How many countries are in Antarctica?
There are zero countries in Antarctica.
Antarctica is the southernmost continent on Earth. Antarctica's total area is 14.2 million square kilometers (5.5 million square miles), and it has a total population of 1,106 people. It contains all four of Earth's South Poles: the Geographic South Pole, the Geomagnetic South Pole, the Magnetic South Pole, and the South Pole of Rotation.
A little known fact about Antarctica is that it the largest desert on Earth.
Antarctica's climate is extremely cold and dry, making it difficult to inhabit and colonize. Along the coast in the winter, temperatures range from -22°F to 14°F (-30°C to -10°C) and hover around 32°F (0°C) during summers. The interior regions of the continent see temperatures of -76°F (-60°F) in the winter and -4°F (-20°C) in the summer.
The United Kingdom was the first to lay territorial claims to Antarctica in the early 1800s. It was never colonized due to the harsh climate and conditions, so the land remained open and free from claim disputes. In the 1900s, the United Kingdom claimed land segments in Antarctica, followed by France, Norway, and the German Nazi Party.
By 1959, 12 countries came together to create the 1959 Antarctica Treaty: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, the French Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Union of South Africa, the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States. The treaty states that all parties involved agree that Antarctica shall forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. The three main stipulations surrounding Antarctic land use:
- No military presence
- No mining
- No nuclear explosions
Antarctica's goal is for minimal human-derived human impacts and for researchers to leave no trace. Several research stations have been established around the continent by various countries for scientific and research purposes.
While there are no countries in Antarctica, there are several territories. Today, seven countries have territories on Antarctica:
- France (Adélie Land)
- United Kingdom (British Antarctic Territory)
- New Zealand (Ross Dependency)
- Norway (Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land)
- Australia (Australian Antarctic Territory)
- Chile (Chilean Antarctic Territory)
- Argentina (Argentine Antarctica)
Countries like the United States, Peru, Russia, and South Africa have all reserved their right to claim the original Antarctic Treaty. Brazil currently has a "zone of interest" but not an actual claim.
Antarctica is believed to have abundant natural resources such as oil reserves and 70% of the Earth's freshwater; however, the 1959 Antarctic Treaty prevents humans from exploiting the land for these resources. Antarctica will remain to be used as intended for research and as a nature reserve. Unfortunately, due to climate change, Antarctica has become a symbol for scientists and policymakers to push for environmental changes to protect this region.