On June 23, 1961, the Antarctic Treaty came into effect. At that time, the Cold War was in full swing and nobody wanted to have additional headaches working through the overlapping and competing claims to Earth’s last true frontier.The situation yielded another kind of winner – the scientific community. More than 50 research stations sprang up all over the Antarctic ice.
Establishment of military bases is forbidden, although military personnel are actively supporting the research staff with construction, transportation and supply missions.
For the United States, the military support is a Pacific Command responsibility organized as the Joint Task Force – Support Forces Antarctica. The ongoing operation is very aptly called “Deep Freeze.”
The countries whose frosty claims are in suspension are: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the UK. United States and Russia have reserved their right to a later claim.
Why would anyone want to administer a desert of ice?
Resources, of course. To address this potential point of contention, the Madrid Protocol of 1988 banned mining in Antarctica, effectively creating a world nature reserve.
As it stands now, Antarctica belongs to the penguins and their happy feet. March on, little fellows!
Here’s a video, a little rough but oh so real, Enjoy Antarctica in 5 Minutes, by Duff Johnson.
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