctica have expressed their intention to submit data to
the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to extend their
continental shelf claims to adjoining undersea ridges

This page was last updated on 1 January 2002

General Resources

Australian Antarctic Division

British Antarctic Survey (BAS)

Directory of Polar and Cold Regions Organizations

International Centre for Antarctic Information and Research

National Science Foundation

Polar Pointers

Polar Web

Scott Polar Research Instititute (SPRI)

United States Antarctic Program

U.S. Antarctic Resource Center (USARC)

USGS Atlas of Antarctic Research

World Fact Book 2001


Artists to Antarctica Program

British Antarctic Survey (BAS)

The Explorers Web

Gateway to Antarctica


NASA: Live From Antarctica

NASA Live From Antarctica's Teacher Guide

National Science Foundation

NOVA: Warnings from the Ice

Polar Meteorology Web Module

Polar Regions

School of Biological Sciences

Scott Polar Research Instititute (SPRI)

Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic (TEA)

Geography and Environment

Australian Antarctic Division

Polar Regions

U.S. Antarctic Resource Center (USARC)

USGS Atlas of Antarctic Research

World Fact Book 2001

Government, Law

Antarctic Treaty

Antarctic Treaty Database

Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991)


Antarctic Philately

Byrd Polar Research Center

Gateway to Antarctica

Heritage Antarctica

National Maritime Museum

Shackleton's Antarctic Odyssey

Libraries, Archives

SPRILIB Antarctica

Media and Communications

Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter

Newsletter for the Canadian Antarctic Research Network

Heritage Hearsay; The Antarctic Heritage Trust's Newsletter

A Low-Latitude Antarctic Gazetteer

New South Polar Times

Polar News



British Antarctic Survey (BAS)
Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica (CARA)
Directory of Polar and Cold Regions Organizations

Heritage Antarctica

International Centre for Antarctic Information and Research (ICAIR)

National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Polar Programs

Scott Polar Research Instititute (SPRI)

Recreation and Travel

Heard Island - a Natural World Heritage Property

International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators


Mawson Station Webcam

Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic (TEA)

Science and Technology

Antarctic Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Institute (A3RI)
Antarctic Automatic Weather Stations
Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre (Antarctic CRC)

Antarctic Meteorological Research Center

Antarctica Project

Australian Antarctic Division

The Explorers Web

Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies (IASOS)

Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory

National Snow and Ice Data Center NSIDC (USA)

Polar Meteorology Web Module (US Naval Postgraduate School)

Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991)

Scripps Institute of Oceanography Arctic and Antarctic Research Center




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