Antarctica 1998Antarctica

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Antarctica - Introduction 1998
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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 Peninsula region and areas south of the Antarctic Circle. Not until 1838 was it established that Antarctica was indeed a continent and not just a group of islands. Various 'firsts' were achieved in the early 20th century including: 1902 first balloon flight (by British explorer Robert Falcon SCOTT); 1912 first to the South Pole (five Norwegian explorers under Roald AMUNDSEN); 1928 first fixed-wing aircraft flight (by Australian adventurer/explorer Sir Hubert WILKINS); 1929 first flight over the South Pole (by Americans Richard BYRD and Bernt BALCHEN); and 1935 first transantarctic flight (American Lincoln ELLSWORTH). Following World War II there was an upsurge in scientific research on the continent. A number of countries have set up year-round research stations on Antarctica. Seven have made territorial claims but no other country recognizes 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.

Antarctica - Geography 1998
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Location: continent mostly south of the Antarctic Circle

Geographic coordinates: 90 00 S, 0 00 E

Map referenceAntarctic Region

Total: 14 million km²
Land: 14 million km² (280,000 km² ice-free, 13.72 million km² ice-covered) (est.)
Note: second-smallest continent (after Australia)
Comparative: slightly less than 1.5 times the size of the US

Land boundaries: 0 km
Note: see entry on International disputes

Coastline: 17,968 km

Maritime claims: none, but see entry on International disputes

Climate: severe low temperatures vary with latitude, elevation, and distance from the ocean; 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

Terrain: about 98% thick continental ice sheet and 2% barren rock, with average elevations between 2,000 and 4,000 meters; mountain ranges up to about 5,000 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

Extremes lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
Extremes highest point: Vinson Massif 5,140 m

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

Land use
Arable land: 0%
Permanent crops: 0%
Permanent pastures: 0%
Forests and woodland: 0%
Other: 100% (ice 98%, barren rock 2%)

Irrigated land: 0 km² (1993)

Major rivers

Major watersheds area km²

Total water withdrawal

Total renewable water resources

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

Note: the coldest, windiest, highest, and driest continent; during summer, more solar radiation reaches the surface at the South Pole than is received at the Equator in an equivalent period; mostly uninhabitable

Antarctica - People 1998
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Population: no indigenous inhabitants; note_there are seasonally staffed research stations; Summer (January) population_over 4,115 total; Argentina 207, Australia 268, Belgium 13, Brazil 80, Chile 256, China NA, Ecuador NA, Finland 11, France 78, Germany 32, Greenpeace 12, India 60, Italy 210, Japan 59, South Korea 14, Netherlands 10, NZ 264, Norway 23, Peru 39, Poland NA, South Africa 79, Spain 43, Sweden 10, UK 116, Uruguay NA, US 1,666, former USSR 565 (1989-90; Winter (July) population_over 1,046 total; Argentina 150, Australia 71, Brazil 12, Chile 73, China NA, France 33, Germany 19, Greenpeace 5, India 1, Japan 38, South Korea 14, NZ 11, Poland NA, South Africa 12, UK 69, Uruguay NA, US 225, former USSR 313 (1989-90; Year-round stations_42 total; Argentina 6, Australia 3, Brazil 1, Chile 3, China 2, Finland 1, France 1, Germany 1, India 1, Japan 2, South Korea 1, NZ 1, Poland 1, South Africa 3, UK 5, Uruguay 1, US 3, former USSR 6 (1990-91; Summer-only stations_over 38 total; Argentina 7, Australia 3, Chile 5, Germany 3, India 1, Italy 1, Japan 4, NZ 2, Norway 1, Peru 1, South Africa 1, Spain 1, Sweden 2, UK 1, US numerous, former USSR 5 (1989-90; note_the disintegration of the former USSR has placed the status and future of its Antarctic facilities in doubt; stations may be subject to closings at any time because of ongoing economic difficulties


Ethnic groups



Demographic profile
Age structure

Age structure

Dependency ratios

Median age

Population growth rate

Birth rate

Death rate

Net migration rate

Population distribution


Major urban areas

Current issues: in 1995 it was reported that the ozone shield, which protects the Earth's surface from harmful ultraviolet radiation, had dwindled to the lowest level recorded over Antarctica since 1975 when measurements were first taken
International agreements party to: none of the selected agreements
International agreements signed but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

Sex ratio

Mothers mean age at first birth

Maternal mortality ratio

Infant mortality rate

Life expectancy at birth

Total fertility rate

Contraceptive prevalence rate

Drinking water source

Current health expenditure

Physicians density

Hospital bed density

Sanitation facility access


Major infectious diseases

Obesity adult prevalence rate

Alcohol consumption

Tobacco use

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

Education expenditures


School life expectancy primary to tertiary education

Youth unemployment

Antarctica - Government 1998
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Country name
Conventional long form: none
Conventional short form: Antarctica

Government type: Antarctic Treaty Summary_The Antarctic Treaty, signed on 1 December 1959 and entered into force on 23 June 1961, establishes the legal framework for the management of Antarctica. Administration is carried out through consultative member meetings_the 18th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting was in Japan in April 1993. Currently, there are 42 treaty member nations:26 consultative and 16 acceding. Consultative (voting) members include the seven nations that claim portions of Antarctica as national territory (some claims overlap) and 19 nonclaimant nations. The US and some other nations that have made no claims have reserved the right to do so. The US does not recognize the claims of others. The year in parentheses indicates when an acceding nation was voted to full consultative (voting) status, while no date indicates the country was an original 1959 treaty signatory. Claimant nations are_Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the UK. Nonclaimant consultative nations are_Belgium, Brazil (1983), China (1985), Ecuador (1990), Finland (1989), Germany (1981), India (1983), Italy (1987), Japan, South Korea (1989), Netherlands (1990), Peru (1989), Poland (1977), South Africa, Spain (1988), Sweden (1988), Uruguay (1985), the US, and Russia. Acceding (nonvoting) members, with year of accession in parentheses, are_Austria (1987), Bulgaria (1978), Canada (1988), Colombia (1988), Cuba (1984), Czech Republic (1993), Denmark (1965), Greece (1987), Guatemala (1991), Hungary (1984), North Korea (1987), Papua New Guinea (1981), Romania (1971), Slovakia (1993), Switzerland (1990), and Ukraine (1992). Article 1_area to be used for peaceful purposes only; military activity, such as weapons testing, is prohibited, but military personnel and equipment may be used for scientific research or any other peaceful purpose; Article 2_freedom of scientific investigation and cooperation shall continue; Article 3_free exchange of information and personnel in cooperation with the UN and other international agencies; Article 4_does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial claims and no new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force; Article 5_prohibits nuclear explosions or disposal of radioactive wastes; Article 6_includes under the treaty all land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees 00 minutes south; Article 7_treaty-state observers have free access, including aerial observation, to any area and may inspect all stations, installations, and equipment; advance notice of all activities and of the introduction of military personnel must be given; Article 8_allows for jurisdiction over observers and scientists by their own states; Article 9_frequent consultative meetings take place among member nations; Article 10_treaty states will discourage activities by any country in Antarctica that are contrary to the treaty; Article 11_disputes to be settled peacefully by the parties concerned or, ultimately, by the ICJ; Articles 12, 13, 14_deal with upholding, interpreting, and amending the treaty among involved nations; other agreements_more than 170 recommendations adopted at treaty consultative meetings and ratified by governments include_Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (1964; Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972; Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980; a mineral resources agreement was signed in 1988 but was subsequently rejected; the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed 4 October 1991 and entered into force 14 January 1998; this agreement provides for the protection of the Antarctic environment through five specific annexes on marine pollution, fauna, and flora, environmental impact assessments, waste management, and protected areas; it also prohibits all activities relating to mineral resources except scientific research; 27 parties have ratified the Protocol as of April 1998


Administrative divisions

Dependent areas


National holiday


Legal system: US law, including certain criminal offenses by or against US nationals, such as murder, may apply to areas not under jurisdiction of other countries. Some US laws directly apply to Antarctica. For example, the Antarctic Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. section 2,401 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 or scientific 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 $10,000 in fines and one year in prison. The Departments of Treasury, Commerce, Transportation, and Interior share enforcement responsibilities. Public Law 95-541, the US Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978, requires expeditions from the US to Antarctica to notify, in advance, the Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs, Room 5,801, Department of State, Washington, DC 20,520, 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 22,230 (703) 306-1031.

International law organization participation



Executive branch

Legislative branch

Judicial branch

Political parties and leaders

International organization participation

Diplomatic representation

Flag descriptionflag of Antarctica

National symbols

National anthem

National heritage

Antarctica - Economy 1998
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Economy overview: No economic activity at present except for fishing off the coast and small-scale tourism, both based abroad.

Real gdp purchasing power parity

Real gdp growth rate

Real gdp per capita ppp

Gross national saving
Gdp composition by sector of origin

Gdp composition by end use

Gdp composition by sector of origin

Agriculture products


Industrial production growth rate

Labor force
Labor force

Unemployment rate

Youth unemployment

Population below poverty line

Gini index

Household income or consumption by percentage share

Distribution of family income gini index


Public debt

Taxes and other revenues


Fiscal year

Current account balance

Inflation rate consumer prices

Central bank discount rate

Commercial bank prime lending rate

Stock of narrow money

Stock of broad money

Stock of domestic credit

Market value of publicly traded shares

Current account balance



Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

Debt external

Stock of direct foreign investment at home

Stock of direct foreign investment abroad

Exchange rates

Antarctica - Energy 1998
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Electricity access

Electricity production

Electricity consumption

Electricity exports

Electricity imports

Electricity installed generating capacity

Electricity transmission distribution losses

Electricity generation sources


Refined petroleum

Natural gas

Carbon dioxide emissions

Energy consumption per capita

Antarctica - Communication 1998
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Telephones fixed lines

Telephones mobile cellular

Telephone system
Domestic: NA
International: NA

Broadcast media

Internet country code

Internet users

Broadband fixed subscriptions

Antarctica - Military 1998
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Military expenditures

Military and security forces

Military service age and obligation

Terrorist groups

Antarctica - Transportation 1998
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National air transport system

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

Airports: 18 (1997 est.), 39 landing facilities at different locations operated by 16 national governments party to the Treaty; two additional air facilities operated by commercial (nongovernmental) tourist organizations; helicopter pads at 33 of these locations; runways at 13 locations are gravel, sea ice, glacier ice, or compacted snow surface suitable for wheeled fixed-wing aircraft; no paved runways; 14 locations have snow-surface skiways limited to use by ski-equipped planes_8 runways/skiways greater than 3,000 m, 12 runways/skiways 1,000 to 3,000 m, 2 runways/skiways less than 1,000 m, and 5 of unspecified or variable length; airports generally subject to severe restrictions and limitations resulting from extreme seasonal and geographic conditions; airports do not meet ICAO standards; advance approval from the respective governmental or nongovernmental operating organization required for landing (1997 est.)
With unpaved runways total: 18
With unpaved runways over 3047 m: 4
With unpaved runways 2438 to 3047 m: 3
With unpaved runways 15-24 to 2437 m: 2
With unpaved runways 914 to 1523 m: 4
With unpaved runways under 914 m: 5 (1997 est.)

Airports with paved runways

Airports with unpaved runways
Total: 18
Over 3047 m: 4
2438 to 3047 m: 3
15-24 to 2437 m: 2
914 to 1523 m: 4
Under 914 m: 5 (1997 est.)

Heliports: 1 (1997 est.)





Merchant marine

Ports and terminals

Antarctica - Transnational issues 1998
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Disputes international: Antarctic Treaty defers claims (see Antarctic Treaty Summary above; sections (some overlapping) claimed by Argentina, Australia, Chile, France (Adelie Land), New Zealand (Ross Dependency), Norway (Queen Maud Land), and UK; the US and most other nations do not recognize the territorial claims of other nations and have made no claims themselves (the US reserves the right to do so; no formal claims have been made in the sector between 90 degrees west and 150 degrees west

Refugees and internally displaced persons

Illicit drugs


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