Antarctica is lying on the southernmost point of the Earth decided by its rotation mode. It usually means the Antarctic region geographically which is a fixed position. According to the internationally accepted concept, South Pole is the region below 60 degrees south latitude. It is a general term for the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic continent and its islands, with a total area of about 65 million square kilometers. Literally, Antarctica is the southern tip of the earth. In fact there is a variety of meanings about Antarctica, such as South Pole, Antarctica, the Antarctic, the Antarctic Circle, etc. On the geographic side, South Pole and the South Magnetic Pole can both be called Antarctica.



Antarctica, including Antarctic continent and its surrounding islands, has a total area of ​​about 14 million square kilometers, of which about 76,000 square kilometers are islands and 2.47 million km are coastlines. On the other hand, Antarctica has about 1,582,000 square kilometers of ice shelf. Antarctica land area accounts for one tenth of the Earth's land, equivalent to one and a half the total area of People's Republic of China.


Antarctic Continent

Antarctica is known as the seventh continent. It is the last one to be found on the Earth and no natives live on the continent. The total area of ​​Antarctica is 13.9 million square kilometers, equivalent to China and India-Pakistan subcontinent together, ranking fifth of the world continents. Antarctic continent is covered by a huge ice sheet, with an average elevation of 2350 meters above sea level. Moreover, Antarctica contains more than 220 kinds of minerals.


The Antarctic continent, the latest mainland to be found, refers to the Antarctica land without the surrounding islands, which is situated lonely at the southern tip of the Earth. More than 95% of Antarctic continent is thickly covered with snow and ice which is known as ‘white continent’. Among the six continents of the earth, Antarctica is greater than the Australian mainland, ranking No. 5. Antarctic continent and the Australian continent are the world's only two continents surrounded by oceans, such as the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, which becomes huge hydrosphere around the Earth and is a continent away from the others and the civilized world as a completely isolated continent. There are no permanent residents there, only a small number of scientific researchers taking turns to live and work in one of the few research stations temporarily.


Antarctic continent is most difficult to approach. South America is the closest continent to it, with 970 km wide Drake Passage between them. It is not only far away from the other continents, but also surrounded by around several miles, even hundreds of kilometers of ice shelves and floating ice. In winter, floating ice could pile up to 19 million square kilometers. Even in the Antarctic summer, the area could accumulate up to 2.6 million square kilometers of floating ice. There are thousands of huge floating icebergs around Antarctic continent, which cause great difficulties and dangers to voyage.


Antarctic Climate

Antarctica's climate is characterized by extreme cold, wind and draught. Continent-wide average annual temperature is -25 ℃, and the average temperature is around -56 ℃ on the inland plateau, while the lowest temperature has reached -89.8C at the pole, which is the world's coldest land. Continent-wide average wind speed is 17.8 m / s, and wind speed along the ground often reaches to 45 m / s, while the maximum wind speed can be as high as 75 m / s or more, which is the world's strongest wind area. The rainfall of most areas is less than 250 mm. Only continental margin area can be up to 500 mm. Continent-wide annual average rainfall is 55 mm, and the mainland internal annual precipitation is only about 30 mm. There is almost no precipitation near the pole, and the air is so dry there that it is called ‘white desert’.


Antarctica has two seasons a year with cold and warm seasons. It is the cold season from April to October, and the warm season from November to March. Polar night is near the pole in the cold season. At this time, dazzling auroras often appear near the Antarctic Circle. Warm season, by contrast, is polar day when the tilting sun is always shining.


Antarctic Sovereignty

During the eras 1820-1940, explorers from different countries discovered the different regions of the Antarctic continent. Ten countries such as Britain, New Zealand, Germany, South Africa, Australia, France, Norway, Chile, Argentina and Brazil had some formal claim of sovereignty in Antarctica, making this frozen land enveloped in the earth shadow of international disputes.


According to the ‘Antarctic Treaty’ passed in June 1961, nine of the 10 countries mentioned above were refused the requirements to own the territorial sovereignty in Antarctica. The provision also mentioned that Antarctica is for peaceful purposes only, which means, Antarctica belongs to all human beings instead of to any single country.


Legal System

Nationality does not exist in the Antarctic region without permanent residents or governments. All the people in Antarctica are the residents out of Antarctica from other countries. Majority of Antarctica land has been claimed by one or more countries as their own territory, but most countries do not explicitly recognize these territorial claims. The region from longitude 90 °W to 150 ° W in Antarctica is the only land on the Earth that no country has required for territorial claims.


The Contracting Governments and countries of ‘Antarctic Treaty’ and ‘Madrid Protocol’ try to implement the Treaty by entering into domestic laws and other supplementary agreements. Overall, these laws apply only for their own citizens, no matter they are in the Antarctic area or not. These laws are used to perform the agreements reached among the negotiating countries, such as what kind of behavior is allowed, what area is allowed to enter, and what kind of environmental impact assessment must be conducted prior to the Antarctic activities related, etc.


Significance of the Antarctic Treaty

Antarctica is an undeveloped and uncontaminated clean continent on the planet, which bears numerous scientific mysteries and information. Antarctic expedition occupies an important position in a number of areas of science, such as the Earth's environment and climate science, astronomy, geology and biology. Antarctica is the common wealth of the earth. It contains rich resources and energy, which has the important economic significance to the expedition countries. Continuous and in-depth development of scientific research in the Antarctic area has important social and political significance on achieving sustainable development of society, inspiring national spirit, and demonstrating comprehensive national strength. 


As a permanent member of the Security Council and the world's largest developing country, the significance of China's participation in Antarctic scientific expedition is particularly important. In June 1984, China established the first Antarctic Expedition Team. In February 1985, China set up China Antarctic Great Wall Station on George Island in Antarctica. In the same year on October 7th, China was also qualified as Consultative Party of ‘Antarctic Treaty’. Moreover, in February 26th 1989, Chinese scientists established China Antarctic Zhongshan Research Station in the Prydz Bay. The establishment of Antarctic expedition DOME-A station showed that Chinese Antarctic expedition had the ability to expand the depth to the mainland from the Antarctic edge. At the same time, it marked that China was in the process of marching from a large polar country to a strong polar power. It was also a valuable material wealth in the polar expedition history of human beings, left by China during its fourth international polar year. The establishment of Antarctic expedition station would have a positive impact on enhancing the level of Chinese scientific expedition in Antarctica, promoting international cooperation of Antarctica, and protecting the Antarctic environment.