We know there aren’t any indigenous groups who claim Antarctica, so which country actually has political control of it? The answer is pretty simple, but the explanation is a little more complex.
The answer is: No one.
Here’s why: It wasn’t until the early 1820s when British and American commercial operators began exploring the region, as did official British and Russian national expeditions. Even then, Antarctica was not confirmed to be a continent until 1840, since many groups believed there were only clusters of islands around the South Pole. The area did not become the focus of attention or human activity until early in the 20th century. After World War II, Antarctica became a multi-national center for scientific research.
During this time period, seven countries have attempted to make territorial claims. However, not all countries recognize these claims. As a result, no country has claim to the region. Instead, the Antarctic Treaty was negotiated and signed in 1959 – and it states that no country may deny nor give recognition to existing territorial claims.
29 countries now collaborate in scientific research in Antarctica, with most of the work being done during the summer season when the population balloons to 4,490 people (from its winter population of 1,100 people). The majority of the population is from Argentina, Chile and Australia, but includes scientists from India, South Korea, the Ukraine, and South Africa. Truly a worldwide effort in scientific research!
Click here for more information on Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough’s recent visit to the white continent. Explore Antarctica for yourself with Michael Lang, the Smithsonian’s Scientific Diving Officer, and experience the continent on this once in a lifetime trip.
Have you been to Antarctica? Share your favorite memories with us.