Exploration of the Antarctic - Part 12
Over the years, seven nations have made direct territorial claims in Antarctica: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Norway. Other nations have reserved the right to make claims. When the Antarctic presence of these and other nations increased in the build up to the International Geophysical Year, occurring against the backdrop of the Cold War, but marked by sucessful scientific cooperation and collaboration, diplomatic activity for a framework to regulate future activity in a similar manner became serious. In 1959, twelve nations joined the Antarctic Treaty System (now 46 nations).
The Antarctic Treaty System is the legal regime governing interstate relations with regards to Antarctica, and it is comprised of 4 main Agreements:
- The initial Antarctic Treaty (AT);
- The Conventions for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS);
- The Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR); and
- The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid Protocol).
A fifth agreement, the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA), has never entered into force.
The initial Antarctic Treaty (AT) sets to tone for the system in its preamble by stating that the AT "shall apply to the area south of 60° South Latitude, including all ice shelves" and its main objective is that of ensuring “in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord”. Thus the Antarctic Treaty System:
- recognizes neither permanent population nor citizenship nor government in Antarctica;
- neither recognizes nor disputes any territorial claims;
- emphasizes peaceful scientific activity; and
- limits military activity to support of such peaceful endeavors.
The Antarctic Treaty System has been the umbrella for numerous national and international agreements aimed at protecting the flora and fauna, natural resources and the environment of Antarctica. The Antarctic Treaty System provides the framework by which the nations of the world continue their exploration of the Antarctic.
Until 2004, decisions were made primarily at annual consultative meetings organized by the parties. Today an Antarctic Treaty Secretariat exists to support the system.
Exploration of the Antarctic is a continuing enterprise conducted by scientists from a large number of nations using research equipment on the ice, in the air and even in space. Many scientists explore the continent without even going there in person as devices collect data for them and send it arounf the world electronically. The Antarctic Treaty System continues to provide a peaceful framework for exploration as well as environmental protection. Global environmental issue like depletion of the stratspheric ozone layer and the impact of a warming climate are intensely studied. All of this continuing exploration builds upon the legacy of those that risked their lives during the past two-hundred-and-fifty years. Some of their names are memorialized in ice sheets, mountains, glaciers, seas, and research stations. Byrd and Wilkins, Shackleton and Mawson, Amundsen and Scott; de Gerlache, von Drygalski, Nordenskjöld, Charcot and Bruce; Larsen and Borchgrevink; Ross, Dumont d'Urville, and Wilkes; Biscoe, Kemp, and Bellany; Weddell; Bellinghausen, Bransfield, Smith and Palmer; Cook; and, others remembered and not, share the rich history of the Exploration of the Antarctic.
- Antarctica: Exploring the Extreme: 400 Years of Adventureby Marilyn J. Landis, Chicago Review Press, 2001
- Exploring Polar Frontiers: An Historical Encyclopedia, William James Mills, ABC-CLIO, 2003
- Antarctic History, 70 South, retrieved November 1, 2008
- South-Pole.com,retrieved November 1, 2008
- The United States in Antarctica: Report of the U. S. Antarctic Program External Panel
- Antarctica Online