's southernmost continent
, overlying the South Pole
. It is situated in the southern hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle
, and is completely surrounded by the Southern Ocean
. The nearest land mass is South America
at 965 km.
Its area is close to 14 million km2. Antarctica is the fifth largest continent after Asia, Africa, North America and South America.
Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. The minimum recorded surface temperature on the planet, −89.2 °C, was at the Soviet research station Vostok in Antarctica on 21 July 1983.
Antarctica has 98% of its total area covered by ice. The mean thickness of the ice sheet is 1829 m and the maximum thickness has been measured as 4776 m. While most of the ice in East Antarctica is on bed rock, in West Antarctica a majority of it floats on water. Due to accumulation of ice over millions of years, the continent has been depressed by about 600 m on average.
Since there is little precipitation, except at the coasts, the interior of the continent is technically the largest desert in the world. There is no permanent population and there is no evidence of any existing or pre-historic indigenous population. Only cold-adapted plants and animals survive there, including mosses and lichens, and several species of penguins, ice seals and the Antarctic fur seals.
The South Pole
, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is the southernmost point
on the surface of the Earth
. It lies on the continent of Antarctica
. For most purposes, the Geographic South Pole is defined as the southern point of the two points where the earth's axis of rotation
intersects its surface (the other being the Geographic North Pole
). The Geographic South Pole is marked by a small sign and a stake in the ice pack, which are repositioned each year on New Year’s Day
to compensate for the movement of the ice
. The Ceremonial South Pole is an area set aside for photo opportunities at the South Pole Station
. It is located a short distance from the Geographic South Pole, and consists of a metallic sphere on a plinth, surrounded by the flags of the Antarctic Treaty
signatory states. The ceremonial marker is moved every two to three years to keep the walking distance to the Geographical South Pole minimal.