Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent, containing the geographic South Pole. It is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. It is the fifth-largest continent in area after Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. Antarctica is covered by ice that averages at least 1 mile in thickness.
On average, Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. It is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 200 mm along the coast and far less inland. The temperature in Antarctica has reached −89 °C .
There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent. Only cold-adapted organisms survive there, including many types of algae, animals (for example mites, nematodes, penguins, seals and tardigrades), bacteria, fungi, plants, and protista. Vegetation where it occurs is tundra.