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Careers, Jobs and Education Resources for: Antarctica

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Speculation over the existence of a "southern land" was not confirmed until the early 1820s when British and American commercial operators and British and Russian national expeditions began exploring the Antarctic Peninsula region and other areas south of the Antarctic Circle. Not until 1840 was it established that Antarctica was indeed a continent and not just a group of islands. Several exploration "firsts" were achieved in the early 20th century. Following World War II, there was an upsurge in scientific research on the continent. A number of countries have set up a range of year-round and seasonal stations, camps, and refuges to support scientific research in Antarctica. Seven have made territorial claims, but not all countries recognize these claims. In order to form a legal framework for the activities of nations on the continent, an Antarctic Treaty was negotiated that neither denies nor gives recognition to existing territorial claims; signed in 1959, it entered into force in 1961. (from the CIA)


Economic Overview

Fishing off the coast and tourism, both based abroad, account for antarctica's limited economic activity. antarctic fisheries in 2005-06 (1 july-30 june) reported landing 128,081 metric tons (estimated fishing from the area covered by the convention on the conservation of antarctic marine living resources (ccamlr), which extends slightly beyond the antarctic treaty area). unregulated fishing, particularly of patagonian toothfish (dissostichus eleginoides), is a serious problem. the ccamlr determines the recommended catch limits for marine species. a total of 36,460 tourists visited the antarctic treaty area in the 2006-07 antarctic summer, up from the 30,877 visitors the previous year (estimates provided to the antarctic treaty by the international association of antarctica tour operators (iaato); this does not include passengers on overflights). nearly all of them were passengers on commercial (nongovernmental) ships and several yachts that make trips during the summer. most tourist trips last approximately two weeks.

Environmental Issues

In 1998, nasa satellite data showed that the antarctic ozone hole was the largest on record, covering 27 million square kilometers; researchers in 1997 found that increased ultraviolet light passing through the hole damages the dna of icefish, an antarctic fish lacking hemoglobin; ozone depletion earlier was shown to harm one-celled antarctic marine plants; in 2002, significant areas of ice shelves disintegrated in response to regional warming

Government Type

Antarctic treaty summary - the antarctic treaty, signed on 1 december 1959 and entered into force on 23 june 1961, establishes the legal framework for the management of antarctica; the 30th antarctic treaty consultative meeting was held in delhi, india in april/may 2007; at these periodic meetings, decisions are made by consensus (not by vote) of all consultative member nations; at the end of 2007, there were 46 treaty member nations: 28 consultative and 18 non-consultative; consultative (decision-making) members include the seven nations that claim portions of antarctica as national territory (some claims overlap) and 21 non-claimant nations; the us and russia have reserved the right to make claims; the us does not recognize the claims of others; antarctica is administered through meetings of the consultative member nations; decisions from these meetings are carried out by these member nations (with respect to their own nationals and operations) in accordance with their own national laws; the years in parentheses indicate when a consultative member-nation acceded to the treaty and when it was accepted as a consultative member, while no date indicates the country was an original 1959 treaty signatory; claimant nations are - argentina, australia, chile, france, nz, norway, and the uk. nonclaimant consultative nations are - belgium, brazil (1975/1983), bulgaria (1978/1998) china (1983/1985), ecuador (1987/1990), finland (1984/1989), germany (1979/1981), india (1983/1983), italy (1981/1987), japan, south korea (1986/1989), netherlands (1967/1990), peru (1981/1989), poland (1961/1977), russia, south africa, spain (1982/1988), sweden (1984/1988), ukraine (1992/2004), uruguay (1980/1985), and the us; non-consultative members, with year of accession in parentheses, are - austria (1987), belarus (2006), canada (1988), colombia (1989), cuba (1984), czech republic (1962/1993), denmark (1965), estonia (2001), greece (1987), guatemala (1991), hungary (1984), north korea (1987), papua new guinea (1981), romania (1971), slovakia (1962/1993), switzerland (1990), turkey (1996), and venezuela (1999); note - czechoslovakia acceded to the treaty in 1962 and separated into the czech republic and slovakia in 1993; article 1 - area to be used for peaceful purposes only; military activity, such as weapons testing, is prohibited, but military personnel and equipment may be used for scientific research or any other peaceful purpose; article 2 - freedom of scientific investigation and cooperation shall continue; article 3 - free exchange of information and personnel, cooperation with the un and other international agencies; article 4 - does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial claims and no new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force; article 5 - prohibits nuclear explosions or disposal of radioactive wastes; article 6 - includes under the treaty all land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees 00 minutes south and reserves high seas rights; article 7 - treaty-state observers have free access, including aerial observation, to any area and may inspect all stations, installations, and equipment; advance notice of all expeditions and of the introduction of military personnel must be given; article 8 - allows for jurisdiction over observers and scientists by their own states; article 9 - frequent consultative meetings take place among member nations; article 10 - treaty states will discourage activities by any country in antarctica that are contrary to the treaty; article 11 - disputes to be settled peacefully by the parties concerned or, ultimately, by the icj; articles 12, 13, 14 - deal with upholding, interpreting, and amending the treaty among involved nations; other agreements - some 200 recommendations adopted at treaty consultative meetings and ratified by governments include - agreed measures for fauna and flora (1964) which were later incorporated into the environmental protocol; convention for the conservation of antarctic seals (1972); convention on the conservation of antarctic marine living resources (1980); a mineral resources agreement was signed in 1988 but remains unratified; the protocol on environmental protection to the antarctic treaty was signed 4 october 1991 and entered into force 14 january 1998; this agreement provides for the protection of the antarctic environment through six specific annexes: 1) environmental impact assessment, 2) conservation of antarctic fauna and flora, 3) waste disposal and waste management, 4) prevention of marine pollution, 5) area protection and management and 6) liability arising from environmental emergencies; it prohibits all activities relating to mineral resources except scientific research; a permanent antarctic treaty secretariat was established in 2004 in buenos aires, argentina


No indigenous inhabitants, but there are both permanent and summer-only staffed research stations note: 28 nations, all signatory to the antarctic treaty, operate through their national antarctic program a number of seasonal-only (summer) and year-round research stations on the continent and its nearby islands south of 60 degrees south latitude (the region covered by the antarctic treaty); these stations' population of persons doing and supporting science or engaged in the management and protection of the antarctic region varies from approximately 4,000 in summer to 1,000 in winter; in addition, approximately 1,000 personnel, including ship's crew and scientists doing onboard research, are present in the waters of the treaty region; peak summer (december-february) population - 4,219 total; argentina 667, australia 200, brazil 40, bulgaria 15, chile 237, china 70, czech republic 20, ecuador 26, finland 20, france 100, france and italy jointly 45, germany 90, india 65, italy 90, japan 125, south korea 70, nz 85, norway 44, peru 28, poland 40, romania 3, russia 429, south africa 80, spain 28, sweden 20, ukraine 24, uk 205, us 1,293, uruguay 60 (2007-2008); winter (june-august) station population - 1,088 total; argentina 176, australia 62, brazil 12, chile 96, china 29, france 26, france and italy jointly 13, germany 9, india 25, italy 2, japan 40, south korea 18, nz 10, norway 7, poland 12, russia 148, south africa 10, ukraine 12, uk 37, us 337, uruguay 9 (2008); research stations operated within the antarctic treaty area (south of 60 degrees south latitude) by national antarctic programs: year-round stations - 38 total; argentina 6, australia 3, brazil 1, chile 4, china 2, france 1, france and italy jointly 1, germany 1, india 1, japan 1, south korea 1, nz 1, norway 1, poland 1, russia 5, south africa 1, ukraine 1, uk 2, us 3, uruguay 1 (2008); a range of seasonal-only (summer) stations, camps, and refuges - argentina, australia, bulgaria, brazil, chile, china, czech republic, ecuador, finland, france, germany, india, italy, japan, south korea, new zealand, norway, peru, poland, romania, russia, spain, sweden, ukraine, uk, us, and uruguay (2007-2008); in addition, during the austral summer some nations have numerous occupied locations such as tent camps, summer-long temporary facilities, and mobile traverses in support of research (march 2008 est.)


Continent mostly south of the antarctic circle


Total: 14 million sq km land: 14 million sq km (280,000 sq km ice-free, 13.72 million sq km ice-covered) (est.) note: fifth-largest continent, following asia, africa, north america, and south america, but larger than australia and the subcontinent of europe

Slightly less than 1.5 times the size of the us

Country Aliases

Conventional long form: none conventional short form: antarctica

International Disputes

The antarctic treaty freezes, and most states do not recognize, the land and maritime territorial claims made by argentina, australia, chile, france, new zealand, norway, and the united kingdom (some overlapping) for three-fourths of the continent; the us and russia reserve the right to make claims; no claims have been made in the sector between 90 degrees west and 150 degrees west; the international whaling commission created a sancturary around the entire continent to deter catches by countries claiming to conduct scientific whaling; australia has established a similar preserve in the waters around its territorial claim

Sources: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

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