Who owns Antarctica? Here are the 7 countries that have claimed it

Both theAntarctica be theAntarctic Ocean they enjoy a particular international status, established by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959: there is no specific state that governs the continent with the coldest temperatures, therefore it is not subject to any sovereignty. Despite this, well seven countries have claimed over time, in different percentages, the sovereignty on Antarctica: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Norway, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The great continent rises to geographic south pole and it is considered among the most inhospitable places on the planet due to the freezing temperatures, among the lowest in the world. Between 2000 and 4000 people live there depending on the time of year, but they are almost exclusively researchers and scientists distributed in permanent bases managed by thirty-five countries. So what are the geopolitical interests related to Antarctica?

The Antarctic Treaty: Antarctica belongs to no one

Based on Antarctic Treaty of the 1959the territory of Antarctica, in addition to not belonging to any State, can only be used for reasons related to scientific research and to preserve the international peace. So no activity can be carried out military nor any kind of mineral exploitation on its territory.

To date the Treaty, also known as Washington Treaty named after the city where he was born, it was signed by 56 countriesincluding Italy, and particularly concerns the uninhabited parts of Antarctica under the 60° South latitude.

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With the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, the member countries that claimed portions of the Antarctic territory (including the seven mentioned) suspended their claims and made a commitment to preserve not only natural resources but also exploitation for military or economic reasons .

Between 56 member countries your typologies are distinguished: the Consultative parties formed by 12 members signatories to the Antarctic Treaty and give Villages who carry out activities scientific research in Antarctica or who have established research bases there. These members, which amount to a total of 29they possess dright to vote and binding decision-making power and can conduct inspections of Antarctic territory to ensure compliance with the Compact. The second typology is made up of Contracting Partieswhich currently include 27 countrieswho adhere to the Treaty but in reverse they do not have the right to vote as they do not carry out any of the activities described above on the continent. L'Italy since 1987 it has been a consultative part of the Antarctic Treaty.

An integration of the Treaty is represented by Madrid Protocol of 1991which came into force in 1998, and signed by 42 of the 56 members of the Antarctic Treaty. The Protocol represents a complement by which Antarctica was declared nature reserve and the signatory countries committed themselves to preserving not only peace and scientific research, but also to cooperate and collaborate together sharing the results.

Antarctic Treaty Flag. Source: Alakasam, B1mbo via Wikimedia Commons

The geopolitical importance of Antarctica: why 7 countries claim portions of it

Countries that claim portions of Antarctica have different reasons: Australia, Argentina and Chile they claim that Antarctica is part of their own continental shelf. Chile, for example, considers Antarctica to be an extension of the Andes mountain range. Other countries, like France, Norway and the United Kingdom they instead argue for reasons linked to the fact that they were among the first states to discover these territories. However, with the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, these claims were made suspended.

Antarctica has approximately 90% of the world's fresh surface water and this is also why it is considered so important. In addition to natural resources related to marine fauna and flora, such as the krillan invertebrate organism used in aquaculture, Antarctica is also rich in mineral resources and of hydrocarbons: diamonds, nickel, copper, iron, coal, gold, gas, oil. Their extraction is prohibited, just as any military activity is prohibited; lately, however, this has not prevented the China to install telescopes for satellite controls which could also be used to military purposes.

In fact, last February a new Chinese research base was inaugurated Qinling Stationvery close to the US station McMurdo, which some strategic studies experts believe could be used to collect telemetry data on rocket launches from newly built space facilities. China's presence on the continent continues to expand, to strengthen its role in Arctic and Antarctic affairs, on par with New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

Mario Zucchelli station. Source: Paride Legovini via Wikimedia Commons

The population of Antarctica

While the Arctic has indigenous populations inhabiting its territories such as the Inuit, Evenki, Dolgani, Nenets and Sami, theAntarctica is devoid of indigenous populations, due to the excessively cold temperatures, both in summer and winter, which do not make the area permanently habitable and which also make the supply and conservation of food difficult. The Antarctic population is made up of approximately 2000/4000 people. They are mainly scientific researchers who live in the permanent bases present in the area and in the approximately 80 temporary research centers: geographers, meteorologists, astrophysicists, marine biologists and numerous other research sectors reside in these bases. Me too'Italy is present on the Antarctic territory with the base Mario Zucchelliactive since 1985. The only two inhabited centers present on the continent are Villa Las Estrellas on King George Island ed Esperanza, where in 1978 the first man was born in Antarctica: the Argentine Emilio Marcos Palma.

British Antarctic Survey National Geographic Limes Art IARI