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Antarctica is the continent that encapsulates the South Pole and is fully surrounded by the Antarctic Ocean. In terms of area, with 14 million km2, this continent ranks 5th after Asia, Africa, North-America and South-America. An average of 1.6km (1.0mi) thick ice covers about 98% of the continent. It also resides the highest average of elevation among other continents. In terms of climatic conditions, Antarctica is by far, the windiest, coldest and driest continent. With rainfall of only 200 mm (8in) in a year, the Antarctica continent is classified as a desert. With temperature dipping as low as -89oC (-129oF), only organisms that is adapted to this extreme climate may survive in this continent, this includes a few types of algae, seals and the penguins. Although the entire continent don't have permanent residents, around 1000-5000 people from different nationalities stay at various research installations within the region.
Since almost all of Antarctica is covered with ice, studies on science and social studies on this region focus on their connection with the ice all over the continent. There are no governments in the Antarctic continent though many neighboring countries post claims on sovereignty on some parts. No claim had been accepted universally for any part of the Antarctica, though between surrounding nations, claims had been accepted mutually based on proximity. The 1959 Antarctic treaty together with other agreements formed was called the Antarctic Treaty System, to regulate the lingering sovereignty claims. To clear its status, the treaty determines that all land and ice-shelves below the 60o S belongs to the Antarctic Continent. The Soviet Union, along with United States, Chile, Argentina, Australia and the United Kingdom led the signing of the treaty. The treaty banned any military activity to take place on the continent, along as citing that, it should be considered as a scientific preserve. Not only that the treaty gave everyone freedom in their research of the region but successfully mandated an arms control during the cold war. Negotiations between treaty members about mining regulations in the Antarctica had been opened in 1983. Greenpeace International, an international organization devoted in protecting biodiversity and our very planet, led the coalition that halted the treaty members' actions on mining on the Antarctic Continent. They even established a scientific station, called the World Park Base in the continent. The members adopted Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resources or CRAMRA in 1988 but were greatly opposed by France and Australia during the next year. They instead proposed another option in the protection and preservation of the Antarctic continent. The negotiations went through and produced the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty in 1991 as more and more countries support this movement. This treaty was latter known as the "Madrid Protocol". On 1998 it was ratified and put in action. The Madrid Protocol established the Antarctica, to be for peace and science devoted activities only, an as such natural reserve, banned all kinds of mining for the whole continent.
Though the richness in natural resources is what that triggered many nations to explore and mine the continent, Antarctica's biodiversity was also abundant. This key feature is what the Greenpeace International fought for: To establish the Antarctica as a natural haven for science and social studies. With mining and various military activities including weapons testing at bay, the risk of destruction and abrupt meltdown of ice, in the continent and its vast biodiversity as well, may increase significantly.
Being a natural reserve, various international organizations are geared towards protection and preservation of the Antarctic continent. In this continent, Antarctica below or above there is only ice to see, there are far more valuable things just waiting to be discovered.
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