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Facts About Antarctica | Antarctica Facts Info Stuff

Here are some interesting facts about Antarctica - Category: Introduction - 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 a range of year-round and seasonal stations, camps, and refuges to support scientific research in Antarctica. Seven have made territorial claims, but not all countries recognize 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.

Category: Government - Legal system: Antarctica is administered through meetings of the consultative member nations; decisions from these meetings are carried out by these member nations (with respect to their own nationals and operations) in accordance with their own national laws; US law, including certain criminal offenses by or against US nationals, such as murder, may apply extraterritorially; 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: the taking of native mammals or birds; the introduction of nonindigenous 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 ,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, Room 5805, 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: (703) 292-8030, or visit their website at; more generally, access to the Antarctic Treaty area, that is to all areas between 60 and 90 degrees south latitude, is subject to a number of relevant legal instruments and authorization procedures adopted by the states party to the Antarctic Treaty

Category: People - Population: no indigenous inhabitants, but there are both permanent and summer-only staffed research stations; note: 28 nations, all signatory to the Antarctic Treaty, operate through their National Antarctic Program a number of seasonal-only (summer) and year-round research stations on the continent and its nearby islands south of 60 degrees south latitude (the region covered by the Antarctic Treaty); these stations' population of persons doing and supporting science or engaged in the management and protection of the Antarctic region 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; peak summer (December-February) population - 4,219 total; Argentina 667, Australia 200, Brazil 40, Bulgaria 15, Chile 237, China 70, Czech Republic 20, Ecuador 26, Finland 20, France 100, France and Italy jointly 45, Germany 90, India 65, Italy 90, Japan 125, South Korea 70, NZ 85, Norway 44, Peru 28, Poland 40, Romania 3, Russia 429, South Africa 80, Spain 28, Sweden 20, Ukraine 24, UK 205, US 1,293, Uruguay 60 (2007-2008); winter (June-August) station population - 1,088 total; Argentina 176, Australia 62, Brazil 12, Chile 96, China 29, France 26, France and Italy jointly 13, Germany 9, India 25, Italy 2, Japan 40, South Korea 18, NZ 10, Norway 7, Poland 12, Russia 148, South Africa 10, Ukraine 12, UK 37, US 337, Uruguay 9 (2008); research stations operated within the Antarctic Treaty area (south of 60 degrees south latitude) by National Antarctic Programs: year-round stations - 38 total; Argentina 6, Australia 3, Brazil 1, Chile 4, China 2, France 1, France and Italy jointly 1, Germany 1, India 1, Japan 1, South Korea 1, NZ 1, Norway 1, Poland 1, Russia 5, South Africa 1, Ukraine 1, UK 2, US 3, Uruguay 1 (2008); a range of seasonal-only (summer) stations, camps, and refuges - Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, UK, US, and Uruguay (2007-2008); 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 (March 2008 estimate)

Category: Economy - Economy - overview: Fishing off the coast and tourism, both based abroad, account for Antarctica's limited economic activity. Antarctic fisheries in 2005-06 (1 July-30 June) reported landing 128,081 metric tons (estimated fishing from the area covered by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which extends slightly beyond the Antarctic Treaty area). Unregulated fishing, particularly of Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides), is a serious problem. The CCAMLR determines the recommended catch limits for marine species. A total of 36,460 tourists visited the Antarctic Treaty area in the 2006-07 Antarctic summer, up from the 30,877 visitors the previous year (estimates provided to the Antarctic Treaty by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO); this does not include passengers on overflights). Nearly all of them were passengers on commercial (nongovernmental) ships and several yachts that make trips during the summer. Most tourist trips last approximately two weeks.

Category: Geography - Land use (%): arable land: 0%; permanent crops: 0%; other: 100% (ice 98%, barren rock 2%) (2005)

Category: Transportation - Heliports: 53; note: all year-round and seasonal stations operated by National Antarctic Programs stations have some kind of helicopter landing facilities, prepared (helipads) or unprepared (2007)

Category: Communications - Telephone system: general assessment: local systems at some research stations; domestic: commercial cellular networks operating in a small number of locations; international: country code - none allocated; via satellite (including mobile Inmarsat and Iridium systems) to and from all research stations, ships, aircraft, and most field parties (2007)

Category: Military - 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

Category: Transnational Issues - Disputes - international: the Antarctic Treaty freezes, and most states do not recognize, the land and maritime territorial claims made by Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom (some overlapping) for three-fourths of the continent; the US and Russia reserve the right to make claims; no claims have been made in the sector between 90 degrees west and 150 degrees west; the International Whaling Commission created a sancturary around the entire continent to deter catches by countries claiming to conduct scientific whaling; Australia has established a similar preserve in the waters around its territorial claim

Other random facts about Antarctica 

  1. Communications - Telephones - main lines in use: 0; note - information for US bases only (2001)

  2. Communications - Television broadcast stations: 1 (cable system with 6 channels; American Forces Antarctic Network-McMurdo - information for US bases only) (2002)

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

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Source: CIA - The World Factbook