Antarctica is a continent. It is Earth's fifth largest continent. Antarctica is covered in ice. Antarctica covers Earth's South Pole. Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth. The temperature in the winter is cold enough to freeze water all the time. The temperature in the middle of Antarctica is much colder than the temperature on the coasts.
Antarctica has two seasons: summer and winter. Earth is tilted in space and the direction of tilt never changes. During summer, Antarctica is on the side of Earth tilted toward the sun. It is always sunny. In winter, Antarctica is on the side of Earth tilted away from the sun. Then, the continent is always dark. Antarctica is a desert. It does not rain or snow a lot there. When it snows, the snow does not melt and builds up over many years to make large, thick sheets of ice, called ice sheets. Antarctica is made up of lots of ice in the form of glaciers, ice shelves and icebergs.
The Antarctic Ocean is the ocean situated about, or within, the Antarctic Circle. The great Southern Ocean is that part of the ocean which surrounds the world in one continuous band between the latitude of 40°S and the Antarctic Circle. This band is only partially interrupted by the southern prolongation of South America. The northern portions of this band are often called the South Atlantic, South Indian, and South Pacific, while the southern portions are usually called the Antarctic Ocean. The average depth of the continuous ocean surrounding the South Polar Land is about 2 miles; it gradually shoals toward Antarctic Land, which in some places is met with a short distance within the Antarctic Circle.
Antarctica has no trees or bushes. The only plants that can live in a place that cold are moss and algae. Antarctica is too cold for people to live there for a long time. Scientists take turns going there to study the ice. Tourists visit Antarctica in the summers. The oceans around Antarctica are home to many types of whales. Antarctica is also home to seals and penguins.
At the South Pole, the nights are six months long, extending from sunset on March 21 to sunrise on September 21. A lake (Lake Vostok) buried 11,000 ft. under the ice is the size of North America’s Lake Huron.
The longest instrumental temperature records come from the relatively warm Antarctic Peninsula region, referred to by the “Frozen Chosen” as the “Banana Belt” of Antarctica. The glacial systems that occur in the Peninsular region are the most delicate in Antarctica and the most vulnerable to climatic warming. In historical time the fronts of the Larsen and George VI ice shelves, the two largest ice shelves in the region, have retreated at rates of nearly one-half mile per year. Another smaller ice shelf, the Wordie Ice Shelf, has completely vanished.
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 UK (some overlapping) for three-fourths of the continent; the US and Russia reserve the right to make claims; no formal claims have been made in the sector between 90 degrees west and 150 degrees west; the International Whaling Commission created a sanctuary 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.
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.
The problem of geographic nomenclature in Antarctica differs from that of any land area of comparable size. Antarctica has no permanent settlements. Even in the stations continuously occupied for a number of years, the personnel are rotated. The continent has been visited and explored by the representatives of many nations, who, by their heroic efforts to broaden man's knowledge of this land of ice and snow, have fully demonstrated the international nature of the world of science. Most major features of Antarctica have been discovered and mapped, but a vast number of secondary features continue to be only partially delineated and remain unnamed.
The Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names decides individual cases. Decisions on Antarctic names are based on priority of application, appropriateness, and the extent to which usage has become established. The nationality of the honoree is not a factor in the consideration of personal names. The grouping of natural features into three orders of magnitude, with corresponding categories of persons according to the type of contribution which they have made, is intended to provide the greatest possible objectivity in determining the appropriateness of a name. The names of products, sled dogs, or pets will ordinarily not be considered appropriate for application to natural features.
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