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   Antarctica is a continent that develops almost entirely within the Antarctic polar circle and is completely covered by a thick ice cap; it was only discovered around the early 1800s, while the South Pole was reached by land at the beginning of the 20th century (in 1911). Given the prohibitive environmental and climatic conditions, there are no permanent settlements, but only a few scientific stations.

   Since 1959, by virtue of an international agreement, Antarctica has been reserved as a base for scientific research for peaceful purposes; however, the continent is divided into some spheres of influence between various states. The average altitude is very high and is around 2,600 meters; the coasts are quite rugged and there are some islands; the climate is obviously very harsh, the minimum temperature recorded so far has been -92.7 C (-134.9 F).



Area: 14,107,637 km (5,446,989 sq mi)
Highest mountain: Mount Vinson 4,892 m (16,050 ft)
Coastal length: 18,000 km (11,185 mi)
Average ice thickness: 2,160 m (7,087 ft)
Maximum ice thickness: 4,700 m (15,420 ft)
Closest continent: South America 950 km (590 mi)