Antarctica Antarctica is the southernmost continent and includes the South Pole. Geographic sources disagree as to whether it is surrounded by the Southern Ocean or the South Pacific Ocean, South Atlantic Ocean, and Indian Ocean. It is divided by the Transantarctic Mountains. On average, it is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. At 14.425 million km², Antarctica is the third-smallest continent before Europe and Australia; 98% of it is covered in ice. Because there is little precipitation, except at the coasts, the interior of the continent is technically the largest desert in the world. There are no permanent human residents and Antarctica has never had an indigenous population. The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries. The treaty prohibits military activities and mineral mining, supports scientific research, and protects the continent's ecozone. Ongoing experiments are conducted by more than 4,000 scientists of many nationalities and with different research interests.
Colored Shaded Relief Map of Subglacial Bedrock Topography and Bathymetry of Antarctica
This is topographic map of Antarctica after removing the ice sheet and accounting for both isostatic rebound and sea level rise. Hence this map suggests what Antarctica may have looked like 35 million years ago, when the Earth was warm enough to prevent the formation of large-scale ice sheets in Antarctica
Colored Shaded Relief Map of Antarctica without ice sheet
This section holds a short summary of the history of the area of present-day Antarctica, illustrated with maps, including historical maps of former countries and empires that included present-day Antarctica.
Principle drawing of the size and structure of the Antarctic ice sheet during an interglacial, comparable to the recent stage
Maximum extent of the Antarctic ice sheet during glacial cycles, e.g. at 21,000 years before present. Extent and volume changes are closely linked with grounding line changes of the West Antarctic ice sheet due to sea level lowering. At the glacial maximum, the grounding line extended close to the continental shelf break almost everywhere. Ice over central East Antarctica was generally thinner than today and varied mainly in accordance with accumulation fluctuations. Color shadings are increments of 500 m ice thickness.
Speculation over the existence of a "southern land" is not confirmed until the early 1820s when British and American commercial operators and British and Russian national expeditions begin exploring the Antarctic Peninsula region and other areas south of the Antarctic Circle. Not until 1840 it is established that Antarctica is indeed a continent and not just a group of islands. Several exploration "firsts" are achieved in the early 20th century. Following World War II, there is an upsurge in scientific research on the continent. A number of countries set up year-round research stations on Antarctica. Seven countries make 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 is negotiated that neither denies nor gives recognition to existing territorial claims; signed in 1959, it enters into force in 1961. This map shows the Antarctic territorial claims
Map of research and territorial claims
Territorial claims relative to the rest of the world
The WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Atlas of the World is an organized and commented collection of geographical, political and historical maps available at Wikimedia Commons. The main page is therefore the portal to maps and cartography on Wikimedia. That page contains links to entries by country, continent and by topic as well as general notes and references.
Every entry has an introduction section in English. If other languages are native and/or official in an entity, introductions in other languages are added in separate sections. The text of the introduction(s) is based on the content of the Wikipedia encyclopedia. For sources of the introduction see therefore the Wikipedia entries linked to. The same goes for the texts in the history sections.
Historical maps are included in the continent, country and dependency entries.
The status of various entities is disputed. See the content for the entities concerned.
The maps of former countries that are more or less continued by a present-day country or had a territory included in only one or two countries are included in the atlas of the present-day country. For example the Ottoman Empire can be found in the Atlas of Turkey.