|There is more information available on this subject at Antarctica on the English Wikipedia.|
On average, Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent on Earth and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Since there is little precipitation, except at the coasts, the interior of the continent is technically the largest desert in the world. There are no permanent human residents and there is no evidence of any existing or pre-historic indigenous population. Only cold-adapted plants and animals survive there, including penguins, fur seals, mosses, lichen, and many types of algae.
The name Antarctica is a romanized version of the Greek compound word Αntarktiké (Aνταρκτική), meaning "Opposite of the Arctic". Although myths and speculation about a Terra Australis ("Southern Land") date back to antiquity, the first confirmed sighting of the continent is commonly accepted to have occurred in 1820 by the Russian expedition of Mikhail Lazarev and Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen. However, the continent remained largely neglected for the rest of the 19th century because of its hostile environment, lack of resources, and isolation.
The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 by twelve human nations; to date, forty-five human nations have signed the treaty. The treaty prohibits military activities and mineral mining, supports scientific research, and protects the continent's ecozone. Ongoing experiments are conducted by more than 4,000 human scientists of many nationalities and with different research interests.
Historically, Humanity has maintained only an extremely limited presence on the continent, due to its largely inhospitable nature and the lack of many necessities for human life, which restrict activity considerably. The region is technically not classed as a country, because no elected government exists and its inhabitants are representatives of other nations.