The Antarctic Treaty – 57 Years Old Today

The Antarctic Treaty – 57 Years Old Today

Today marks the celebration of when the treaty protecting Antarctica was signed.  The Antarctic Treaty was originally signed in Washington on 1 December, 1959 by the 12 countries that had been quite active during the International Geophysical Year (IGY): Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, and USSR.  The Treaty applies to the area south of 60 degrees south latitude.

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The South Pole display of signatory flags (courtesy of  https://images.search.yahoo.com)

IGY had been a huge push for international science and discovery, and opened the door to a new era of collaboration and interchange between countries around the globe.  IGY, taking place from 1 July 1957 through 31 December 1958, had triggered an 18-month push for Antarctic science.  Previous “International Polar Years” had been held in 1882-1883 and 1932-1933.  One additional International Polar Year was held between 2007-2009.

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**Antarctica will be used as a place for peaceful scientific purposes

**Military activities, whether testing or having military base are prohibited

**Freedom to conduct scientific research and promoting international scientific cooperation to conduct the research, share plans, and sharing the results of research

**It prohibits nuclear explosions and disposal of radioactive waste

**The Treaty keeps prior territorial claims as is…none can be diminished or enhanced, no new claims made, and the Treaty provides rules for jurisdiction

**There are inspections of bases, ships, and equipment to be sure the Treaty is being followed

**Parties need to give advance notice of expeditions, and meet periodically to discuss the objectives of the Treaty

**Any member of the United Nations can join the Treaty, which now has 52 signatories.

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There is actually an Antarctic Treaty System which is the Treaty itself and related agreements that cover current topics such as:

scientific cooperation, protection of the Antarctic environment, conservation of plants and animals, preserving historic sites such as huts used by early explorers, management of tourism, exchanges of information, collection of data and samples, safety and communications, and collaboration of logistics. As you can clearly see, the Treaty protects the continent of Antarctic in a most comprehensive way.

The past 100 years has been a time of amazing growth in technology, which has allowed for greater access to the vast continent.  Many scientific research stations dot the coastline of Antarctica, and many are also inland.  Remote field camps are located all over the continent.  The cool thing is that scientists from many different countries work together to make new discoveries, share information, and learn from one another.  That’s cooperation in action!

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Map from: https://images.search.yahoo.com

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McMurdo Station, USA – Photo taken from Observation Hill

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McMurdo Station, USA – Photo taken from a helicopter

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Scott Base, New Zealand (located close to McMurdo Station; both are on the coast of Ross Island)

While the photos of McMurdo Station and Scott Base are mine, if you Google “Antarctic Stations” you can find heaps of images of various types of buildings and constructions in Antarctica.  Many are built on stilts/foundations above the ice and snow, to allow for snow blowing under them instead of accumulating around them.  The designs are fascinating and quite unique to the polar environment.  Here are a few I found in https://images.search.yahoo.com

Flags fly at the ceremonial South Pole in front of the Elevated Station in honor of the 12 original signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty. The flags are set in a semicircle and are spaced about 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart. The US flag is directly flanked by the Norwegian (grid east) and British (grid west) flags in honor of Amundsen and Scott. The remainder of the flags are represented in the order of their signing the Antarctic Treaty. The nations represented include: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Russia, New Zealand, Norway, USA, UK, France, Japan, Belgium, and South Africa. (February 2008)

Flags fly at the ceremonial South Pole in front of the Elevated Station in honor of the 12 original signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty. The flags are set in a semicircle and are spaced about 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart. The US flag is directly flanked by the Norwegian (grid east) and British (grid west) flags in honor of Amundsen and Scott. The remainder of the flags are represented in the order of their signing the Antarctic Treaty. The nations represented include: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Russia, New Zealand, Norway, USA, UK, France, Japan, Belgium, and South Africa. (February 2008)

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, USA

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German Antarctic base, Neumayer Station III

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Happy Antarctica Day! Keep learning about this amazing continent!

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