Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent in area - nearly twice the size of Australia. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages at least 1.9 kilometres (1.2 mi) in thickness, which extends to all but the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. The temperature in Antarctica has reached −89 °C (−129 °F). There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent. Only certain animals survive, such as mites, nematodes, penguins, seals and tardigrades.
The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries; to date, 49 countries have signed the treaty, which: prohibits military activities and mineral mining, nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal; supports scientific research; and protects the continent's ecozone.
The continent of Antarctica is a very harsh, unforgiving land – covered in ice and at the southern most tip of the world very little life can survive in the sub zero temperatures, but surprisingly so there are still many arctic species found inhabiting it’s surrounds.
After it’s known discovery in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s – the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration began at the end of the 19th century and closed with Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1917.
The history of Antarctica emerges from early Western theories of a vast continent, known as Terra Australis, believed to exist in the far south of the globe. The term Antarctic, referring to the opposite of the Arctic Circle, was coined by Marinus of Tyre in the 2nd century AD.
Several expeditions attempted to reach the South Pole in the early 20th century, during the 'Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration'.
The first successful trip to the South Pole was by Norwegian Roald Amundsen and his party on December 14, 1911. However, unaware of this trip, the British party of Robert Falcon Scott & 4 men reached the South Pole on January 17, 1912, thirty-four days after Amundsen - all sadly died on the return trip.
The next successful trip was by New Zealander Edmund Hillary (January 4, 1958) and Vivian Fuchs (January 19, 1958) and their respective parties, during the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
- The 19 countries which have successfully reached the South Pole on foot include: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Lebanon, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.
- Expected December temperatures - average high -26.5ºC / Average low -29.3ºC
- No native flora or fauna occur naturally in Antarctica
- There have been 118 of 123 successful unsupported attempts
- 22 of these attempts were solo, with the last completed in 13/01/2015
- 13 successful unsupported North & South Pole attempts
- The fastest South Pole attempt on foot was 23 days 5 hours
ATTEMPTS TO THE SOUTH POLE IN RECENT YEARS
2006 - Christian Eide, Norwegian holds the fastest unsupported trip of 24 days from near ‘Hercules Inlet’
2012 - Norwegian Aleksander Gamme (solo) and Australians James Castrission and Justin Jones, achieved the first unsupported trip and back
2013 - Maria Leijerstam completed the first tricycle ride from coast to South Pole
2014 - Daniel P. Burton completed the first bicycle ride from coast to the South Pole
2016 - British Henry Worsley died while attempting to complete the 70 day first solo and unaided crossing of the Antarctic