Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy Antarctica Day!

On this day (December 1) in 1959, the Antarctic Treaty was signed.

The Antarctic Treaty sets aside the continent for scientific research and international scientific cooperation. It also includes agreements that set out the guidelines for the preservation of Antarctica's environment and conservation of Antarctic flora and fauna. Further, Antarctica is preserved by the treaty for only peaceful purposes. All military action is banned, and it was the first anti-nuclear treaty made during the Cold War. Quite an accomplishment! As a result of the treaty, there are no territorial claims over Antarctica. That makes Antarctica the only continent with no nations.

The treaty was originally signed by the 12 nations that were actively working in Antarctica at the time, but since then the number has grown to 48 nations. Together, those nations represent about two thirds of the world's population.

The treaty, still today, is a great example of the benefits of international cooperation! We all share a mutual interest, right, and responsibility regarding Antarctica, in terms of research, preservation, and peacefulness.

Preamble of the Antarctic Treaty:

The Governments of Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, the French Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Union of South Africa, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America,

Recognizing that it is in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord;

Acknowledging the substantial contributions to scientific knowledge resulting from international cooperation in scientific investigation in Antarctica;

Convinced that the establishment of a firm foundation for the continuation and development of such cooperation on the basis of freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica as applied during the International Geophysical Year accords with the interests of science and the progress of all mankind;

Convinced also that a treaty ensuring the use of Antarctica for peaceful purposes only and the continuance of international harmony in Antarctica will further the purposes and principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations;

Have agreed as follows... (You can read the entire text of the treaty at the NSF website.)

So, to honor this great example of international cooperation and all of the exciting science that has come from such a unique location, I wish you a Happy Antarctica Day!