The Antarctic (US English //, UK English // or // and // or //)[Note 1] is a polar region around the Earth's South Pole, opposite the Arctic region around the North Pole. The Antarctic comprises the continent of Antarctica, the Kerguelen Plateau and other island territories located on the Antarctic Plate or south of the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic region includes the ice shelves, waters, and all the island territories in the Southern Ocean situated south of the Antarctic Convergence, a zone approximately 32 to 48 km (20 to 30 mi) wide varying in latitude seasonally. The region covers some 20 percent of the Southern Hemisphere, of which 5.5 percent (14 million km2) is the surface area of the Antarctic continent itself. All of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude are administered under the Antarctic Treaty System. Biogeographically, the Antarctic ecozone is one of eight ecozones of the Earth's land surface.
The maritime part of the region constitutes the area of application of the international Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), where for technical reasons the Convention uses an approximation of the Convergence line by means of a line joining specified points along parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude. The implementation of the Convention is managed through an international Commission headquartered in Hobart, Australia, by an efficient system of annual fishing quotas, licenses and international inspectors on the fishing vessels, as well as satellite surveillance.
Most of the Antarctic region is situated south of 60°S latitude parallel, and is governed in accordance with the international legal regime of the Antarctic Treaty System. The Treaty area covers the continent itself and its immediately adjacent islands, as well as the archipelagos of the South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands, Peter I Island, Scott Island and Balleny Islands.
The islands situated between 60°S latitude parallel to the south and the Antarctic Convergence to the north, and their respective 200-nautical-mile (370 km) exclusive economic zones fall under the national jurisdiction of the countries that possess them: South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (United Kingdom; also an EU Overseas territory), Bouvet Island (Norway), and Heard and McDonald Islands (Australia).
Kerguelen Islands (France; also an EU Overseas territory) are situated in the Antarctic Convergence area, while the Falkland Islands, Isla de los Estados, Hornos Island with Cape Horn, Diego Ramírez Islands, Campbell Island, Macquarie Island, Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands, Crozet Islands, Prince Edward Islands, and Gough Island and Tristan da Cunha group remain north of the Convergence and thus outside the Antarctic region.
- South Georgia pipits
- Antarctic petrels
- Fish, such as Antarctic icefish, Antarctic toothfish
- Squid, including the colossal squid
- Antarctic krill
Most of the Antarctic continent is permanently covered by ice and snow, leaving less than 1 percent of the land exposed. There are only two species of flowering plant, Antarctic hair grass and Antarctic pearlwort, but a range of mosses, liverworts, lichens and macrofungi.
The first Antarctic land discovered was the island of South Georgia, visited by the English merchant Anthony de la Roché in 1675. Although myths and speculation about a Terra Australis ("Southern Land") date back to antiquity, the first confirmed sighting of the continent of Antarctica is commonly accepted to have occurred in 1820 by the Russian expedition of Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev on Vostok and Mirny. The first human born in the Antarctic was Solveig Gunbjørg Jacobsen born on 8 October 1913 in Grytviken, South Georgia.
The Antarctic region had no indigenous population when first discovered, and its present inhabitants comprise a few thousand transient scientific and other personnel working on tours of duty at the several dozen research stations maintained by various countries. However, the region is visited by more than 40,000 tourists annually, the most popular destinations being the Antarctic Peninsula area (especially the South Shetland Islands) and South Georgia Island.
In December 2009, the growth of tourism, with consequences for both the ecology and the safety of the travellers in its great and remote wilderness, was noted at a conference in New Zealand by experts from signatories to the Antarctic Treaty. The definitive results of the conference was presented at the Antarctic Treaty states' meeting in Uruguay in May 2010.
The Antarctic hosts the world's largest protected area comprising 1.07 million km2, the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Marine Protection Area created in 2012. The latter exceeds the surface area of another vast protected territory, the Greenland National Park’s 972,000 km2. (While the Ross Sea Marine Protection Area established in 2016 is still larger at 1.55 million km2, its protection is set to expire in 35 years.)
Because Antarctica surrounds the South Pole, it is theoretically located in all time zones. For practical purposes, time zones are usually based on territorial claims or the time zone of a station's owner country or supply base.
- The word was originally pronounced without the first /k/, but the spelling pronunciation has become common and is often considered more correct. The pronunciation without the first k sound and the first t sound is however widespread and a typical phenomenon of English in many other similar words too. The "c" was added to the spelling for etymological reasons and then began to be pronounced, but (as with other spelling pronunciations) at first only by less educated people.
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- Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty
- CCAMLR Commission
- Antarctic Heritage Trusts
- International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators
- Map of the Antarctic Convergence
- The South Atlantic and Subantarctic Islands