Everything south of 60°S is considered the Antarctic. This means that the Antarctic consists not just of the continent, but also the surrounding islands, seas, and ice shelves. No people live in Antarctica, although researchers and tourists do visit for some or all of the year.
Summer in Antarctica falls between September and March. At the height of summer, the midnight sun keeps it light around the clock. The southern summer is the season when most research is conducted at and around Antarctica’s hundred or so research stations. Roughly 8,000 researchers and technical personnel work in Antarctica during the southern summer months. Marine research is also possible during the southern summer when the sea ice recedes. The number of researchers who overwinter, i.e., remain throughout the entire dark and climatically inhospitable southern winter, is upwards of a thousand.
Because Antarctica was isolated from the surrounding land masses for many millions of years, it has large areas of untouched natural environment. Preserving the region and its unique environment is also valuable from a research standpoint.
Polar research is valuable
Important research projects are being conducted in Antarctica. For example, researchers drill ice cores and collect bedrock samples. Analyses of these samples can indicate how the climate has changed during the Earth’s development. Armed with that knowledge, we can try to predict the Earth’s future climatic development. Other researchers are looking for fossils in order, for example, to determine what animals lived in Antarctica millions of years ago. Such knowledge can help them understand how changes in Antarctic biodiversity are connected to changes in the ecosystem.