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Posted on on December 1st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

The New York Times reminded us that –

“On Dec. 1, 1959, representatives of 12 countries, including the United States, signed a treaty in Washington setting aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, free from military activity.”

This triggered our interest in the fact that the treaty was signed in Washington and not at the UN in New York – as well we remember having visited a Chilean military base in the Antarctica – “grandfathered” by the treaty as it was established before the signing of the treaty. As well – a large number of States have bases in the Antarctica – call them scientific – but be sure they may have military meaning as well. So far as science goes – the South Koreans have based their scientific work around the Chilean military base.

Looking up the internet we found for THE ANTARCTIC TREATY:

A lot of the major powers of the world (UK, Australia, Russia, and I’m sure some others) all have bases on Antartica. All are scientific, and I’m pretty sure the American ones are run by the military. I know the McMurdo Base (American) is huge in comparison to all the others. I think it staffs a couple thousand people, too. It’s all science though, no wars or anything being fought down there (though others may beg to differ.)

www.upi.comBusiness NewsSecurity IndustryFeb 20, 2012 – Chile is going ahead with a multibillion-dollar plan
that includes Antarctica, including defense and tourist options.

Some important provisions of the Treaty:


Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only (Art. I)


Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end … shall continue (Art. II).


Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available (Art. III).


Among the signatories of the Treaty were seven countries – Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom – with territorial claims , sometimes overlapping. Other countries do not recognize any claims. The US and Russia maintain a “basis of claim”. All positions are explicitly protected in Article IV, which preserves the status quo:


No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting , supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica shall be asserted while the present Treaty is in force.


To promote the objectives and ensure the observance of the provisions of the Treaty, “All areas of Antarctica, including all stations, installations and equipment within those areas … shall be open at all times to inspection ” (Art. VII).


“Signed in 1959, the Antarctic Treaty provides the legal framework for the region beyond 60º South latitude. It reserves the region for peace, promotes scientific investigations and international cooperation, requires an annual exchange of information about activities, and encourages environmental stewardship. Representatives of the 29 voting nations (Consultative Parties) and the 21 non-voting (Acceding Parties) meet regularly to discuss Treaty operations.


Agreements negotiated within the Antarctic Treaty system include environmental protection measures for expeditions, stations, and visitors; waste-management provisions; a ban on mining; establishment of specially protected areas; and agreements for the protection of seals and other marine living resources.”
The original Parties to the Treaty were the 12 nations active in the Antarctic during the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58.

The Treaty was signed in Washington on 1 December 1959 and entered into force on 23 June 1961. The Consultative Parties comprise the original Parties and other States that have become Consultative Parties by acceding to the Treaty and demonstrating their interest in Antarctica by carrying out substantial scientific activity there.


The primary purpose of the Antarctic Treaty is to ensure “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.” To this end it prohibits military activity, except in support of science; prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of nuclear waste; promotes scientific research and the exchange of data; and holds all territorial claims in abeyance. The Treaty applies to the area south of 60° South Latitude, including all ice shelves and islands.


The Treaty is augmented by Recommendations adopted at Consultative Meetings, by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid, 1991), and by two separate conventions dealing with the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (London 1972), and the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (Canberra 1980).

BUT – The Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (Wellington 1988), negotiated between 1982 and 1988, will not enter into force.



The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) is now held annually. During each ATCM, there is also a meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP). The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) is an observer at ATCMs and CEPs, and provides independent scientific advice as requested in a variety of fields, particularly on environmental and conservation matters.


For more information on the Antarctic Treaty, please visit the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat website.


By phone
+ 54 11 4320 4250
+ 54 11 4326 2174
By Fax
+ 54 11 4320 4253
By Email
By Post
Secretaría del
Tratado Antártico

Maipú 757 Piso 4
C1006ACI – Buenos Aires


The Antarctic Science meetings cycle can be found at:

Logo for 33 SCAR, Auckland, 2014

XXXIII SCAR Meetings and Open Science Conference

22 August – 3 September 2014, Auckland, New Zealand.

The Open Science Conference will be held on 25-29 August. A draft list of sessions is available.
Abstract submission is open until 14 February 2014.

'New!' Second Circular now available.

For more information, please see the [pdf] Second Circular and visit the Conference website.



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