Official Name: Antarctica
Capital City: No Countries
Languages: Bus (rhymes with "goose")
Official Currency: US dollar
Religions: Christianity, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism.
Population: about 1,000 in winter to about 5,000 in the summer
Land Area: 5,400,000 sq mi
Antarctica is divided in two by the Transantarctic Mountains close to the neck between the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea.
About 98% of Antarctica is covered by the Antarctic ice sheet, a sheet of ice averaging at least 1.6 km (1.0 mi) thick.
Land Divisions: There aren't cities like we normally have, but there are around 60 research stations.
Antarctica -- History --
The snow surface at Dome C Station is typical of most of the continent's surface.
An iceberg dwarfs a ship in this 1920s English magazine illustration of a whaler in the Antarctic.
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, Asia and North Africa—had existed since the times of Ptolemy (1st century AD), who suggested the idea to preserve the symmetry of all known landmasses in the world. Depictions of a large southern landmass were common in maps such as the early 16th century Turkish Piri Reis map. Even 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.
European maps continued to show this hypothetical land until Captain James Cook's ships, HMS Resolution and Adventure, crossed the Antarctic Circle on 17 January 1773, in December 1773 and again in January 1774. Cook in fact came within about 75 miles (121 km) of the Antarctic coast before retreating in the face of field ice in January 1773. The first confirmed sighting of Antarctica can be narrowed down to the crews of ships captained by three individuals. According to various organizations (the National Science Foundation, NASA, the University of California, San Diego, and other sources), ships captained by three men sighted Antarctica in 1820: Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen (a captain in the Russian Imperial Navy), Edward Bransfield (a captain in the Royal Navy), and Nathaniel Palmer (an American sealer out of Stonington, Connecticut). Von Bellingshausen saw Antarctica on 27 January 1820, three days before Bransfield sighted land, and ten months before Palmer did so in November 1820. On that day the two-ship expedition led by Von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Petrovich Lazarev reached a point within 32 kilometers (20 mi) of the Antarctic mainland and saw ice fields there. The first documented landing on mainland Antarctica was by the American sealer John Davis in West Antarctica on 7 February 1821, although some historians dispute this claim.
In December, 1839, as part of the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838–42 conducted by the United States Navy (sometimes called the "Ex. Ex.", or "the Wilkes Expedition"), an expedition sailed from Sydney, Australia, into the Antarctic Ocean, as it was then known, and reported the discovery "of an Antarctic continent west of the Balleny Islands". That part of Antarctica was later named "Wilkes Land", a name it maintains to this day.
Explorer James Clark Ross passed through what is now known as the Ross Sea and discovered Ross Island (both of which were named for him) in 1841. He sailed along a huge wall of ice that was later named the Ross Ice Shelf (also named for him). Mount Erebus and Mount Terror are named after two ships from his expedition: HMS Erebus and Terror. Mercator Cooper landed in East Antarctica on 26 January 1853.
Nimrod Expedition South Pole Party (left to right): Wild, Shackleton, Marshall and Adams
During the Nimrod Expedition led by Ernest Shackleton in 1907, parties led by T. W. Edgeworth David became the first to climb Mount Erebus and to reach the South Magnetic Pole. Douglas Mawson, who assumed the leadership of the Magnetic Pole party on their perilous return, went on to lead several expeditions until retiring in 1931. In addition, Shackleton himself and three other members of his expedition made several firsts in December 1908 – February 1909: they were the first humans to traverse the Ross Ice Shelf, the first to traverse the Transantarctic Mountain Range (via the Beardmore Glacier), and the first to set foot on the South Polar Plateau. An expedition led by Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen from the ship Fram became the first to reach the geographic South Pole on 14 December 1911, using a route from the Bay of Whales and up the Axel Heiberg Glacier. One month later, the ill-fated Scott Expedition reached the pole.
Richard Evelyn Byrd led several voyages to the Antarctic by plane in the 1930s and 1940s. He is credited with implementing mechanized land transport on the continent and conducting extensive geological and biological research. However, it was not until 31 October 1956 that anyone set foot on the South Pole again; on that day a U.S. Navy group led by Rear Admiral George J. Dufek successfully landed an aircraft there.
The first person to sail single-handed to Antarctica was the New Zealander David Henry Lewis, in a 10-meter steel sloop Ice Bird.
Antarctica -- Economy --
The illegal capture and sale of the Patagonian toothfish has led to several arrests.
Although coal, hydrocarbons, iron ore, platinum, copper, chromium, nickel, gold and other minerals have been found, they have not been in large enough quantities to exploit. The 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty also restricts a struggle for resources. In 1998, a compromise agreement was reached to place an indefinite ban on mining, to be reviewed in 2048, further limiting economic development and exploitation. The primary economic activity is the capture and offshore trading of fish. Antarctic fisheries in 2000–01 reported landing 112,934 tonnes.
Antarctic postal services.
Small-scale "expedition tourism" has existed since 1957 and is currently subject to Antarctic Treaty and Environmental Protocol provisions, but in effect self-regulated by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). Not all vessels associated with Antarctic tourism are members of IAATO, but IAATO members account for 95% of the tourist activity. Travel is largely by small or medium ship, focusing on specific scenic locations with accessible concentrations of iconic wildlife. A total of 37,506 tourists visited during the 2006–07 Austral summer with nearly all of them coming from commercial ships. The number is predicted to increase to over 80,000 by 2010.
There has been some recent concern over the potential adverse environmental and ecosystem effects caused by the influx of visitors. A call for stricter regulations for ships and a tourism quota have been made by some environmentalists and scientists. The primary response by Antarctic Treaty Parties has been to develop, through their Committee for Environmental Protection and in partnership with IAATO, "site use guidelines" setting landing limits and closed or restricted zones on the more frequently visited sites. Antarctic sight seeing flights (which did not land) operated out of Australia and New Zealand until the fatal crash of Air New Zealand Flight 901 in 1979 on Mount Erebus, which killed all 257 aboard. Qantas resumed commercial overflights to Antarctica from Australia in the mid-1990s.
Austria -- Culture --
Bus (pronounced boos) The original and still official language of Antarcticans, although virtually all Antarcticans also use English and, for some philosophical discussions, German. Bus is an extremely difficult language to master, in part because each word has so many different shadings of meaning. It is an oral language only; it does not exist in written form. Because the native language of Antarctica, bus, is an oral language only (there are no symbols for the sounds, because of the complexity of "expressing" in bus.
According to The Association of Religion Data Archives, 72.00% of personnel in Antarctica adhere to Christianity, 23.60% are non-religious, 2.71% are Muslim, 1.00% are Hindu, and 0.70% are Buddhist.
Art in Antarctica started with the spoken word.
The early Antarcticans, living in their treetop villages (Antarcticans, with the exception of the massive underground city of Faz, never went through a cave-dwelling period), would while away the calm evenings stretched out on the limbs of their town, swapping true stories based on Antarctican history, incidents in the village, and events from the teller's own life. Truth shows us what we don't know, and this story-telling tradition, by illuminating the past, brought into greater contrast those soft, grey hollows in history forever in darkness, because never lit by stories. As Antarcticans, by their story-tellings, became more aware of the holes in history, their recitations evolved into the telling of fictions to fill those holes, all listeners aware the asides were fictions, to give a completeness to a story. Over the years, Antarcticans realized they could create fictions not only about events which had occurred, but those which hadn't, and this final, full freeing of art from truth led to the birth of literature.
Unlike the oral traditions of many peoples, none of the Antarctican tales that have survived are ascribed to a single authorship, and were instead apparently the contributed work of a number of spinners over the slow, starlit centuries. Scholars from outside just now beginning to study these early oral texts, as they were transcribed thousands of years after their first telling, believe the free-form nature of the tales, without mnemonic prompts such as meter or regularly recurring rhyme or alliteration, kept the texts fluid, allowing more easily for interpolation, so that one spinner's inspiration could, through the ripple of its retellers, remain fresh and contemporary.
Antarcticans are a single race. Skin and hair color ranges from poetically pale to yellow, peach, red, brown and black. Eye colors are blue, green, gold, brown and black. Antarcticans are slightly taller than Americans on average, and are generally perceived by others as being very attractive physically.
One of the great mysteries of Antarcticans is their metabolism. Unlike most peoples, Antarcticans' ability to quickly metabolize food does not slow as they age. As a consequence, nearly all Antarctican men and woman stay at whatever is their ideal weight, either lean or stocky for the males, and slender or pleasingly plump for the females. No one suffers from morbid obesity in Antarctica, nor are there any anorexics or bulimics. Antarcticans' seemingly effortless ability to remain at ideal weight regardless of the amount eaten (and Antarcticans are fond of feasts) has encouraged many in the West to believe the race might hold the secret to many of the diseases associated with obesity such as heart disease and diabetes, although it is unclear at this point, with so little research done, if Antarcticans' ability to remain at ideal weight is something intrinsic to their metabolic systems, or a property of the food they eat, even as high-caloric as that food can sometimes be.
Antarctica -- Political system, law and government --
Antarctica has no government and belongs to no country. Various countries claim areas of it but, while some have mutually recognized each other's claims no other countries recognize such claims.
New claims on Antarctica have been suspended since 1959 and the continent is considered politically neutral. Its status is regulated by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and other related agreements, collectively called the Antarctic Treaty System. Antarctica is defined as all land and ice shelves south of 60° S for the purposes of the Treaty System. The treaty was signed by twelve countries including the Soviet Union (and later Russia), the United Kingdom, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and the United States. It set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation and environmental protection, and banned military activity on the continent. This was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War.
In 1983, the Antarctic Treaty Parties began negotiations on a convention to regulate mining in Antarctica. A coalition of international organisations launched a public pressure campaign to prevent any minerals development in the region, led largely by Greenpeace International which established its own scientific station – World Park Base - in the Ross Sea region and conducted annual expeditions to document environmental effects of humans on the continent. In 1988, the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resources (CRAMRA) was adopted. The following year, however, Australia and France announced that they would not ratify the convention, rendering it dead for all intents and purposes. They proposed instead that a comprehensive regime to protect the Antarctic environment be negotiated in its place. The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (the ‘Madrid Protocol’) was negotiated as other countries followed suit and on 14 January 1998 it entered into force. The Madrid Protocol bans all mining in Antarctica, designating the continent as a ‘natural reserve devoted to peace and science’.
The Antarctic Treaty prohibits any military activity in Antarctica, including the establishment of military bases and fortifications, military manoeuvers, and weapons testing. Military personnel or equipment are permitted only for scientific research or other peaceful purposes. The only documented military land manoeuvre was Operation NINETY by the Argentine military.
The United States military issues the Antarctica Service Medal to military members or civilians who perform research duty in Antarctica. The medal includes a "wintered over" bar issued to those who remain on the continent for 2 six-month seasons.