- the continent surrounding the South Pole: almost entirely covered by an ice sheet. About 5,000,000 sq. mi. (12,950,000 sq. km).
- a continent around the South Pole: consists of an ice-covered plateau, 1800–3000 m (6000 ft to 10 000 ft) above sea level, and mountain ranges rising to 4500 m (15 000 ft) with some volcanic peaks; average temperatures all below freezing and human settlement is confined to research stations. All political claims to the mainland are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty of 1959
continent name attributed to Scottish cartographer John George Bartholomew (1860-1920), who used it on a map published 1887. From antarctic (q.v.). Hypothetical southern continents had been imagined since antiquity; first sighting of Antarctica by Europeans probably was 1820 (Lazarev and Bellingshausen). Also cf. Antipodes.