Antarctica’s is truely different from any other place on earth. As the fifth largest continent, Antarctica covers an area of about 14,000,000 square kilometers, but unlike the North Pole, there is solid ground underneath the southern ice cap. Unfortunately, Antarctica is almost completely submerged beneath the thick ice layer that covers most of the underlying topography. With areas of ice as thick as 15,000 feet, this area is truely a region of extremes.
Geologists believe that Antarctica is one of the oldest continents on Earth and plant fossils, as well as vertebrates like reptiles and amphibians can be found buried under the ice. Scientist believe that Antarctica was not always completely ice covered, but rather at one point, had a similar climate to New Zealand or southern South America. The reason for the now prevalent ice coverage is considered to be related to the drift of continental land masses over the course of geologic time.
Because of its extreme weather and isolation, there is little historical human interactions until relatively recently. Antarctica remained undiscovered until less than two hundred years ag and even after it was discovered little else was known of the icy continent until research began picking up within the last one hundred years. Thorughout the years many countries have explored and laid claim to parts of Antarctica, thus creating many doubts as to the actual ownership of the Antarctica continent. In 1959 The Antarctic Treaty was signed establishing the legal framework for the management of Antarctica by twenty four different countries. This agreement carved up Antarctica’s surface giving it to countries whose expeditions had lay claim to it earlier.
In recent years, Antarctica’s history has been characterised by international scientific cooperation and increasing concerns about the continent’s future. While for the moment the Antarctic landmass has been spared mining activity, chunks of ice bigger than many small countries are breaking off the ice shelf, adding to fears that effects of global warming are already starting to take effect.