Antarctica is the fourth largest continent on the planet in terms of total area. It is bigger even than Oceania and Europe. And yet it does not have a native population. No countries. There is a vast and inhospitable place that is still empty. And “available”, if we want to see it that way. For this reason, as we have told before in Magnet, seven nations claim different parts of it: New Zealand, Australia, France, Norway, United Kingdom, Chile and Argentina.
It has nothing more and nothing less than 14 million square kilometers. In this extension, ice, cold, wind and an infinity of natural resources to be exploited. However, no one, not even the great powers, has managed to gain control of these lands.
And it’s not that they haven’t tried. In the first half of the 20th century, many countries began a race for claim portions of the territory. Even Nazi Germany asked for part of the cake, claiming a large strip of land that they called New Swabia. After the Second World War, the Antarctic Treaty system, which established the legal framework for the management of the continent, began to take shape.
While Antarctica does not have an official government, it is administered through annual meetings known as Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings. These meetings involve a range of stakeholders, from member countries to observer organizations like the US and Japan, who do explore and study the continent. The pact froze existing territorial claims and established that Antarctica became an international scientific reserve. Since then, another 42 nations have joined the Treaty, although only 29 – those that carry out “substantial research activities” – have voting power and can make decisions about the present and future of the southern region.
The 36 countries and 6 observers that are dedicated to research and that are also signatories to the Antarctic Treaty and the Environmental Protocol participate in COMNAP. This organization is responsible for planning and conducting Antarctic operations in support of science, called “National Antarctic Programs”.
Each country has its own stations and laboratories throughout the southern territory. AND the architecture of each of them is totally different of the previous one. Seen from the air, they are small colored spots in the abysmal white mantle. But what we have built over all these years is worth looking at. This selection of photographs shows all of them, each one of his father and mother.