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Surrounded by the Southern Ocean and divided in two by the Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent in area at 14 million km2 – twice the size of Australia. A frozen continent where about 98% of it is covered by ice that averages at least 1.9 kilometres in thickness, Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent.
It is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 200 mm (8 inches) along the coast and far less inland. The temperatures can reach as low as −89 °C because of which there are no permanent human residents. The continent is only home to 1,000 to 5,000 people who reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent. It is protected by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 signed to date by 49 countries that strictly prohibits military activities and mineral mining, nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal, supports scientific research, and protects the continent’s eco zone.