Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. At 14,200,000 square kilometres, it is the fifth-largest continent. For comparison, Antarctica is nearly twice the size of Australia. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages 1.9 km in thickness, which extends to all but the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctica, on average, is the coldest and windiest continent, has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Most of Antarctica is a polar desert, with annual precipitation of only 200 mm along the coast and far less inland; the temperature in Antarctica has reached −89.2 °C, though the average for the third quarter is −63 °C. Anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at research stations scattered across the continent. Organisms native to Antarctica include many types of algae, fungi, plants and certain animals, such as mites, penguins and tardigrades.
Vegetation, where it occurs, is tundra. Antarctica is noted as the last region on Earth in recorded history to be discovered, unseen until 1820 when the Russian expedition of Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev on Vostok and Mirny sighted the Fimbul ice shelf; the continent, remained neglected for the rest of the 19th century because of its hostile environment, lack of accessible resources, isolation. In 1895, the first confirmed. Antarctica is a de facto condominium, governed by parties to the Antarctic Treaty System that have consulting status. Twelve countries signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, thirty-eight have signed it since then; the treaty prohibits military activities and mineral mining, prohibits nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal, supports scientific research, protects the continent's ecozone. Ongoing experiments are conducted by more than 4,000 scientists from many nations; the name Antarctica is the romanised version of the Greek compound word ἀνταρκτική, feminine of ἀνταρκτικός, meaning "opposite to the Arctic", "opposite to the north".
Aristotle wrote in his book Meteorology about an Antarctic region in c. 350 BC Marinus of Tyre used the name in his unpreserved world map from the 2nd century CE. The Roman authors Hyginus and Apuleius used for the South Pole the romanised Greek name polus antarcticus, from which derived the Old French pole antartike attested in 1270, from there the Middle English pol antartik in a 1391 technical treatise by Geoffrey Chaucer. Before acquiring its present geographical connotations, the term was used for other locations that could be defined as "opposite to the north". For example, the short-lived French colony established in Brazil in the 16th century was called "France Antarctique"; the first formal use of the name "Antarctica" as a continental name in the 1890s is attributed to the Scottish cartographer John George Bartholomew. The long-imagined south polar continent was called Terra Australis, sometimes shortened to'Australia' as seen in a woodcut illustration titled Sphere of the winds, contained in an astrological textbook published in Frankfurt in 1545.
Although the longer Latin phrase was better known, the shortened name Australia was used in Europe's scholarly circles. In the nineteenth century, the colonial authorities in Sydney removed the Dutch name from New Holland. Instead of inventing a new name to replace it, they took the name Australia from the south polar continent, leaving it nameless for some eighty years. During that period, geographers had to make do with clumsy phrases such as "the Antarctic Continent", they searched for a more poetic replacement, suggesting various names such as Antipodea. Antarctica was adopted in the 1890s. Antarctica has no indigenous population, there is no evidence that it was seen by humans until the 19th century. However, in February 1775, during his second voyage, Captain Cook called the existence of such a polar continent "probable" and in another copy of his journal he wrote:" believe it and it's more than probable that we have seen a part of it". However, belief in the existence of a Terra Australis—a vast continent in the far south of the globe to "balance" the northern lands of Europe and North Africa—had prevailed since the times of Ptolemy in the 1st century AD.
In the late 17th century, after explorers had found that South America and Australia were not part of the fabled "Antarctica", geographers believed that the continent was much larger than its actual size. Integral to the story of the origin of Antarctica's name is that it was not named Terra Australis—this name was given to Australia instead, because of the misconception that no significant landmass could exist further south. Explorer Matthew Flinders, in particular, has been credited with popularising the transfer of the name Terra Australis to Australia, he justified the titling of his book A Voyage to Terra Australis by writing in the introduction: There is no probability, that any other detached body of land, of nearly equal extent, will be found in a more southern latitude.
Tourism in Antarctica
Tourism in Antarctica started by the sea in the 1960s. Air overflights of Antarctica started in the 1970s with sightseeing flights by airliners from Australia and New Zealand, were resumed in the 1990s; the tour season lasts from November to March. Most of the estimated 14,762 visitors to Antarctica in 1999-2000 were on sea cruises. During the 2009 to 2010 tourist season, over 37,000 people visited Antarctica. Tourism companies are required by the Antarctic Treaty to have a permit to visit Antarctica. Many sea cruises by cruise ships include a landing by helicopter; some land visits may include mountaineering, skiing or a visit to the South Pole. During the 1920s, a Falkland Islands mail ship, the SS Fleurus, made annual trips to the South Shetland Islands and South Orkney Islands to serve whaling and sealing stations there, it carried a small number of commercial passengers, marketed round-trip "tourist tickets". Modern expedition cruising was pioneered by Lars-Eric Lindblad. Many of the sea cruises leave from Ushuaia in Argentina.
Sea cruises last anywhere between 10 days and 3 weeks and costs start from around US$6,000 per person for shared accommodation cabins. There are limited sea cruises to the Ross East Antarctic regions of Antarctica; the New Zealand expedition travel company Heritage Expeditions operates its own ice-strengthened polar research vessel the'Spirit of Enderby' to these regions several times a year. Large cruise vessels have visited Antarctica carrying over 950 people; these vessels are cruise based and offer no landings. However, in 2009, new regulations were enforced that stopped large vessels from operating in Antarctic waters due to their heavier fuel oils. Ships can only land 100 people at a time and those that carry over 500 people are not allowed to land anyone. Most scenic flights to Antarctica have been organised from Australia and New Zealand, with airlines from both countries commencing flights in February 1977; the majority of the flights are simple return trips, in no cases have they landed in Antarctica.
Air New Zealand's first scenic flight took place on 15 February 1977 and was followed by five more that year four each in 1978 and 1979. The flights were operated with McDonnell-Douglas DC-10s and departed from Auckland, flying over Ross Island to McMurdo Sound before returning to Auckland with a fuel stop in Christchurch. Flights flew down the middle of the Sound and over Scott Base rather than over Ross Island as the aircraft could descend to a low altitude to provide better visibility for passengers. Many flights carried experienced Antarctic researchers as guides, including on at least one occasion Sir Edmund Hillary, lasted 12 hours with four of them over or near the Antarctic mainland. Air New Zealand cancelled and never resumed their Antarctic flying programme in the aftermath of the TE901 disaster, where a route planning error lead to the aircraft crashing into Mount Erebus on 28 November 1979 with the loss of all 257 lives aboard. Qantas operated its first Antarctic flight on 13 February 1977, a charter organised by Sydney entrepreneur Dick Smith.
By 1979 twenty-seven flights had carried more than 7,000 passengers. Most flew from Sydney, Melbourne or Perth on one of two "ice" routes. One went along the coast of George V Land to the French base in Adele Land back over the South Magnetic Pole; the other went over northern Victoria Land to Cape Washington in the Ross Dependency. In 1977 one flight duplicated Air New Zealand's overflew McMurdo Sound and Mount Erebus; some shorter flights from Melbourne were operated by Boeing 707s. Qantas cancelled its Antarctic programme after the TE901 disaster but resumed it in 1994, continues to operate charter flights in summer from Sydney and Melbourne to this day with Boeing 747-400s. There have been earlier scenic overflights, including some from Chile in 1958. There were private yacht voyages in the Southern Ocean from the late 1960s, with some circumnavigations of Antarctica e.g. by David Henry Lewis in 1972. There are now about 30 yachts each year visiting the Antarctic Peninsula, in the warmer “banana belt.”
Many four-day cruises leave from Tierra del Fuego in Argentina, others from Stanley. Only smaller vessels are allowed to bring their crew ashore. Sailing to Antarctica is the cleanest way to experience the place. Land activities include camping and cross country skiing; these activities have become popular in recent times, as suggested by the increased number of tourists that come to visit Antarctica. The Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty does not address tourism, but its provisions go some way to minimising the adverse impacts of tourists because, once ratified, the protocol is binding over all visitors to the Antarctic, whether on government or private trips. In 1994 the Treaty countries made further recommendations on non-government activities; this "Guidance for Visitors to the Antarctic" is intended to help visitors become aware of their responsibilities under the treaty and protocol. The document concerns the protection of Antarctic wildlife and protected areas, the respecting of scientific research, personal safety and impact on the environment.
Guidelines have been written for the organisers of tourist and private ventures - these require prior notification of the trip to the organiser's national authority, assessment of potential environmental impacts, the ability to cope with environmental emerg