Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent, containing the geographic South Pole. It is situated in the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Antarctica is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 200 mm (8 inches) along the coast and far less inland.
Antarctica is divided in two by the Transantarctic Mountains close to the neck between the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. The portion west of the Weddell Sea and east of the Ross Sea is called West Antarctica and the remainder East Antarctica.
West Antarctica is covered by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. East Antarctica lies on the Indian Ocean side of the Transantarctic Mountains and comprises Coats Land, Queen Maud Land, Enderby Land, Mac Robertson Land, Wilkes Land and Victoria Land. East Antarctica is largely covered by the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Antarctica has no government, although various countries claim sovereignty in certain regions. A number of governments maintain permanent manned research stations throughout the continent. The number of people conducting and supporting scientific research and other work on the continent and its nearby islands varies from about 1,000 in winter to about 5,000 in the summer.
Few terrestrial vertebrates live in Antarctica. The Snow Petrel is one of only three birds that breed exclusively in Antarctica. Antarctic sea life includes penguins, blue whales, orcas, colossal squids and fur seals. The Emperor Penguin is the only penguin that breeds during the winter in Antarctica, while the Adélie Penguin breeds farther south than any other penguin. The Rockhopper Penguin has distinctive feathers around the eyes, giving the appearance of elaborate eyelashes. King Penguins, Chinstrap Penguins, and Gentoo Penguins also breed in the Antarctic. The Weddell Seal, a "true seal", is named after Sir James Weddell, commander of British sealing expeditions in the Weddell Sea.