The continent of Antarctica in the south polar region of Earth
Click on image for a larger and more detailed map.
NASA

Antarctica

Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth. It is about one and a half times the size of the United States. Almost all of Antarctica is covered with a thick layer of ice called an ice sheet. Giant shelves of ice also cover the seas. The little bits of land that are not covered by ice are very rocky. In several places, deep under the ice sheet, there are lakes.

Temperatures can be very low. East Antarctica is colder than West Antarctica because it has a higher elevation. The Antarctic Peninsula has the warmest climate on the continent. But even there, the warm temperatures are still usually below freezing.

The tallest mountain of the continent of Antarctica is called Vinson Massif. It is 4897 meters (16,050 feet) above sea level. Several of the other mountains in Antarctica are volcanoes.

Antarctica is a shared place for scientific research. An agreement signed by 45 countries describes how it is to be shared. This is called the Antarctic Treaty. It was first signed on December 1, 1959.

Last modified January 3, 2007 by Lisa Gardiner.

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