The Arctic has no definitive boundaries, but its character is easy to define. The North Pole sits in the center of a large, ice-covered ocean, which in turn is surrounded by barren, frozen land.
Despite harsh conditions, the Arctic is full of life, including a wide variety of animals, plants and people. Eight nations have territory in the Arctic: the U.S., Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland. The Arctic is extremely sensitive to environmental changes such as pollution and global warming.
Thick ice covers 98 percent of the continent of Antarctica, the coldest, driest, windiest region on Earth. This ice contains about 90 percent of the Earth’s fresh water. The sea supports nearly all life in Antarctica, including penguins, whales, seals and seabirds. The largest land animal is a tiny insect called a midge. Antarctica has no government and there are no formally recognized territorial claims. The 1959 Antarctica Treaty protects the continent by setting it aside as a scientific preserve and outlining how nations must use and care for the unique territory.