Territorial Claims in Antarctica
The first recorded sighting of Antarctica was in 1820 by several countries in the span of days. (“Antarctica”) From there, land disputes have continued over the centuries. Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, the U.K., the U.S., and Russia all claim territory on this continent. The U.S. and Russia also reserve the right to claim the land. Both Chile and Argentina are the most vocal about their claims, and even after signing the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, they’ve both gone great lengths to claim the territory as part of their borders.
The Antarctic Treaty was signed by twelve nations on December 1, 1959 in Washington, D.C., as the result of a conference. The treaty does not support any territorial claims by any country. It only states that Antarctica is a demilitarized zone, and none of the resources may be used. The sole purpose of the continent is scientific research. Since 1959, many more nations have signed the treaty. (“Antarctic Treaty”) In spite of the agreement made by these nations, territorial disputes and desperate actions in attempt to claim Antarctica still happen.
In 1978, a pregnant Argentinean woman was sent to Antarctica to give birth to her son, Emile Marco Palma, making him the first-born child in Antarctica. (“More Facts…”) A Norwegian girl was born in the southern polar region in 1913, but not on the actual land. (“Antarctica People”) The birth of these children led to more territorial claims. As well, the possible richness in natural resources of the Antarctic territory and value to scientific research are two great motivators for territorial claims.
Chile and Argentina, because of territorial disputes, have almost been on the brink of war. In 1978, coincidentally the same year as the birth of Emile Marco Palma, Chile and Argentina had very heated arguments over the sovereignty of certain islands south of their borders. The countries have a strained relationship to this day. There are even those who claim that Chilean oil companies are considering drilling in Antarctica under the pretense that it is Chile’s territory. The treaty made in 1959 officially banned this utilization. (“Chile and Argentina Border Dispute”)
Antarctica’s ties to human rights may be slim but they are real nonetheless. Every war, argument, or any dispute made over or in Antarctica is relatable to human rights. This icy continent deserves attention as well as all the others.