|Plan to exploit regions seen as huge ecological risk; Britain's Foreign Office defends "safeguard of U.K. interests".|
Environmental groups Wednesday condemned British plans to claim sovereignty over a vast tract of the seabed off the coast of Antarctica, with Greenpeace and WWF expressing dismay that the Foreign Office was contemplating possible oil, gas and mineral exploration in the region.
The Guardian Wednesday revealed that the Foreign Office was preparing to submit a rights claim to the United Nations commission on the limits of the continental shelf (CLCS) for 1 million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) of seabed off the coast of the British Antarctic Territory.
Any claim, it is alleged, could threaten the stability of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which froze territorial disputes on the world's least explored continent. Drilling for oil or gas would disrupt the fragile marine ecology of the Southern Ocean, environmentalists warn.
Simon Walmsley, head of WWF-UK's marine program, insisted: "There should be no oil or gas exploitation in Antarctica. It's such a fragile habitat. Some of the sea creatures there are killed by a rise in temperature of merely 1.1C. It would be a body blow for the whole region.
"Knowing about these continental shelf claims, I question whether the government is serious enough to go through with this claim. It may be a tactic. It's something a lot of countries are doing as they have a deadline [of May 2009] for their claims. In no way would we support oil or gas exploration in Antarctica. The mechanism of the treaty is a good one. [Claims] like this won't help."
Charlie Kronick, Greenpeace U.K.'s climate change campaign manager, called the move "hugely irresponsible". He said: "It's astonishing that the government is leading the international charge on climate change but also leading the charge for an oil rush ... Antarctica is the last great wilderness and the poles are going to get the hardest hit by climate change. [This move] is wrong-headed however you look at it."
Chile and Argentina, which claim Antarctic territories which overlap the British Antarctic Territory, could also submit claims for similar seabed areas. Wednesday the Chilean and Argentinian embassies in London did not comment. However, the director of Chile's Antarctic Institute, Jose Retamales Espinoza, said he was sure his government would look into the issue.
Last month, after the Guardian revealed the U.K. also planned to claim seabed adjacent to the Falklands Islands, the Argentinian president, Nestor Kirchner, told the U.N.: "It's time the U.K. puts an end to the anachronism of retaining an occupation dating back to colonial times."
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office, which Wednesday noted that Australia and New Zealand had already lodged CLCS claims for Antarctic seabed, said: "To safeguard our interests ... we are submitting a claim. We are one of many coastal states submitting various claims."
Claims of Antarctica
Several countries have laid claim to territory in Antarctica. The Antarctic Treaty took effect on 1961-06-23, having been ratified by all the claimant nations and a number of others. By its terms, all territorial disputes in Antarctica were suspended. The claimants were not required to relax their claims. No new claims would be allowed. The treaty would be renewed periodically. Until further disposal of the claims, the continent was open to all legitimate uses. The area covered by the treaty is everything south of latitude 60 degrees South. This encompasses all of the Antarctic continent and adjacent islands.
Time zone note: Antarctic research stations generally observe the same time standard as their supply bases. Palmer Station follows
mainland Chile time (-4 ~). Amundsen-Scott Station (at the South Pole), McMurdo Station, and Scott Station on Ross Island all follow New Zealand time (+12 ~). This leads to the paradox that at the South Pole, where there is no daylight in the winter and nothing but daylight in the summer, clocks are set forward each spring and backward each fall to "save daylight."
Other names of country:
- Danish: Antarktis
- French: Antarctique m
- German: Antarktis
- Italian: Antartide
- Norwegian: Antarktis
- Portuguese: Antártida f
- Spanish: Antártida
Antipode of the Arctic. Arctic <>arktos: bear (for the constellations of the Great and Little Bear)
These divisions are obviously not the administrative divisions of a political whole. However, they appear to be the most useful way of subdividing Antarctica.
|Claim||HASC||West end||East end|
|Unclaimed||150° W.||90° W.|
|Chile Claim||90° W.||80° W.|
|Chile/UK Claim||80° W.||74° W.|
|Chile/UK/Argentina Claim||74° W.||53° W.|
|Argentina/UK Claim||53° W.||25° W.|
|United Kingdom Claim||25° W.||20° W.|
|Norway Claim||20° W.||45° E.|
|Australia Claim||45° E.||136° E.|
|142° E.||160° E.|
|France Claim||136° E.||142° E.|
|New Zealand Claim||160° E.||150° W.|
- Unclaimed includes Marie Byrd Land, part of Ellsworth Land, and Peter I Island. Peter I Island is an exception to the unclaimed status. It is claimed by Norway as a dependency.
- Chile Claim includes part of Ellsworth Land.
- Chile/UK Claim includes part of Ellsworth Land.
- Chile/UK/Argentina Claim includes part of Ellsworth Land and the Antarctic Peninsula (Graham Land, Palmer Land). There are also numerous islands, including the South Shetland Islands, of which King George Island is the largest. Prior to the Antarctic Treaty, the South Shetlands and South Orkneys were part of the Falkland Islands Dependencies.
- Argentina/UK Claim includes part of Coats Land, part of Berkner Island, and the South Orkney Islands, of which the largest is Coronation Island.
- United Kingdom Claim is part of Coats Land.
- Norway Claim is Queen Maud Land.
- Australia Claim includes Enderby Land, Wilkes Land, and part of Victoria Land.
- France Claim is Adélie Land.
- New Zealand Claim includes part of Victoria Land, most of the Ross Ice Shelf, the Balleny Islands, and Sturge Island.
- The Argentine claim has an area of about 1,230,000 sq. km. If Argentina's claim were recognized, it would be part of the territory of Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur.
- The Australian claim has an area of about 6,115,000 sq. km. If Australia's claim were recognized, this area would be an external territory of Australia, named Australian Antarctic Territory.
- The Chilean claim has an area of 1,270,000 sq. km. If Chile's claim were recognized, this area would be part of the Chilean region of Magallanes.
- The French claim has an area of about 430,000 sq. km. If France's claim were recognized, this area would be part of French Southern and Antarctic Territories (treated as a country in this book).
- The New Zealander claim has an area of about 420,000 sq. km. If New Zealand's claim were recognized, it would be an overseas territory of New Zealand, named Ross Dependency.
- If Norway's claim were recognized, it would be a dependency of Norway, named Queen Maud Land.
- The British claim has an area of about 1,710,000 sq. km. If the United Kingdom's claim were recognized, it would be a territory named British Antarctic Territory.
- The total area of Antarctica is about 14,000,000 sq. km.
- Adélie Land: named by the French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville for his wife Adèle.
- Ellsworth Land: named for American explorer Lincoln Ellsworth.
- Enderby Land: named for the whaling company, Samuel Enderby & Sons, that financed the expedition which discovered it.
- Queen Maud Land: named for Queen Maud, consort of Haakon VII of Norway, daughter of Edward VII of England.
- Ross Dependency (New Zealand Claim): named for Sir James Clark Ross, a British Antarctic explorer.
- Adélie Land: Terra Adelia (Italian); Terre Adélia (Portuguese); Terre Adélie (French)
- British Antarctic Territory: Falkland Islands Dependency (obsolete); Territorio Antartico Britannico (Italian); Território Britânico da Antárctica (Portuguese)
- Peter I Island: Peter I Øy (Norwegian)
- Queen Maud Land: Dronning Maud Land (Norwegian); Königin-Maud-Land (German); Terra da Rainha Maud (Portuguese); Terra Regina Maud (Italian); Terre de la Reine-Maud (French)
- Ross Dependency: Dependência de Ross (Portuguese)
See also: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2007/oct/17/antarctica.sciencenews
October 18 2007Leader: Like other international institutions, the Antarctic treaty is today struggling amid the instability and unilateralism of the post-cold-war world and in the face of competition for energy resources.Antarctica
October 18 2007David Adam: The British territory is a source of international friction, because Chile and Argentina also want some of it.Antarctica
June 22 2007Antarctica
American study says nutrient-rich melt water creates marine ecosystem that absorbs carbon dioxide.
June 15 2007Obituary: Polar explorer, writer and artist, he was the first man to walk to the north pole.Antarctica
June 14 2007· Tributes flow in for 'the greatest since Scott'Antarctica
· Explorations aided study of cause of thinning ice
April 30 2007Antarctica
UK moves to help thwart accidents and pollution from rise in Antarctic cruises.
March 10 2007Antarctica
Coca-Cola and oil company fund 'life changing' course for executives near pole.
February 26 2007Antarctica | Science news
· Scientists research world sealed off for 12,000 years
· Marine life transformed by rapid climate change
January 15 2007Group of friends ski to Antarctic's remotest point.Antarctica | Science news
January 14 2007In a few weeks coroner Richard McElrea, based in Christchurch, New Zealand, will produce a report that may resolve one of the strangest, and most baffling, deaths in the southern hemisphere: the poisoning of astrophysicist Rodney Marks at the South Pole.Antarctica