Antarctica is the world's southernmost continent resting in the Antarctic Circle and surrounded by the Southern Ocean. With 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles) of area, it's the 5th largest continent. Almost 98% of the continent is covered by ice 1 mile thick, which certainly makes for harsh terrain that has little established population. In 2016, the highest population recorded during the year is just over 4,000.
Antarctica's population is comprised mainly of scientific research staff. The number of residents varies, from around 1,100 in the harsh Antarctic winter to around 4,400 in the milder summer months of October to February, plus an additional staff of 1,000 in the nearby waters.
Antarctica has no indigenous inhabitants, only permanent and summer-only staff at its many research stations. Along with the 1,100 to 4,400 research staff, there is usually an additional 1,000 personnel, including ship's crew and scientists performing on-board research in the waters of the treaty region of Antarctica. The CIA World Factbook maintains an updated breakdown of Antarctica's population. A full list may be viewed through the CIA World Factbook, but these are the countries with at least 100 people in Antarctica during the peak summer:
- Argentina: 667
- Australia: 200
- Chile: 359
- France: 125
- Italy: 102
- Japan: 125
- Russia: 429
- UK: 217
- United States: 1,293
Although widely thought of as not being owned by anyone, Antarctica is actually claimed by seven different countries - Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Norway, New Zealand and the United Kingdom -- and all of these countries maintain a base on Antarctica.
The United States, Russia and Brazil have all reserved the right to claim territory in Antarctica and, although they have not yet made a claim, they also each maintain a permanent presence.
With many governments maintaining permanent manned research facilities here, there is a small but not very stable population between 1,000 and 5,000, depending on the season. This means Antarctica has a population density of just 0.00007 people per square kilometer to 0.0035 people per square kilometer.
Antarctica Population History
The first real semi-permanent residents of the area around Antarctica were sealers from Britain and America who used to spent at least a year in the area from 1786 onward. During the great whaling era until 1966, the population of the area was 1,000 to 2,000 during the summer, and 200 during the winter.
Nearby early settlements included Leith Harbour, King Edward Point, Godthul and Ocean Harbour.
The first child born in the region was a Norwegian girl born in Grytviken in 1931, and she was the daughter of an assistant manager at a whaling station. Emilio Marcos Palma was the first person born south of the 60th parallel south, which is the continental limit. He was also the first person born on the mainland of Antarctica and his birth occurred in 1978 at Base Esperanza, as his parents were sent to the area by the Argentine government to see if the area could sustain family life.
So, how many people live in Antarctica today?
Because of this, and the presence of scientists from other countries around the world, Antarctica has a very cosmopolitan population. Scientists from the USA make up the largest single group, but citizens of 19 other countries were also resident on the world's most southerly continent in 2008. They live on 37 different permanent Antarctic bases, the smallest of which (the Norwegian base of Troll) is home to just six people and the largest of which (the US-run McMurdo station) has 250 permanent residents.
Here's a table listing the summer population of Antarctica, by country:
|Country of Origin||Population|
The data above comes from the CIA World Factbook and is accurate as of 2016.