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Who Owns Antarctica?

by Staff

If you were wondering about who declares Antarctica, we have the answer for you. You will be surprised to find out that it doesn’t belong to anyone. No country declares ownership over Antarctica. However, it is governed by a few nations that have signed an agreement. With the Antarctic Treaty signed by 54 nations worldwide, this is declared a continent devoted to science and peace.

Ever since Antarctica is the best example of global governance across the world. Before you indulge in antarctic cruise & adventure, step into the history of this continent and find out more about who wanted to claim the land. Do you want to know more about the historical background? Make sure not to miss this post!

Who claimed Antarctica?

After the initial discovery in 1820, the county began claiming parts from Antarctica. Until 1959, the land was claimed by seven countries: Argentina, the UK, Chile, France, Australia,   New Zealand,  and Norway. The map of the territory was divided by these countries, and each one claimed its part.

Australia claimed the most significant portion of the land. They claim over 42 percent of the whole territory. But, why do these countries think that they have the right to claim Antarctica? Some believe that they have played a crucial role in early exploration. Others will say that they have a continuous presence. And also, some will claim based on proximity. There was a lot of tension between the countries, with many claims and disputes about who is eligible to claim a portion of Antarctica. The USA refused some of the requests for the uninhabited land.

Antarctica during the WW2

Even if it is remote and uninhabited land, Antarctica was involved in WW2. In 1941 a German raider hijacked Norwegian whaling ships in the waters of the Antarctic. They stole the whale oi, a precious resource for producing explosives. The concerns for Antarctica never stopped. Some believed that the inhabited space would be used for military purposes. The concerns were getting severe during the Cold War.

How the IGY changed things

Antarctica was subject to scientific research during the International Geophysical Year in 1957. It was time to put the disputes aside and dedicate effort to science research. Experienced scientists from twelve countries across the world gathered to do profound research. The team included diverse scientists from disciplines such as geomagnetism, oceanography, and geology. The main goal was to gather a deeper understanding of the Earth and the role of the Antarctic.

They proved the importance of Antarctica for the Earth’s ecosystem. However, the IGY opened a new possibility for the existing dispute. The idea for international governance guided by collaboration and science was born. The twelve nations gathered in Washington to sign the Antarctic Treaty that reflected the same belief. Starting from December 1, 1959, Antarctica is internationally governed, highlighting the same values.

The Antarctic Treaty was meant to promote scientific collaboration and research and solve territorial disputes. Also, it bans any military activities highlighting the primary purpose of this land: science and cooperation. The signed contract promotes international collaboration and scientific research. Also, it highlights the importance of transparency and trust. Besides, the Treaty prevents any nation from claiming any part of the Antarctica territory.

Who owns Antarctica?

Antarctica is governed by 54 countries that signed the Treaty. 25 of them are non-consultative parties that don’t do research, meaning that they can’t make vital decisions. The consulate parties are involved in science research and play a crucial role in making decisions.

These countries have a meeting once a year to discuss relevant matters. To implement changes, the consultative parties must agree to do so. The secretariat of the Treaty has a physical establishment in Buenos Aires and serves as an administrative capital.

Photo by Cassie Matias on Unsplash

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