Geography of Antarctica

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The geography of Antarctica is dominated by its south polar location and, thus, by ice. The Antarctic continent, located in the Earth's southern hemisphere, is centered asymmetrically around the South Pole and largely south of the Antarctic Circle. It is surrounded by the southern waters of the World Ocean – alternatively (depending on source), it is washed by the Southern (or Antarctic) Ocean or the southern Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. With an area of more than 14 million km², it is the fifth-largest continent and about 1.3 times larger than Europe.

Some 98% of Antarctica is covered by the Antarctic ice sheet, the world's largest ice sheet and also its largest reservoir of fresh water. Averaging at least 1.6 km thick, the ice is so massive that it has depressed the continental bedrock in some areas more than 2.5 km below sea level; subglacial lakes of liquid water also occur (e.g., Lake Vostok). Ice shelves and rises populate the ice sheet on the periphery. Only about 2% of the continent is uncovered by ice.



Physically, Antarctica is divided in two by Transantarctic Mountains close to the neck between the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. Western Antarctica and Eastern Antarctica correspond roughly to the eastern and western hemispheres relative to the Greenwich meridian. This usage has been regarded as Eurocentric by some, and the alternative terms Lesser Antarctica and Greater Antarctica (respectively) are sometimes preferred.

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