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Antarctic Plate: The Drifting Continent of Antarctica


Antarctic Plate Tectonics

The Antarctic Plate is one of Earth’s 7 major plate tectonic boundaries. In terms of size, it’s the fifth largest being slightly smaller than the African Plate.

If you study the geography of most tectonic plate boundaries, they generally consist of both oceanic and continental crust.

Not only does the Antarctic Plate contains the entire continent of Antarctic, but it includes most of the surrounding ocean. In addition, it borders the South American Plate, Indo-Australian Plate, African Plate and the Pacific Plate.

All continents move and they’re never idle. Over time, the Antarctic Plate is moving at a snail’s pace. For example, the Antarctic Plate moves at an average rate of about 1 centimeter per year.

Was the Antarctic Plate part of Gondwana?

Antarctica Plate

The Antarctic major plate holds the entire continent of Antarctica including its surrounding oceanic crust. This plate shares boundaries with the African, Australian, Pacific, and South American Plate.

If you could rewind time 200 million years in the past, Earth was one giant supercontinent landmass “Pangaea”. Then, it tore apart into two separate pieces Laurasia and Gondwana. This is all part of the supercontinent cycle that Earth has experienced several times in the past.

Antarctica was once grouped as part of the supercontinent Gondwana with Australia and India. But about 100 million years ago, Antarctica broke apart to its current frigid location in the south pole.

It’s estimated that the Antarctica major plate moves about 1 cm per year[1]. As for its size, it’s the fifth largest tectonic plate on the planet at about 60,900,000 km2.


1. Jiang, Wei-Ping; E, Dong-Chen; Zhan, Bi-Wei; Liu, You-Wen (2009). “New Model of Antarctic Plate Motion and Its Analysis”. Chinese Journal of Geophysics. 52 (1): 23–32. doi:10.1002/cjg2.1323.

One Comment

  1. Great description. The subduction zones and ridges are clear on the other plates but where are these around the Antarctic plate?

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