Who owns Antarctica

With Antarctica tours being a lucrative business, one wonders who owns Antarctica.

Who has the rights to organize Antarctic tours on land and who do we ask about Antarctica and history?

Not to mention who owns the oil and minerals hidden there? And who is responsible for the South Pole Conservation?

Most likely not the questions you ask yourself before you embark on an Antarctica cruise ship vacation, but if you fall in love with the continent and want to buy a piece of land… since it seems so desolate: land must be cheap and land is limited on this earth with an ever growing population… So who would you contact?

Antarctica and History

First some history before we tackle who really owns Antarctica or who should be owning it by now…

The Indians where the first people to live in the Americas, but since it was discovered by the Spanish, they hardly own anything of the entire continent… So what about the South Pole facts?

who owns antarcticaYou could argue: who lives in Antarctica are the people who own Antarctica. If we all agree on that, than animals in Antarctica are the only owners of the continent as there are no people really loving there from birth to death. True, there are people doing jobs in Antarctica, but employment in Antarctica is only temporarily. Unlike any other part of the earth, no human beings have been living here from generation to generation.

You could argue: who discovered Antarctica should be the owner, much like what the Europeans have been doing during their colonization voyages. The finders-keepers idea… But if you follow this logic, you have to also agree that the America’s are discovered by the Spanish, or depending on which history books you read, by the Chinese. So should we really give Antarctica to the person who was first to reach the South Pole …

An example of how Antarctica should be divided and how that benefits the country that outlines the guidelines is given by Brazilian geostrategist Therezinha de Castro:

  • all non-South American nations withdraw their claims and bases from the South American sector of Antarctica (from 0°W to 90°W),
  • this sector is divided among the South American nations according to "defrontação", signifying the ‘open’ sea access to Antarctica via meridional lines.

Of course this would diminish the Chilean and Argentine sectors, give Uruguay, Peru and Ecuador a slice and would give Brazil the biggest sector

Antarctica claims

The facts on Antarctica are pretty messy. By now you are getting the picture: you can debate endlessly on who should be the owner of the South Pole and why. By now several countries have been claiming pie pieces of Antarctica:

facts on Antarctica

  • France (Terre Adélie, since 1924)
  • Chile (Antárctica, since 1940)
  • Argentina (Antártida Argentina, since 1943) If you ever wondered why you can buy souvenirs with the word Antartida on it in stead of Antarctica… means you went to Antarctica through Argentina, like what I did when I embarked on my Quark Expedition in the south of Argentine.
  • Australia (Australian Antarctic Territory, since 1933)
  • United Kingdom (British Antarctic Territory, since 1908)
  • Norway (Dronning Maud Land, since 1939; Peter I Island, since 1929)
  • New Zealand (Ross Dependency, since 1923)

All claims apply to the areas south of 60°S, which is the northern limit of the Antarctic Treaty.

The area between 90°W and 150°W remains unclaimed, except for Peter I Island, Norway’s claim on this territory being the only one in Antarctica that is not a sector (a ‘slice of the pie’). If not for Norway’s claim: the area between 90°W and 150°W would be the only place on earth not owned nor earned by anybody…

To make things worse, several of these claims do overlap. Australia has the largest territorial claim, claiming 42% of the Antarctic Continent.

Most countries do not recognise those claims

No more claims on Antarctica?

The Antarctic Treaty (signed in 1961) puts all territorial claims on hold for the duration of the treaty. The original signatories of the Antarctic Treaty were the twelve countries active in Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year of 1957 – 58.

The main objective of the Antarctic Treaty System is to ensure in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord.

The overriding goal of the Treaty is to preserve Antarctica as a continent for the freedom of scientific investigation and cooperation and for peace. The latter shows in Articles I and V.

  • Article I prohibits military activities in Antarctica and
  • Article V prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste.

The overriding goal of the Treaty is to preserve Antarctica as a continent for peace and science. But groups such as Greenpeace have long argued that Antarctica should be protected as the world’s last great wilderness.

And now for the amazing part:

According to a report from Reuters last year: Britain plans to submit a claim to the United Nations to extend its Antarctic territory by a million square kilometers. This claim conflicts completely with the spirit of 1959 Antarctic Treaty and could cause tension between Britain and a few South American countries: Argentina is already working on a proposal to the U.N. which covers the same territory.

May 13, 2009 is supposed to be the deadline for claims that will divide up 7 million square kilometers (the size of Australia). Russia, Australia, France, and Brazil are among the few that have made claims thus far.

Why do you want a piece of Antarctica?

Oil, gas and minerals…

Greed could well make an end of Antarctica as well to the whole planet earth due to the global warming we are all suffering from…

As long as people keep claiming or fighting about who owns Antarctica, it shows that human greed is more important than keeping the earth a healthy place for all humans to live in peace.