Michael A. Stecker


Satellite map of Antarctica
Antarctica is the highest, windiest, coldest and most arid continent on earth.  Most of the continent lies south of the Antarctic Circle -- an imaginary circle on the surface of the earth at 66 1/2 South latitude, i.e. 23 1/2 north of the South Pole.  However about half of the Antarctic Peninsula (just south of South America) is north of the Antarctic Circle.  The three southern oceans -- Atlantic, Pacific and Indian converge on Antarctica.  The body of water between the Antarctica and South America is the Drake Passage -- one of the roughest waterways in the world.  The largest research station lies near Mc Murdo Sound and the Ross Sea.  Nearby is the volcanic peak Mount Erebus (12,444 ft) on Ross Island.

Drake Passage and Paradise Bay off the Antarctic Peninsula
Basic Antarctica Data
Continental Rank
Fifth-largest continent, following Asia, Africa, North America, and South America
Larger than Australia and the subcontinent of Europe

Relative Size
slightly less than 1.5 times the size of the USA

14 million sq km

17,968 km

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

Ice Cover: about 98% thick continental ice sheet
Barren Rock: 2%

Elevations average between 2,000 and 4,000 meters; mountain ranges up to 5,140 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: Southern Ocean 0 feet
highest point: Vinson Massif 16,067 feet (5,140 meters)

The Vinson Massif at 16,067 feet (Lat: 7835'S, Long: 8525'W) lies along the southern part of the
main ridge of the Sentinel Range. It was named for Carl G Vinson, a Georgia congressman and a
major force in 20th century US Antarctic exploration.  It was first climbed in December, 1966.

Natural resources
None presently exploited; iron ore, chromium, copper, gold, nickel, platinum and other minerals, and coal and hydrocarbons have been found in small quantities

arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 0%
forests and woodland: 0%
Irrigated land: 0 sq km (1993)
other: 100% (ice 98%, barren rock 2%)

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