The Antarctic continent is a land mass covered with ice up to 4 km thick. The highest point is around 4 km above sea level. There is little exposed rock. Millions of years ago Antarctica had heavy vegetation, but today the only plants that grow are very small mosses and lichens.
Antarctica’s average elevation is 2,500 m. In contrast, Australia’s average elevation is only 330 m. The height of the South Pole is 2,830 m. The highest point on the icecap is 4,093 m. It is in Australian Antarctic Territory at 80°22′ S, 77°21′ E.
The Antarctic ice sheet holds about 90% of Earth’s fresh water in 30 million cubic kilometres of ice, but there’s not a drop to drink. Antarctica is the driest continent on earth. The amount of moisture that falls on the polar plateau is similar to the amount that falls on the world’s hot deserts.
Antarctica is the windiest continent on earth. Winds flow down the coastal slopes under the influence of gravity. These winds are called katabatic winds. They have been recorded at speeds of up to 327 km/h.
Antarctica is the coldest continent on earth. The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was −89.2°C. This was recorded at Vostok, in Australian Antarctic Territory, in 1983.
Including all its islands and ice shelves, Antarctica is nearly twice the size of Australia. It covers 13,661,000 km². The Australian Antarctic Territory is 5,896,500 km² (42% of Antarctica).
Closest continent to Antarctica
South America is the closest continent to Antarctica. The closest point of South America is shared by Argentina and Chile. The Argentinian station Vice Comodoro Marambio is on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. It’s only 1,238 km south of Ushuaia in Argentina.