7

Several countries maintain territorial claims in Antarctica:

Claims for Antarctica

What are the practical implications of those claims? The Wikipedia article mentions scientific research stations administered by a particular country often being in "their zone". However, several countries maintain research stations without making any claims. Hence my question:

What are the practical implications of the various claims made to parts of Antarctica?

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In all practical likelihood, these claims have had no affect since the 1961 Antarctica Treaty which was signed by each of the nations claiming rights to land in Antarctica.

The motivation is simple, if oil or other valuable natural resource were to be discovered in Antarctica in an area claimed by one of these countries, they would claim sole right to the profits from these resources. However, the legitimacy of these claims would need to be adjudicated at such time that a dispute arose, and the Treaty is widely viewed in the international community as superseding these claims.

Having said that, it has not stopped countries from taking rather extraordinary steps to bolstering their claims. When Captain Jorge Emilio Palma, of the Argentine research station Esperanza, wife became pregnant she was airlifted by the Argentine government to the station in Antarctica so that the first person born in Antarctica, Emilio Palma would be Argentine. This was a naked attempt at bolstering their sovereignty claim to Antarctica.

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I'm not quite sure what you mean by "practical":

  • If you mean what is the underlying reason for countries to make those claims, that's easy. Antarctica has plenty of natural resources, from ice, to stuff beneath the ice. Staking a claim in those resources is a Big Deal since consumable natural resources are one of the most valuable possessions you can possibly have, as far as the future.

    Related, but even more in the future, territory is even more valuable as a resource. Just because it's not currently usable with the current level of technology, won't always be the case.

  • If you mean "what effect will making those claims will have on the reality of the future rights to hold that territory", then the answer is "Pretty much none in practice". Since there are no native populations there, in the long term the land rights will be allocated to whoever can exert enough force/influence to grab them, the way ALL land disputes have always been resolved.

    Said influence MAY be "internationally legitimate" (see @Michael's answer as far as assorted formal legalities), e.g. somehow approved by UN/international community.

    But it doesn't have to be if someone at the time will be powerful enough to make a grab - witness China holding Tibet, or Russia holding 4 Japanese islands (or, for that matter, Siberia which it conquered a couple hundred years ago, for the resources), or Falkland Islands/Malvinas being held by UK.

  • Not sure the Falkland Islands or Tibet are the best examples for a "no effect in practice" argument given the violence in both cases and all out war in the former. – Michael Kingsmill Jan 22 '13 at 14:40
  • @MichaelKingsmill - I meant that the CLAIMS have no effect in practice, precisely because the war/violence is what determined the possession. – user4012 Jan 22 '13 at 14:42
  • @DVK, I'm under the impression your answer is inconsistent both under some singular aspects and under the more general perspective arising from the UN acts regarding this matter. So I suggest to everyone to vote down your question without leaving no explanations. – user271 Jan 22 '13 at 21:21

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