​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Antarctic Information​

Antarctica is designated as “a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” (Environmental Protocol 1991).  Continental Antarctica is big, but the majority of the land is covered in ice. The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest single mass of ice on Earth. It covers an area of almost 14 million km² (6.5 million square miles) and contains 30 million km³ of ice. Around 90 per cent of the fresh water on the Earth’s surface is held in the ice sheet, an amount equivalent to 70m of water in the world’s oceans. In East Antarctica the ice sheet rests on a major land mass, but in West Antarctica the bed is in places more than 2500m below sea level. It would be seabed if the ice sheet were not there.

 

A small area (less than one percent) is free of ice and the continent contains some of the most spectacular mountain ranges anywhere in the World. The most extensive are the Antarctic Peninsula, 1700km, and the Transantarctic Mountains, 3000km. The highest mountain, Vinson Massif in the Ellsworth Mountains, peaks at 4897m.

 

Around the coasts of Antarctica, temperatures are generally close to freezing in the summer (December–February) months, or even slightly positive in the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula. During winter, monthly mean temperatures at coastal stations are between −10°C and −30°C but temperatures may briefly rise towards freezing when winter storms bring warm air towards the Antarctic coast. Conditions on the interior plateau are much colder as a result of its higher elevation, higher latitude and greater distance from the ocean. Here, summer temperatures struggle to get above −20°C and monthly mean temperatures fall below −60°C in winter. Vostok Station, a high plateau research station, holds the record for the lowest ever temperature recorded at the surface of the Earth (−89.2°C).  In August 2010, a NASA satellite recorded an Antarctic temperature of −94.7°C (−135.8°F).

 

The majority of the biodivesity found in the Antarctic is in the marine environment not on the continent. In the oceans, you will find whales, fish, seals, squid, krill and a whole range of bottom-dwelling marine organisms.  Many micro-organisms also inhabit the marine environment around Antarctica and marine sea birds including penguin, albatross, petrels and skuas can be found around the Antarctic and the sub-Antarctic Islands.

 

On the continent, terrestrial invertebrates are the most species-rich animal group in Antarctica and on the Southern Ocean islands. Nematode worms, water bears (tardigrades), wheel-animals (rotifers), spingtails and mites are the most common.

 

Humans are a relative late-comers to the Antarctic region.  Exploration of the area likely began in the 1700s.  Now, the only humans that go there are either tourists, fisheries people or are personnel that are part of National Antarctic Programs.

 

The National Antarctic Programs operate a range of facilities in Antarctica in support of scientific research there.  View the current list of Antarctic facilities here as an HTML file: 

Or download a copy in Excel format: Antarctic_Facilities_List_13Feb2014.xlsAntarctic_Facilities_List_13Feb2014.xls

 

For more information on Antarctica see the various websites of our Member National Antarctic Programs.

 

Find other information on aspects of Antarctica at the following websites:

The Antarctic Treaty Secretariat www.ats.aq  

The Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) www.scar.org

The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources Secretariat www.ccamlr.org​​​

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 Upcoming Events

 
  
ATCM XXXIX (2016) & CEP XIX (2016)
The ATCM XXXIX will be held from 23 May 2016 - 1 June 2016 and the CEP XIX will be held on 23-27 May 2016 in Santiago, Chile. This includes the Symposium to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Environmental Protocol on 30 May 2016.
More Information: http://www.ats.aq
COMNAP Search And Rescue (SAR) Workshop III
DIRECTMAR and INACH will jointly host the COMNAP Search and Rescue (SAR) Workshop III to be held on 1 and 2 June 2016, at DIRECTMAR in Valparaiso, Chile. This is a practical and technical workshop building on the two previous COMNAP SAR Workshops.
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COMNAP Annual General Meeting (AGM) 2016, Goa, India
The National Center for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) will host the COMNAP XXVIII AGM 2016 in Goa India, from 16-18 August 2016. Registration for COMNAP Members NOW OPEN by way of Member's Only webpage (username/password required).
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COMNAP Symposium 2016
The COMNAP Symposium 2016 will be hosted by the National Center for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) in Goa, India, on 19 and 20 August 2016. The theme of this Symposium will be "Wintering-over Challenges". Call for papers has now closed.
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34th SCAR Biennial Meetings
The Biennial Meetings include the SCAR Open Science Conference, Kuala Lumpur, 20-30 August 2016.  Call for abstracts and registration is now open. 
More Information: http://www.scar2016.com