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Antarctica

 

Antarctica
Introduction Antarctica
-----------------------
Background: Speculation over the existence of a
"southern land" was not confirmed
until the early 1820s when British
and American commercial operators
and British and Russian national
expeditions began exploring the
Antarctic Peninsula region and other
areas south of the Antarctic Circle.
Not until 1840 was it established
that Antarctica was indeed a
continent and not just a group of
islands. Several exploration
"firsts" were achieved in the early
20th century. Following World War
II, there was an upsurge in
scientific research on the
continent. A number of countries
have set up year-round research
stations on Antarctica. Seven have
made territorial claims, but no
other country recognizes these
claims. In order to form a legal
framework for the activities of
nations on the continent, an
Antarctic Treaty was negotiated that
neither denies nor gives recognition
to existing territorial claims;
signed in 1959, it entered into
force in 1961.

Geography Antarctica
--------------------
Location: continent mostly south of the
Antarctic Circle
Geographic coordinates: 90 00 S, 0 00 E
Map references: Antarctic Region
Area: total: 14 million sq km
note: fifth-largest continent,
following Asia, Africa, North
America, and South America, but
larger than Australia and the
subcontinent of Europe
land: 14 million sq km (280,000 sq
km ice-free, 13.72 million sq km
ice-covered) (est.)
Area - comparative: slightly less than 1.5 times the
size of the US
Land boundaries: 0 km
note: see entry on International
disputes
Coastline: 17,968 km
Maritime claims: none; 20 of 27 Antarctic
consultative nations have made no
claims to Antarctic territory
(although Russia and the US have
reserved the right to do so) and do
not recognize the claims of the
other nations; also see the Disputes
- international entry
Climate: severe low temperatures vary with
latitude, elevation, and distance
from the ocean; East Antarctica is
colder than West Antarctica because
of its higher elevation; Antarctic
Peninsula has the most moderate
climate; higher temperatures occur
in January along the coast and
average slightly below freezing
Terrain: about 98% thick continental ice
sheet and 2% barren rock, with
average elevations between 2,000 and
4,000 meters; mountain ranges up to
nearly 5,000 meters; ice-free
coastal areas include parts of
southern Victoria Land, Wilkes Land,
the Antarctic Peninsula area, and
parts of Ross Island on McMurdo
Sound; glaciers form ice shelves
along about half of the coastline,
and floating ice shelves constitute
11% of the area of the continent
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Bentley Subglacial
Trench -2,555 m
highest point: Vinson Massif 4,897 m

note: the lowest known land point in
Antarctica is hidden in the Bentley
Subglacial Trench; at its surface is
the deepest ice yet discovered and
the world's lowest elevation not
under seawater
Natural resources: iron ore, chromium, copper, gold,
nickel, platinum and other minerals,
and coal and hydrocarbons have been
found in small uncommercial
quantities; none presently
exploited; krill, finfish, and crab
have been taken by commercial
fisheries
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (ice 98%, barren rock
2%) (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 0 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: katabatic (gravity-driven) winds
blow coastward from the high
interior; frequent blizzards form
near the foot of the plateau;
cyclonic storms form over the ocean
and move clockwise along the coast;
volcanism on Deception Island and
isolated areas of West Antarctica;
other seismic activity rare and
weak; large icebergs may calve from
ice shelf
Environment - current issues: in 1998, NASA satellite data showed
that the antarctic ozone hole was
the largest on record, covering 27
million square kilometers;
researchers in 1997 found that
increased ultraviolet light coming
through the hole damages the DNA of
icefish, an antarctic fish lacking
hemoglobin; ozone depletion earlier
was shown to harm one-celled
antarctic marine plants; in 2002,
significant areas of ice shelves
disintegrated in response to
regional warming
Geography - note: the coldest, windiest, highest (on
average), and driest continent;
during summer, more solar radiation
reaches the surface at the South
Pole than is received at the Equator
in an equivalent period; mostly
uninhabitable

People Antarctica
-----------------
Population: no indigenous inhabitants, but there
are seasonally staffed research
stations
note: approximately 27 nations, all
signatory to the Antarctic Treaty,
send personnel to perform seasonal
(summer) and year-round research on
the continent and in its surrounding
oceans; the population of persons
doing and supporting science on the
continent and its nearby islands
south of 60 degrees south latitude
(the region covered by the Antarctic
Treaty) varies from approximately
4,000 in summer to 1,000 in winter;
in addition, approximately 1,000
personnel including ship's crew and
scientists doing onboard research
are present in the waters of the
treaty region; summer (January)
population - 3,687 total; Argentina
302, Australia 201, Belgium 13,
Brazil 80, Bulgaria 16, Chile 352,
China 70, Finland 11, France 100,
Germany 51, India 60, Italy 106,
Japan 136, South Korea 14,
Netherlands 10, NZ 60, Norway 40,
Peru 28, Poland 70, Russia 254,
South Africa 80, Spain 43, Sweden
20, UK 192, US 1,378 (1998-99);
winter (July) population - 964
total; Argentina 165, Australia 75,
Brazil 12, Chile 129, China 33,
France 33, Germany 9, India 25,
Japan 40, South Korea 14, NZ 10,
Poland 20, Russia 102, South Africa
10, UK 39, US 248 (1998-99); year-
round stations - 42 total; Argentina
6, Australia 4, Brazil 1, Chile 4,
China 2, Finland 1, France 1,
Germany 1, India 1, Italy 1, Japan
1, South Korea 1, NZ 1, Norway 1,
Poland 1, Russia 6, South Africa 1,
Spain 1, Ukraine 1, UK 2, US 3,
Uruguay 1 (1998-99); summer-only
stations - 32 total; Argentina 3,
Australia 4, Bulgaria 1, Chile 7,
Germany 1, India 1, Japan 3, NZ 1,
Peru 1, Russia 3, Sweden 2, UK 5
(1998-99); in addition, during the
austral summer some nations have
numerous occupied locations such as
tent camps, summer-long temporary
facilities, and mobile traverses in
support of research (July 2002 est.)
Population growth rate: NA

Government Antarctica
---------------------
Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Antarctica
Government type: Antarctic Treaty Summary - the
Antarctic Treaty, signed on 1
December 1959 and entered into force
on 23 June 1961, establishes the
legal framework for the management
of Antarctica. The 24th Antarctic
Treaty Consultative Meeting was held
in Russia in July 2001. At the end
of 2001, there were 45 treaty member
nations: 27 consultative and 18 non-
consultative. Consultative (voting)
members include the seven nations
that claim portions of Antarctica as
national territory (some claims
overlap) and 20 nonclaimant nations.
The US and Russia have reserved the
right to make claims. The US does
not recognize the claims of others.
Antarctica is administered through
meetings of the consultative member
nations. Decisions from these
meetings are carried out by these
member nations (within their areas)
in accordance with their own
national laws. The year in
parentheses indicates when an
acceding nation was voted to full
consultative (voting) status, while
no date indicates the country was an
original 1959 treaty signatory.
Claimant nations are - Argentina,
Australia, Chile, France, New
Zealand, Norway, and the UK.
Nonclaimant consultative nations are
- Belgium, Brazil (1983), Bulgaria
(1998) China (1985), Ecuador (1990),
Finland (1989), Germany (1981),
India (1983), Italy (1987), Japan,
South Korea (1989), Netherlands
(1990), Peru (1989), Poland (1977),
Russia, South Africa, Spain (1988),
Sweden (1988), Uruguay (1985), and
the US. Non-consultative (nonvoting)
members, with year of accession in
parentheses, are - Austria (1987),
Canada (1988), Colombia (1989), Cuba
(1984), Czech Republic (1993),
Denmark (1965), Estonia (2001),
Greece (1987), Guatemala (1991),
Hungary (1984), North Korea (1987),
Papua New Guinea (1981), Romania
(1971), Slovakia (1993), Switzerland
(1990), Turkey (1995), Ukraine
(1992), and Venezuela (1999).
Article 1 - area to be used for
peaceful purposes only; military
activity, such as weapons testing,
is prohibited, but military
personnel and equipment may be used
for scientific research or any other
peaceful purpose; Article 2 -
freedom of scientific investigation
and cooperation shall continue;
Article 3 - free exchange of
information and personnel,
cooperation with the UN and other
international agencies; Article 4 -
does not recognize, dispute, or
establish territorial claims and no
new claims shall be asserted while
the treaty is in force; Article 5 -
prohibits nuclear explosions or
disposal of radioactive wastes;
Article 6 - includes under the
treaty all land and ice shelves
south of 60 degrees 00 minutes south
and reserves high seas rights;
Article 7 - treaty-state observers
have free access, including aerial
observation, to any area and may
inspect all stations, installations,
and equipment; advance notice of all
expeditions and of the introduction
of military personnel must be given;
Article 8 - allows for jurisdiction
over observers and scientists by
their own states; Article 9 -
frequent consultative meetings take
place among member nations; Article
10 - treaty states will discourage
activities by any country in
Antarctica that are contrary to the
treaty; Article 11 - disputes to be
settled peacefully by the parties
concerned or, ultimately, by the
ICJ; Articles 12, 13, 14 - deal with
upholding, interpreting, and
amending the treaty among involved
nations. Other agreements - some 200
recommendations adopted at treaty
consultative meetings and ratified
by governments include - Agreed
Measures for Fauna and Flora (1964)
which were later incorporated into
the Environmental Protocol;
Convention for the Conservation of
Antarctic Seals (1972); Convention
on the Conservation of Antarctic
Marine Living Resources (1980); a
mineral resources agreement was
signed in 1988 but remains
unratified; the Protocol on
Environmental Protection to the
Antarctic Treaty was signed 4
October 1991 and entered into force
14 January 1998; this agreement
provides for the protection of the
Antarctic environment through five
specific annexes: 1) marine
pollution, 2) fauna and flora, 3)
environmental impact assessments, 4)
waste management, and 5) protected
area management; it prohibits all
activities relating to mineral
resources except scientific
research.
Legal system: Antarctica is administered through
meetings of the consultative member
nations. Decisions from these
meetings are carried out by these
member nations (within their areas)
in accordance with their own
national laws. US law, including
certain criminal offenses by or
against US nationals, such as
murder, may apply extra-
territorially. Some US laws directly
apply to Antarctica. For example,
the Antarctic Conservation Act, 16
U.S.C. section 2401 et seq.,
provides civil and criminal
penalties for the following
activities, unless authorized by
regulation of statute: the taking of
native mammals or birds; the
introduction of nonindigenous plants
and animals; entry into specially
protected areas; the discharge or
disposal of pollutants; and the
importation into the US of certain
items from Antarctica. Violation of
the Antarctic Conservation Act
carries penalties of up to $10,000
in fines and one year in prison. The
National Science Foundation and
Department of Justice share
enforcement responsibilities. Public
Law 95-541, the US Antarctic
Conservation Act of 1978, as amended
in 1996, requires expeditions from
the US to Antarctica to notify, in
advance, the Office of Oceans and
Polar Affairs, Room 5801, Department
of State, Washington, DC 20520,
which reports such plans to other
nations as required by the Antarctic
Treaty. For more information,
contact Permit Office, Office of
Polar Programs, National Science
Foundation, Arlington, Virginia
22230; telephone: (703) 292-8030, or
visit their website at www.nsf.gov.

Economy Antarctica
------------------
Economy - overview: Fishing off the coast and tourism,
both based abroad, account for the
limited economic activity. Antarctic
fisheries in 2000-01 (1 July-30
June) reported landing 112,934
metric tons. Unregulated fishing
probably landed more fish than the
regulated fishery, and allegedly
illegal fishing in antarctic waters
in 1998 resulted in the seizure (by
France and Australia) of at least
eight fishing ships. The Convention
on the Conservation of Antarctic
Marine Living Resources determines
the recommended catch limits for
marine species. A total of 12,248
tourists visited in the 2000-01
antarctic summer, down from the
14,762 who visited the previous
year. Nearly all of them were
passengers on 21 commercial
(nongovernmental) ships and several
yachts that made trips during the
summer. Most tourist trips lasted
approximately two weeks.

Communications Antarctica
-------------------------
Telephones - main lines in use: 0
note: information for US bases only
(2001)
Telephones - mobile cellular: NA; Iridium system in use
Telephone system: general assessment: local systems at
some research stations
domestic: NA
international: via satellite from
some research stations
Radio broadcast stations: AM NA, FM 2, shortwave 1
note: information for US bases only
(2002)
Radios: NA
Television broadcast stations: 1 (cable system with six channels;
American Forces Antarctic Network-
McMurdo)
note: information for US bases only
(2002)
Televisions: several hundred at McMurdo Station
(US)
note: information for US bases only
(2001)
Internet country code: .aq
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): NA

Transportation Antarctica
-------------------------
Ports and harbors: there are no developed ports and
harbors in Antarctica; most coastal
stations have offshore anchorages,
and supplies are transferred from
ship to shore by small boats,
barges, and helicopters; a few
stations have a basic wharf
facility; US coastal stations
include McMurdo (77 51 S, 166 40 E),
Palmer (64 43 S, 64 03 W);
government use only except by permit
(see Permit Office under "Legal
System"); all ships at port are
subject to inspection in accordance
with Article 7, Antarctic Treaty;
offshore anchorage is sparse and
intermittent
Airports: 30 (2001)
note: 27 stations, operated by 16
national governments party to the
Antarctic Treaty, have aircraft
landing facilities for either
helicopters and/or fixed-wing
aircraft; commercial enterprises
operate two additional aircraft
landing facilities; helicopter pads
are available at 27 stations;
runways at 15 locations are gravel,
sea-ice, blue-ice, or compacted snow
suitable for landing wheeled, fixed-
wing aircraft; of these, 1 is
greater than 3 km in length, 6 are
between 2 km and 3 km in length, 3
are between 1 km and 2 km in length,
3 are less than 1 km in length, and
2 are of unknown length; snow
surface skiways, limited to use by
ski-equipped, fixed-wing aircraft,
are available at another 15
locations; of these, 4 are greater
than 3 km in length, 3 are between 2
km and 3 km in length, 2 are between
1 km and 2 km in length, 2 are less
than 1 km in length, and 4 are of
unknown length; aircraft landing
facilities generally subject to
severe restrictions and limitations
resulting from extreme seasonal and
geographic conditions; aircraft
landing facilities do not meet ICAO
standards; advance approval from the
respective governmental or
nongovernmental operating
organization required for landing;
landed aircraft are subject to
inspection in accordance with
Article 7, Antarctic Treaty
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 19
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 5 (2001)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
Heliports: 27 stations have helicopter landing
facilities (helipads) (2001)

Military Antarctica
-------------------
Military - note: the Antarctic Treaty prohibits any
measures of a military nature, such
as the establishment of military
bases and fortifications, the
carrying out of military maneuvers,
or the testing of any type of
weapon; it permits the use of
military personnel or equipment for
scientific research or for any other
peaceful purposes

Transnational Issues Antarctica
-------------------------------
Disputes - international: Antarctic Treaty freezes claims (see
Antarctic Treaty Summary in
Government type entry); sections
(some overlapping) claimed by
Argentina, Australia, Chile, France,
NZ, Norway, and UK; the US and most
other states do not recognize the
territorial claims of other states
and have made no claims themselves
(the US and Russia reserve the right
to do so); no claims have been made
in the sector between 90 degrees
west and 150 degrees west; several
states with land claims in
Antarctica have expressed their
intention to submit data to the UN
Commission on the Limits of the
Continental Shelf to extend their
continental shelf claims to
adjoining undersea ridges
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