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The Antarctic. With representation of the Antarctic convergence & delimitation to other oceans.
The Antarctic continental shelf with outline
Map of the subglacial (under the ice) topography and bathymetry of the Antarctic
Ocean areas: dark blue
ice shelf areas medium blue
Each scale color level = 2,500 feet (762 m)
thick solid line = outline of the continent,
thin dashed line = edge of the ice shelf

The Antarctic ( ancient Greek ἀνταρκτικός antarktikos "the Arctic over") comprises the around the South Pole so roughly lying land and sea areas, the continent Antarctica and the Southern Ocean (Antarctic Ocean, Antarctica). As a geographical-astronomical zone, it is bounded by the southern polar circle and thus extends from the south pole to 66 ° 33 ′ south latitude. The oceanographic limit is the Antarctic convergence at about 50 ° south latitude, where the cold Antarctic sinks below the warmer subtropical surface water. The zone between 50 ° South and the Arctic Circle is also known as sub-Antarctic . Since the definition of the Southern Ocean with the 60th degree of latitude (2000), this limit has also started to affect the definition of Antarctica. The sub-Antarctic forms the southern zone of the surrounding marine areas South Atlantic , South Pacific and South Indian Ocean .

The Antarctic was navigated and examined by various researchers and seafarers from 1820 onwards. It is the antipode of the Arctic, which lies above the North Pole in the northern hemisphere . In 1959, the Antarctic Treaty established rules for the peaceful use and research of the polar cap . Since then, Antarctica has been considered the largest nature reserve on the planet.

The mainland area of ​​Antarctica forms the largest ice desert on earth.


As the last of three sea ​​maps of the South Pole region, the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) published the map of the international Weddell Sea area and the area off Dronning Maud Land at the end of March 2017 . It was created with the help of data from the research vessel Polarstern as well as echo sounder and satellite data. Germany had the obligation to current mapping of the South Pole in 1991 in the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty ( "Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty adopted").


Size comparison between Europe and Antarctica

Antarctica as a geographic-astronomical polar circle zone towards the poles from 66.6 ° south latitude comprises 21.2 million km²; the region up to 50 ° south latitude is 52 million km² in size. Most of it, however, is ocean; only a few parts of the Antarctic Peninsula protrude beyond the 66th parallel, as do small parts of East Antarctica. With almost 13.2 million km², the continent of Antarctica is around 2.7 million km² larger than Europe . The exact area of ​​the mainland area is not known, because large parts of the permanent ice cover at the edge consist of ice shelves , the water surfaces such. B. covered bays .

The closest larger land masses are Tierra del Fuego on the southern tip of South America , Cape Agulhas in South Africa and the islands of Tasmania and New Zealand .


Antarctica: mosaic of satellite photos

Antarctica refers to the continent that is often colloquially referred to as "Antarctica"; From November 13, 1989 to February 12, 1990, Reinhold Messner and Arved Fuchs were the first to cross the South Pole as a whole - in 92 days on foot. In 2001, the two Antarctic adventurers Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen followed them on skis.

Antarctic ice sheet

The Antarctic ice sheet (also Antarctic ice sheet ) is one of two polar ice caps . It is the largest independent ice mass on earth and covers the Antarctic continent (Antarctica) almost completely. The area of ​​the ice sheet is estimated at 13.856 million square kilometers , the ice volume at 26.37 million cubic kilometers (as of 2005). A value of 2.16 km is assumed for the average ice thickness, the maximum known ice thickness was measured at 4776 meters in Adélieland . A more recent measurement / estimate (as of 2013) indicates a surface area of ​​the ice sheet of 13.924 million km² and a volume of 26.92 million km³.


Typical of the Antarctic are gigantic tabular icebergs , which break off regularly from the ice shelf or glaciers and can travel thousands of kilometers floating on the sea. It can take several years for a large iceberg to completely melt; however, it can easily break apart into several small ones, for example due to differential ocean currents . This longevity of large icebergs also provided the basis for futuristic projects to transport them to Africa or other arid regions as fresh water reservoirs, for example with tugs .

On April 30, 1894, an iceberg was sighted in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean at 26 ° 30 ′  S , 25 ° 40 ′  W (southeast of the Brazilian island of Trindade , which is approximately at the latitude of Joinville ); it was the northernmost position of an Antarctic iceberg ever recorded.


Glaciological and oceanographic processes on the Antarctic coast

Antarctica is surrounded by the Southern Ocean . There are a number of marginal seas near the coast, including:

Ice shelf areas

The coast of Antarctica consists to a large extent of ice shelves . The two largest ice shelves, the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf and the Ross Ice Shelf , cover an area that is each larger than Germany. Another large ice shelf is the Larsen Ice Shelf on the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula .

Subglacial lakes

Radar image ( RADARSAT-1 ) of the subglacial Lake Vostok from
space :
The ice above the lake has a smooth surface

Lakes that lie under an ice sheet or glaciers are referred to as subglacial lakes . In total, more than 400 subglacial lakes have been found under the polar ice cap of the Antarctic using ice-penetrating radar and satellite images , many of which are connected to one another.

The largest of these is Lake Vostok , which was discovered in 1996 under a 3,600 meter thick ice sheet, also by means of satellite images, near the Russian station Vostok , which formed several million years ago. Drill cores from the area around the lake indicate life forms in the lake. In order to avoid contamination with microorganisms, test drillings in the lake itself should only be carried out when suitable technical means are available.

The Lake Ellsworth is located in the western part of Antarctica under approximately 3,400 m polar ice; its drilling, which was started by a British expedition in December 2012, had to be stopped at a depth of approx. 300 m due to technical problems.

In 2013, a lake was drilled under the Antarctic ice sheet for the first time: Microorganisms were found in Lake Whillans , located in the western hemisphere of Antarctica near the Ellsworth Mountains under about 800 m of ice .

In the meantime (April 2020) the subglacial Mercer Lake in Marie Byrd Land , also in West Antarctica , was sampled, and a surprisingly complex ecosystem was found under the 1,000 m thick layer of ice . Most recently, at least two million years ago, the sea level was so high here that the water reached into this region. This lake under the ice is about the same size as Lake Como , and according to satellite measurements it has a depth of about 15 m. The water has a temperature of about 0.7 ° Celsius and there is a lack of nutrients . This lake is "hydraulically active", ie it empties and fills up - every 10 years. There are around 10,000 bacterial cells per milliliter here. A large part of the biological activity is generated by chemotrophic organisms: unlike plants, they do not use light and carbon dioxide to produce organic matter and grow, but chemical energy from rocks , minerals and CO 2 , so the ecosystem is similar to that of hot methane sources , the " Black Smokers " in the deep sea .


With the Mount Erebus the southernmost active is located in Antarctica volcanic earth. The area between the Antarctic Ross Ice Shelf and the Antarctic Peninsula is said to have one of the highest volcanic densities on earth ( -> subglacial volcano ). 138 Antarctic volcanoes were known by 2017, but significantly more are suspected. Due to the ice cover, which is 2 km thick on average, volcanic eruptions are hardly visible from outside.

Flora and fauna

Antarctic krill
Umbrella jellyfish under Antarctic ice ( Diplulmaris antarctica , December 2015)

The Antarctic continent is surrounded by a huge zone of pack ice , in which one of the most lush ecosystems in the world has developed due to the oxygen-rich water . The seas are teeming with huge schools of Antarctic krill ( Euphausia superba ) and other small crustaceans. This Krill is the beginning of the food chain for many marine and terrestrial animals such as fish , whales , squid , sea lions , seals , penguins and many seabirds .

As a result of the increasing melting of the polar ice caps in the course of man-made global warming , typical pioneering plants such as mosses are finding better and better living and development conditions on the increasingly numerous and more frequently emerging land areas.

Biodiversity on the sea floor

Sea floor with various invertebrate benthons ( bottom organisms) in front of an ice wall in McMurdo Sound off Viktorialand

A total of 208 species of fish live on the coast and on the shelf of the Antarctic. Of these, 96 species (46%) belong to the Antarctic fish (Notothenioidei), a suborder of the perch-like (Perciformes) that is particularly adapted to life at very low temperatures . The disc bellies (Liparidae) and the eel nuts (Zoarcidae) make up 31% and 11% of the remaining fish fauna, respectively. The vast majority of these fish species live bentisch (on the sea floor).

The marine benthic of Antarctica, the habitat on the sea ​​floor , is populated by a multitude of animals and plants, the benthos .

Some individuals of this bottom fauna are several hundred years old, which suggests that the conditions on the Antarctic sea floor have not undergone any major changes during these periods. However, the icebergs , which break off the Antarctic ice sheet every year and push themselves into the sea with enormous force, “plow” the seabed. At least five percent of the continental shelf is "scarred" by this process. This means quite a big change for the local way of life.

If an iceberg slides into the sea, it often glides over smooth surfaces for up to a kilometer without getting stuck in the bottom. On its way it digs long trenches in the ground until it comes to a standstill at an elevation, which is therefore also called the “iceberg cemetery”. The destruction as a result of this process and the subsequent melting in this area of ​​the sea floor continue for several years.

The repopulation of the traversed area begins with fishing , followed by starfish and sea ​​urchins . With the return of glass sponges as the last pioneers, a balance is being re-established after decades.

This process is repeated, for example, at the iceberg cemetery in the southeastern Weddell Sea approximately every 35 years, and in the area of ​​the continental shelf every 230 years. Even if the sliding icebergs are a catastrophe for the local flora and fauna of the seabed, they cause an increase in biodiversity in the long term, as this gives previously alien species the opportunity to colonize.


In contrast to the diverse life in the oceans and on the edge of the ice shelf, the few ice-free regions, which are also known as Antarctic oases and which are located in the interior of the Antarctic, appear desolate and empty, as hardly any more highly developed forms of life are found here. Instead, these areas are predominantly populated by microorganisms , mosses and lichens, as well as some invertebrates. There are only two flowering plants in the whole of Antarctica: the Antarctic Schmiele ( Deschampsia antarctica ) and the clove family Antarctic Perlwurz ( Colobanthus quitensis ). The creeping buttercup , the water sedge , the bluegrass Poa annua and Poa pratensis as well as the chickweed were also introduced by humans . In addition to various algae , more than 200 types of lichen, more than 100 types of moss and liverwort and around 30 macrofungi have been found.

The Antarctic forms its own flora kingdom, the Antarctic flora kingdom . It includes the South Island of New Zealand, the south-western part of Patagonia and the Antarctic continent and is home to thirteen different species of plants, such as the southern beech ( Nothafagus ), Gunnera or Fuchsia , most of which, however, are not native to Antarctica itself.

Life under the ice

Very special ecosystems were found in the subglacial lakes under the Antarctic ice sheet, which have now been investigated sporadically (2020) , comparable to those found in the groundwater habitat .

Beginning in 2021 research reports have been published, according to which at a ice hole below the 1 km thick ice of the Filchner-Ronne - ice shelf completely surprising the "second largest permanent ice sheet of Antarctica" "" and "absolutely unexpected" found "sedentary marine life" , in complete darkness, with a water temperature of approx. 2 ° Celsius.

In East Antarctica , from time to time highly salty, initially transparent brine (two to three times as salty as seawater ) flows out of crevices in a glacier tongue : If it comes into contact with air, oxygen , the iron it contains , oxidizes it " rusts " and turns the water blood red, the so-called " Blood Falls ". It is believed that this is the outflow of a large-scale subglacial aquifer in which the water flows very slowly. Given its chemical make-up, it could be very old, having been isolated from the outside world for millions of years. The strong lye does not contain any oxygen and remains liquid even at minus 7 ° Celsius. It is home to highly specialized bacteria of a few species ("rod-shaped or spherical") that are related to marine microorganisms , which is an indication of earlier, warmer times in the area, when the Antarctic Ocean deepened into the valleys of the Antarctic continental shelf was enough ( -> Fjord ).


The largest permanent terrestrial animal in Antarctica is a 2–6 millimeter large, wingless mosquito species called Belgica antarctica .


Weddell seal , one of the southernmost inhabitants of Antarctica. Adult specimens weigh 400 to 500 kg and are about 3 m long ( Cuverville Island , December 2005)

There are only marine mammals in Antarctica, namely seals and whales. The seal species found in Antarctica are:

There are also various species of whales around and under the Antarctic pack ice. It has been estimated that the Southern Ocean whales alone eat around 55 million tons of squid , roughly three quarters of the amount caught by the world's fishing fleets . There are blue whales , minke whales , humpback whales , orcas and various other types of whales.



There are a total of 18 penguin species , some of which are only found in Antarctica. The species found in Antarctica are listed here:

Only two species of penguin breed on the Antarctic pack ice: the emperor penguin and the adelie penguin .

Flying birds

However, the birds that breed on the Antarctic continent also include 19 flightable bird species such as the king albatross as well as the snow petrel and the silver petrel , both of which breed on mountains that lie a hundred kilometers inland and jut out ice-free. The giant petrel , which is one of the natural enemies of emperor penguin colonies, is also found in the Antarctic . In summer there are more than 100 million migratory birds that breed on the pack ice and the offshore islands.


Western Ross Sea (in the background the Transantarctic Mountains )

In 1998 an international environmental protection agreement for the protection of the Antarctic came into force, which temporarily protects the continent from any kind of raw material extraction for 50 years. The agreement was brought into being by various environmental protection organizations in the early 1980s under the title “World Park Antarctica” and was further developed and promoted by Greenpeace in particular.

After five years of negotiations at the end of October 2016 agreed in the Australian Hobart "in the living resources of the Antarctic Commission for the Conservation " ( Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources , CCAMLR) 24 states and the EU to an expulsion of the then largest marine reserve of Earth, an area of ​​1.55 million square kilometers (roughly the area of ​​Germany, Great Britain and France combined) in the Ross Sea , which is considered to be one of the last “untouched” maritime ecosystems . Fishing is said to be banned here for 35 years on an area of ​​1.12 million square kilometers.

Another protection zone with an area of ​​one million square kilometers is planned for East Antarctica ; no agreement could yet be reached in the Commission in 2016. In addition, the CCAMLR has submitted a protection proposal for the Weddell Sea , the largest marginal sea of the Antarctic Ocean .


Assumptions and approximation

World map of Orontius Finaeus from 1531, southern hemisphere with hypothetical Terra Australis

Long before the continent of Antarctica was discovered in 1820, the existence of a vast southern continent was assumed to counterbalance the land masses of the northern hemisphere. This continent, called Terra australis, is depicted on numerous world maps from the early modern period . As some of these representations, for example the map by Piri Reis from 1513, the map by Orontius Finaeus from 1531, the map from Gerhard Mercator from 1569 or the map from Philippe Buache from 1754, show certain similarities with the actual location and shape of Antarctica , there are authors who suspect that Antarctica was discovered long before the official date of 1820. For Piri Reis' map in particular, however, this is neither the only nor the most plausible possible interpretation.

State of discovery up to Abel Tasman's journey based on a map by Hendrik Hondius from 1650

In fact, there is no evidence of human presence in Antarctica before the 19th century. However, voyages of discovery have already been undertaken in the southern polar region, for example the southern Shetland Islands were probably discovered as early as 1599 by Dirk Gerritz or Gabriel de Castilla in 1603. James Cook crossed the Southern Ocean from 1772 to 1775 and was probably the first person to cross the Arctic Circle in 1773 , but pack ice prevented him from seeing Antarctica himself.

Discovery and polar exploration

The first sighting of Antarctica cannot be linked to an event with absolute certainty: Captain Fabian von Bellingshausen of the Russian Navy , Captain Edward Bransfield of the British Navy and the American seal hunter Nathaniel Palmer sighted Antarctica within a few days or weeks, probably was Bellingshausen on January 16th July. / January 28, 1820 greg. the first. The first landing took place just a year later by the American seal hunter John Davis on February 7, 1821, when he sent some of his men ashore in a boat to look for seals. In good weather conditions, the English navigator James Weddell was able to advance to 74 ° 15 ′ south in the Weddell Sea named after him in 1823 . The French king then commissioned Jules Dumont d'Urville to break this record, but his trip from 1837–1838 was only successful on the second attempt, when he sighted the Adelie land.

After the Arctic magnetic pole was located in 1831 , James Clark Ross set out for the Antarctic magnetic pole with his ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in 1839 . While looking for it, Ross was able to determine its approximate position, but could not reach it. He also mapped the Ross Sea , a lake region that was later named after him.

The actual conquest of Antarctica began in 1895 with the 6th International Geographical Congress, which took place in London's Imperial Institute. On August 3rd, a resolution was passed at this congress stating, "that this Congress record its opinion that the exploration of the Antarctic regions is the greatest piece of geographical exploration still to be undertaken", and urged the world's scientists to Plan expeditions there.

It lies wild like no other country on earth, unseen and untrodden. ( Roald Amundsen , 1911)

At a time when the whole world seemed to be discovered, Antarctica was felt to be the last unknown part of the world, and the conquest of this part of the world became a metaphor for the triumph of imperialism . With this in mind, Leonard Darwin, President of the Royal Geographical Society, said during a farewell dinner for Robert Falcon Scott before he left for his Antarctic expedition :

" Scott is going to prove once again that the manhood of our nation is not dead and that the characteristics of our ancestors who won the Empire still flourish among us. "
Scott sets out to prove once more that our nation's masculinity is not dead and that the traits of our ancestors who won the empire still flourish within us. "

Scott's first Antarctic expedition (1901-1904) approached the South Pole within 850 km (480 miles).

The Gauss , trapped in the ice, during the first German south polar expedition on March 29, 1902.
The photo was taken from a tethered balloon and is the first aerial photo in Antarctica.

The first German expedition to the south polar, the Gauss expedition , took place from 1901 to 1903 under the direction of Erich von Drygalski . Equipped with the ship Gauss , the researchers discovered that Kaiser Wilhelm II Land and sighted from a research balloon to Gaussberg .

The Nimrod Expedition (1907-1909) of Ernest Henry Shackleton , a former member of Scott's crew, approached the South Pole within 180 km (97 miles) before it was forced to turn back.

On December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole on a Norwegian expedition , a month before Robert Falcon Scott and his companions, who had first arrived in Antarctica, arrived at the Pole. Scott was held up by a snow storm on his way back - he and all his companions died from the extreme cold.

The fourth great Antarctic explorer of this time is Douglas Mawson , who was a member of the Nimrod expedition led by Shackleton before he led his own expedition to Antarctica in 1911 .

The second German south polar expedition led by Wilhelm Filchner discovered the Filchner-Ronne-Ice Shelf and the Prinzregent-Luitpold-Land in 1912 with the expedition ship Deutschland, which was trapped in the pack ice for nine months .

One of the most legendary expeditions in Antarctica, however, is the Endurance Expedition , started in 1914 , with the aim of crossing Antarctica, but just like the expedition ship Deutschland , was trapped in the pack ice and did not even reach the Antarctic mainland.

Systematic exploration from the air

Cape Williams, discovered February 19, 1819

A new era of Antarctic discovery began in 1928 with the expeditions of the American Richard Evelyn Byrd and the Australian Hubert Wilkins . Wilkins carried out the world's first powered flight in Antarctica on November 16, 1928 and flew over the Antarctic Peninsula with Carl Ben Eielson on December 20, 1928 . On the second Wilkins-Hearst expedition, Wilkins and other pilots were able to complete several flights over the Antarctic mainland between December 1929 and January 1930. However, Byrd was able to achieve greater success on his first of five Antarctic expeditions when the Floyd Bennett aircraft, controlled by Bernt Balchen , reached the South Pole on November 29, 1929. On November 23, 1935, the American Lincoln Ellsworth took off with his pilot Herbert Hollick-Kenyon (1897-1975) on the first successful trans-Antarctic flight.

In his explorations, Byrd focused on research . In Operation Highjump , which took place from December 1946 to April 1947 , the largest Antarctic expedition in history, Byrd brought 4,700 people, 13 ships and 23 aircraft to Little America IV base in McMurdo Sound and had more than 70,000 aerial photographs taken . Byrd's expeditions laid the foundation for modern mapping and exploration of the continent.

In 1938 a German expedition chaired by the experienced polar captain Alfred Ritscher planned the trip to the South Pole. The ship selected was the Schwabenland catapult ship , the floating aircraft base of Lufthansa , from which Dornier whale- type flying boats weighing 10 t could take off with the help of steam catapults . Lufthansa has been using this revolutionary technology for airmail services with South America since 1934. The Schwabenland was made ready for the expedition to the Antarctic in the fall of 1938 in Hamburg shipyards. After the reconstruction work of the Schwabenland (it had previously been used mainly in tropical waters), she left Hamburg on December 17, 1938 and reached Antarctica on January 19, 1939. In the following weeks, the two flying boats Boreas and Passat almost completed a total of 15 flights 600,000 km² overflown and photographed . 11,000 pictures were taken. Almost 1/5 of the Antarctic area was documented for the first time . The name of the newly discovered country is Neuschwabenland .


The staff of the Antarctic stations is selected according to strict medical and psychological criteria, as the stations are usually isolated from the outside world for a long time. The medical and psychological observation of the scientists offers unique opportunities, among other things. to investigate the influence of the day / night rhythm, the diet and the psychological well-being of small groups under high stress .


In the course of the 20th century, the possibilities that Antarctica offered for astrophysical investigations were recognized: in 1912 Frank Bickerton, a member of the Mawson expedition, accidentally discovered the first meteorite in Antarctica. Systematic searches for meteorites have been carried out since 1969, as the Antarctic meteorites are very well preserved and show only slight signs of weathering. Meteoritic objects have been found at some locations in Antarctica. Detectors for cosmic rays have been in operation since the 1950s, investigated since the 1980s and the site is also increasingly used for infrared , submillimeter , radio and neutrino astronomy .


The Antarctic ozone hole on October 15, 1987

The ice cores obtained by glaciologists are an important source of information for climatologists , as conclusions can be drawn about the climate history of the earth from their compositions and layers. These ice archives go back further into the history of the earth than at any other place on earth. At the same time, they provide complementary information on the ice cores in the northern hemisphere, for example from Greenland , since regional differences can be identified due to the large spatial distance between the samples.

Further information on a climate research project can be found in the article on the Cape Roberts drilling project .

Meteorology, ozone hole

Largest extent of the Antarctic ozone hole (September 24, 2006, NASA / NOAA)

The Antarctic plays an important role for the weather in the southern hemisphere and, within the framework of the one, also for the global climate , which is why extensive meteorological studies are carried out on the continent . These studies have been passed on to the neighboring countries since the 1950s, as they are of great importance for weather forecasts .

One of the two terrestrial polar vortices , which is subject to the Antarctic Oscillation (AAO), forms over the South Pole in polar winter ; their characteristics and thus possible weather effects are described with the "AAO index".

Aeronomic studies of the higher layers of the earth's atmosphere , especially the stratosphere , gained importance in the late 20th century. The focus here is on research into the ozone hole, which was first detected in 1985 over the South Pole .


Thermohaline circulation :
(cold) deep currents blue,
(warmer) surface currents red

In terms of its deep structure, the Southern Ocean is divided into three areas: the Antarctic surface water, the circumpolar deep water and a stationary layer underneath. In the area of ​​the continental shelf , however, only two areas can be distinguished; A layer of shelf water lies over a slightly modified layer of the circumpolar deep water.

The circumpolar deep water is integrated into the global circulation system of the oceans ( thermohaline circulation ), so that the region plays a major role in the global heat balance.

The vertical circulation currents, which cause an exchange between the deep and surface water, play an essential role . This leads to the fact that on the one hand the deep water cools down by giving off heat in the much colder atmosphere, on the other hand it is also enriched with carbon dioxide and oxygen from the air.

About 1500 kilometers from the coast, the Antarctic convergence is a stable current, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current , which washes the continent eastwards. This current separates the cold Antarctic water from the warmer, more northerly oceans and thus ensures effective thermal insulation of the Antarctic, which contributes significantly to the extremely low temperatures of the continent.



With the increasing development and exploration of the continent of Antarctica , the need to practice (Christian) religion on site also arose. In 1947 a statue dedicated to Our Lady on Mount Carmel was erected near the Chilean Arturo Prat station ; it is considered a monument to the time before the Antarctic Treaty and is one of the protected Antarctic monuments . In 1956, the Chapel of the Snows was built as a non-denominational chapel in McMurdo Station . After a building made entirely of ice in the Argentinean Belgrano II station, it is the southernmost sacred building in the world.


Far from the world trade routes, inhospitable and hostile to life, Antarctica was not affected by the colonization of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Even the states that assert classic territorial claims had to admit that the actual enforcement of such claims is simply unrealistic.

On the initiative of the Geophysical Year in 1957/58, a form of international cooperation was found that is just as unique as the Antarctic itself. The Antarctic Treaty system developed on the basis of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 , which is independent of the UN and Freed the Antarctic from economic exploitation and military use. At the height of the Cold War , an international treaty was created that today has a key position in international environmental policy .

The Antarctic in world politics

The Second World War occasionally extended into the (sub) Antarctic greater area. In 1940 the German auxiliary cruisers Pinguin , Atlantis and Komet headed for the Kerguelen for supply purposes and repair work . The seaman Bernhard Herrmann had a fatal accident while repairing the Atlantis . His burial place is the southernmost German soldier's grave . The possibility of a German submarine base on the Kerguelen prompted the Allies to mine some of the anchorages , which kept the Germans away from the islands for the remainder of the war. In mid-January 1941, the penguin raised two whale boilers , a supply ship and eleven fishing boats southwest of Bouvet Island . With Operation Tabarin in 1944, Great Britain reinforced its claim to parts of Antarctica.

There was only one fighting on the Antarctic continent itself because of territorial claims: In 1952, Argentine soldiers shot at British researchers when they were trying to rebuild a destroyed research station. Argentina claimed the Antarctic Peninsula , as this headland is only about 1480 km away from the southern tip of South America at its northern end.

After Amundsen and Scott, a person was not standing on the South Pole again until October 31, 1956, when the American Rear Admiral George J. Dufek landed there in an R4D Skytrain aircraft .

The Antarctic Treaty is an international agreement that stipulates that uninhabited Antarctica between 60 and 90 degrees south is reserved exclusively for peaceful use, especially for scientific research. The treaty was discussed by twelve signatory states in Washington at the Antarctic Conference in 1959 and came into force in 1961. It is of great political importance because it was the first treaty after the end of the Second World War to fix the principles of peaceful coexistence between states with different social systems.

The Antarctic Treaty was signed on December 1, 1959 and entered into force on June 23, 1961. It originally ran for 30 years; In 1991 it was extended for another 50 years.


The traffic in Antarctica are mainly based on the climatic conditions to the ecological footprint be kept as low as possible.

On November 28, 1979, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 on Air New Zealand Flight 901 crashed into Mount Erebus as a result of a navigation error . On November 13, 1998, a New York Air National Guard LC-130 Hercules aircraft that was on a supply flight got stuck in a crevasse .



In the rich Antarctic fishing grounds, almost 120,000 tons were officially caught in the 1998/99 season, but an estimated five times as much due to illegal fishing. In 1998, eight illegal fishing trawlers were arrested by the French and Australian navies .

According to the PNAS journal, 202,000 tons of krill were caught in the Antarctic waters in the 2009/10 fishing season , or four times as much as in 2002/03.

In the meantime, krill fishing in the Antarctic has largely been discontinued, 85% of the krill industry operating in the Antarctic have joined a voluntary commitment that prohibits fishing for krill in certain areas. There are also buffer zones, such as around penguin colonies.


Tourist trail

Although the Antarctic is a hostile environment for humans, tourist trips there are becoming more and more popular. The only hotel in Antarctica is the White Desert Hotel. The seclusion, lack of infrastructure, weather conditions and strict environmental protection regulations make these excursions a pleasure that is only reserved for very wealthy people. There are some commercial cruises to the Antarctic region. In addition, organizers offer shore excursions to the continent and the offshore islands. It is also possible for tourists to visit the American Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station by small aircraft . For full professionals there is also the opportunity to climb some mountains on the Antarctic continent. For fans of extreme outdoor experiences, a stay in the Patriot Hills tent camp , which can only be reached by small aircraft, is ideal. All trips to the Antarctic region (including everything south of the 60th parallel ) are subject to the provisions of the 1991 Environmental Protection Protocol, which is part of the international Antarctic Treaty.

Tourism is essentially limited to the months of November to February. While 1,055 tourists came to Antarctica in 1990/91, there were already 34,000 tourists in the 2010/11 season (even 40,000 in 2008/09). After the USA , Germany has the second largest group of visitors. The most popular starting point for trips to the Antarctic is Ushuaia on the southern tip of Argentina . From there, the Antarctic Peninsula can be reached through the Drake Passage and is only about two days' journey away.

As a particularly unusual tourist activity, there was an Antarctic marathon for the first time in 1995 with a very limited number of participants. The Antarctic Ice Marathon has been held near the Ellsworth Mountains every year since 2006 . Another marathon competition is the Antarctica Marathon , which is held on King George Island . In addition, the IceStock music festival takes place on McMurdo every New Year in summer .

The state-owned Argentine airline LADE is currently planning to offer regular scheduled flights from Buenos Aires to Antarctica from 2018. These are to take place on an airstrip , which is located near the Marambio research station and around 3330 kilometers south of the capital Buenos Aires. Accommodation for tourists will be built at the Marambio research base, which currently offers space for 150 people.


Antarctica and Australia
Antarctica and Africa
Antarctica and South America
Bulgarian stamp pad for the 10th anniversary of the Bulgarian Antarctic exploration
  • In many tickets one is pole of inaccessibility (pole of inaccessibility) entered, this is the point in Antarctica that is farthest from a coast. In addition to the pole of the map at 83 ° 50 'S, 65 ° 47' E, which refers to the ice surface, there is another pole of inaccessibility at 77 ° 15 'S, 104 ° 39' E near the Vostok station , which refers to the landmass of Antarctica.
  • Many people and organizations ( NGOs , e.g. the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC)) are trying to preserve Antarctica as a largely untouched protected area . On the other hand, Antarctic tourism is now a booming business. From ship and yacht trips, fishing, supply and inspection trips, sightseeing overflights ( Qantas Airways ) to mountaineering with arrival by plane, everything is possible.
  • The United States installed a nuclear reactor in McMurdo Station in 1961 . It was shut down in 1972 and returned to the United States along with more than 100 barrels of contaminated soil. Although the radiation was initially trivialized, a further 11,000 m³ of earth was later removed and the area was only released for unrestricted use again in May 1979.
  • The Antarctic is also not free from mold and bacteria of all kinds, which is why, for example, food that has not been otherwise preserved in the kitchens of the research stations must be kept refrigerated in refrigerated containers at a temperature of at least −20 ° C. Also extremophiles were discovered in Antarctica.
  • Although Antarctica is not a state, it has its own country-specific top level domain " .aq ".
  • A number of consequences of global warming can be observed in Antarctica.
  • The sea ice layer surrounding the continent, especially in winter, fluctuates greatly from year to year. In recent years, the ice surface has been shrinking in a manner similar to that in the Arctic.
  • The professional sailor Lisa Blair started in January 2017 south of Australia with a 15-meter yacht on a solo non-stop circumnavigation of the Antarctic. A mast break in rough seas in April made it necessary to stop for repairs in Cape Town.

See also

Portal: Antarctica  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of Antarctica



  • Ingo Arndt, Claus-Peter Lieckfeld: Logbook Polarstern . Expedition into the Antarctic pack ice. In: Geo. Frederking & Thaler, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-89405-654-1 .
  • Apsley Cherry-Garrard : The World's Worst Trip . The Antarctic Expedition 1910–1913 (original title: The Worst Journey of the World - Volume I + II, Salzwasser, Bremen 2010, ISBN 978-3-86195-279-4 , translated by Simon Michelet). Semele, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-938869-04-6 .
  • Peter-Matthias Gaede: Arctic + Antarctic. The splendor of the white deserts…. In: GEO Special. Gruner + Jahr, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-570-19395-0 .
  • GEO magazine. No. 9, Gruner + Jahr, Hamburg 1998, pp. 157–161 ( biodiversity ).
  • Huw Lewis-Jones, Scott Polar Research Institute , Martin Hartley: Adventurers in the Ice Portraits 1845 – today (original title: Face to Face, Polarworld translated by Heike Brühl and Christel Klink). In: Geo. Frederking & Thaler, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-89405-752-7 .
  • Cornelia Lüdecke : Germans in the Antarctic. Expeditions and research from the German Empire to the present day . Ch. Links, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-86153-825-7 .
  • John May, Doug Allan (photographer): The Greenpeace Book of Antarctica (original title: The Greenpeace Book of Antarctica. Translated by Lothar Beyer, German-language editors: Rudi Holzberger, Lothar Beyer). 4th edition. Maier, Ravensburg 1991, ISBN 3-473-46166-0 .
  • Sanford Moss, Lucia de Leiris (illustrations): Antarctica . Ecology of a nature reserve (original title: Natural History of the Antarctic Peninsula, translated by Ina Raschke), Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg / Berlin / New York 1992, ISBN 3-86025-051-5 .
  • Klaus Odening: Antarctic fauna . Introduction to Antarctica Biology. In: Berlin Zoo Book. Volume 37, Urania, Leipzig / Jena / Berlin 1984, DNB 850229618 .
  • Anne Reichardt: Impressions of an Antarctic trip, illustrated book. Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-7418-0544-8 .
  • Norbert W. Roland: Antarctica - research in the eternal ice . Spectrum, Heidelberg / Berlin / New York 2009, ISBN 978-3-8274-1875-3 .
  • Christian Walther: Antarctica. A travel, reading and information book about the continent at the South Pole. 7th edition. Stein, Welver 2010, ISBN 978-3-86686-958-5 .
  • Sara Wheeler: Terra incognita - Travels in Antarctica . Vintage, London 1996, ISBN 0-09-973181-9 .


Scientific literature

  • Alfred Wegener Institute : Reports on polar and marine research. Bremerhaven 1981 ff., ISSN  1618-3193
  • Francis M. Auburn: Antarctic Law and Politics. Hurst, London 1982, ISBN 0-905838-39-4
  • Wolf Dieter Blümel: Physical geography of the polar regions. Teubner, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-519-03438-7
  • Dieter Fütterer: Geology of the Antarctic: An overview. In: Natural Sciences. 73, 1986, pp. 586-592, hdl : 10013 / epic.11451.d001
  • RK Headland: The Island of South Georgia . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1984, ISBN 0-521-25274-1
  • L. Ivanov: General Geography and History of Livingston Island. In: C. Pimpirev, N. Chipev (Eds.): Bulgarian Antarctic Research: A Synthesis. St. Kliment Ohridski University Press, Sofia 2015, ISBN 978-954-07-3939-7 , pp. 17-28
  • KR Kerry, Gotthilf Hempel (Ed.): Antarctic Ecosystems. Ecological Change and Conservation . ("Antarctic ecosystems. Ecological change and conservation"), Springer Verlag 1990, ISBN 978-3-642-84074-6
  • JC King, J. Turner: Antarctic meteorology and climatology. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge 2007, ISBN 978-0-521-03984-0
  • William N. Krebs: Ecology of Neritic Marine Diatoms, Arthur Harbor, Antarctica. In: Micropaleontology. 29, 1983, 3, ISSN  0026-2803 , pp. 267-297
  • Thomas Kulbe: The Late Quaternary Climate and Environmental History of the Bunger Oasis, East Antarctica. Diss. University of Potsdam. Polar Research Reports. Vol. 254. Alfred Wegener Inst. for polar and marine research, Bremerhaven 1997, ISSN  0176-5027
  • Peter Lemke, Stephanie von Neuhoff: The frozen ocean. With RV POLARSTERN on a winter expedition to the Antarctic. Koehlers Verlagsgesellschaft, Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-7822-1222-9
  • Martin Melles: Getting to the bottom of the history of the bungy oasis. In: G. Lange (Ed.): Ice-cold discoveries, research trips between the North and South Poles. Delius Klasing Verlag, Bielefeld 2001, ISBN 3-7688-1257-X , pp. 188-195. ( Website of the author )
  • Johannes Oerlemans, Cornelis J. van Veen: Ice Sheets and Climate. Reidel, Dordrecht 1984, ISBN 90-277-1709-5
  • Ulrich Smeddinck: The implementation of the Antarctic protection in Germany. In: Nature and Law. 28.2006,6, ISSN  0172-1631 , pp. 342-348.
  • PJ Tilbrook: The Biology of Cryptopygusantarcticus. In: Martin Wyatt Holdgate (Ed.): Antarctic Ecology. Vol. C2. Academic Press, New York 1970, ISBN 0-12-352102-5 , pp. 871-885
  • JW Wagele: Observations on Nutrition and Ultrastructure of Digestive Tract and Fat Body of the Giant Paranthurid Accalathura gigantissima Kussakin. In: Polar Biology. 4.1985, pp. 33-43. ISSN  0722-4060
  • Rüdiger Wolfrum , Klaus Bockslaff (Eds.): Antarctic Challenge, conflicting interests, cooperation, environmental protection, economic development; proceedings of an interdisciplinary symposium. Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Antarctic Challenge
    • Volume 1: Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-428-05540-3
    • Volume 2: Antarctic challenge II . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-428-06068-7
    • Volume 3: Antarctic challenge III , Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-428-06550-6
    • Antarctic. In: The internationalization of stateless areas. The development of an international administration for Antarctica, space, the high seas and the seabed. Contributions to foreign public law and international law; Volume 85 (partly also: Bonn, Univ., Habil.-Schr., 1980). Springer, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-540-13059-4 , ISBN 0-387-13059-4 , pp. 30-100

Web links

Wiktionary: Antarctica  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Antarctica  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Antarctica  Travel Guide

Individual evidence

  1. Léa de Gobert, Maya Schrödl and Géraldine Mertens, L'Antarctique: explorations belges d'hier et d'aujourd'hui in Science connection No. 58 (October-November 2018) (pp. 6–9)
  2. DLF24 , March 28, 2017: Germany publishes Antarctic map (March 28, 2017)
  3., press release , March 27, 2017: BSH publishes new Antarctic map ( memento of March 29, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) (March 28, 2017)
  4. Christoph Meyer, Hans Oerter: The mass balances of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet and the character of their changes. In: José Lozan et al. (Ed.): Warning signs from the polar regions. Scientific evaluations, Hamburg 2006 ( excerpt )
  5. ^ The Australian Antarctic Division: Ice sheets , accessed January 5, 2013
  6. P. Fretwell, HD Pritchard et al .: Bedmap2: improved ice bed, surface and thickness datasets for Antarctica. In: The Cryosphere. 7, 2013, p. 375, doi : 10.5194 / tc-7-375-2013 .
  7. Bethan Davies: Subglacial Lakes
  8. a b Lake in Antarctica - Frozen but complex. Accessed April 8, 2020 (German).
  9. ^ Marc Kaufman: Race Is On to Find Life Under Antarctic Ice. In: National Geographic Daily News , December 27, 2012
  10. Antarctic researchers discover 91 volcanoes under the ice. In: Spiegel Online. August 14, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2018 .
  11. Antarctica - The moss is going on at the South Pole. Retrieved on April 13, 2020 (German).
  12. Agnes Dettai, Guillaume Lecointre: In search of notothenioid (Teleostei) relatives. In: Antarctic Science. 16 (1), 2004, pp. 71-85. doi: 10.1017 / S095410200400183X
  13. DER SPIEGEL: Antarctica: Researchers surprisingly discover life - 900 meters under ice. Retrieved February 17, 2021 .
  14. doi : 10.3389 / fmars.2021.642040
  15. Antarctica - Diverse Life under the Ice. Retrieved on April 13, 2020 (German).
  16. Greenpeace: "World Park Antarctica"
  17. a b , October 28, 2016, Urs Wolderlin: Glück für die Antarktis (December 28, 2016)
  18. , news in depth , October 28, 2016: Edge of the Antarctic to be the largest marine protection zone in the world (December 28, 2016)
  19. , Interview , October 28, 2016, Sandra Schöttner in conversation with Christiane Kaess : "An absolutely historic deal" (December 28, 2016)
  20. John Stewart: Davis, John. In: Antarctica - An Encyclopedia. Volume 1, McFarland & Co., Jefferson / London 2011, ISBN 978-0-7864-3590-6 , p. 397 f. (English)
  21. Hubert Wilkins on Retrieved June 24, 2011.
  22. ^ Eugene Rodgers: Beyond the Barrier: The Story of Byrd's first Expedition to Antarctica . 1st edition. United States Naval Institute, Annapolis 1990, ISBN 0-87021-022-X , pp. 186 .
  23. ^ William James Mills: Exploring Polar Frontiers - A Historical Encyclopedia. Volume 2, ABC-CLIO, 2003, ISBN 1-57607-422-6 , p. 215. (English)
  24. Antarctic Meteorite Recovery Locations, accessed December 24, 2011.
  25. The world. April 12, 2011, p. 22.
  26. ORF at igel: Krill fishing in Antarctica is largely stopped. July 10, 2018, accessed December 2, 2019 .
  28. ^ David A. Pearce: Extremophiles in Antarctica: life at low temperatures. In: Helga Stan-Lotter et al .: Adaption of microbial life to environmental extremes - novel research results and application. Springer, Vienna 2012, ISBN 978-3-211-99690-4 , pp. 87–118.
  29. NASA Cryosphere Science Research Portal: Current State of the Sea Ice Cover. Accessed August 28, 2019 .
  30. ↑ Female sailor continued solo circumnavigation of Antarctica, June 12, 2017, accessed on June 12, 2017.