There are seven sovereign states with claims to areas within Antarctica, they are Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the UK. However, none of their territorial assertions have been accepted on an international level. Despite this, these countries have continued to place scientific observations and carry out experiments in their respective zones.
Currently, the British and the Argentinian claims overlaps thanks to the Falkland Islands, which the UK claimed sovereignty over in 1833 and has maintained ever since.
In 1908, the Government decided to extend this claim, declaring jurisdiction over a huge chunk of the icy continent with the following demands.
It claimed: “South Georgia, the South Orkneys, the South Shetlands and the Sandwich Islands, and the territory known as Graham’s Land, situated in the South Atlantic Ocean to the south of the 50th parallel of south latitude, and lying between the 20th and 80th degrees of west longitude.”
The motivation for this declaration lay in the need to regulate and tax the whaling industry effectively and it was the ambition of Leopold Amery, then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, that Britain incorporates the entire continent into the empire.
Argentina tried to claim a region of Antarctica
The icy continent is of great interest to many countries
The first step was taken on July 30, 1923, when the Government passed an Order in Council under the British Settlements Act 1887, defining the new borders.
However, Argentina and Chile have also had long-invested interests in the area.
In 1904 the Argentine government began a permanent occupation of a section of Antarctica with the purchase of a meteorological station on Laurie Island established in 1903 by Briton Dr William S. Bruce.
Two years later, Argentina communicated to the international community the establishment of a permanent base in the South Orkney Islands – the Orcadas Base.
However, British officer William Haggard responded by reminding Argentina that the South Orkneys were British and the Argentine government entered into negotiations over the possible transfer of the island.
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Many countries have made claims over land
Although these talks were unsuccessful, Argentina attempted to unilaterally establish their sovereignty with the erection of markers, national flags and other symbols.
Finally, Argentina took advantage of World War 2, and with British attention elsewhere, they declared the establishment of Argentine Antarctica in 1943.
They claimed territory which overlapped with Britain and Chile.
In response to this and earlier German explorations, the British Admiralty and Colonial Office launched Operation Tabarin in 1943 to reassert British territorial claims against Argentinian and Chilean incursion and establish a permanent British presence in the Antarctic.
The British personnel removed Argentine flags and established their own bases on Deception Island, where the Union Flag was hoisted.
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Following the end of the war in 1945, the British bases were handed over to civilian members of the newly created Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, the first such national scientific body to be established.
However, friction between Britain and Argentina continued into the post-war period.
Royal Navy warships were dispatched in 1948 to prevent naval incursions, including Operation Highjump, which used 4,700 men, 13 ships, and multiple aircrafts.
The primary objective was to establish the Antarctic research base Little America IV, for the purpose of training personnel and testing equipment in frigid conditions.
Meanwhile, in an attempt at ending the impasse, Britain submitted an application to the International Court of Justice in 1955 to adjudicate between the territorial claims of Britain, Argentina, and Chile.
Territory claims of Antarctica
This proposal failed, as both Latin American countries rejected submitting to an international arbitration procedure.
Finally, to prevent the possibility of military conflict in the region, the United States, United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and nine other countries with significant interests negotiated and signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959.
The treaty entered into force in 1961 and sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation, and banned military activity on the continent.
The treaty was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War.
Today, the document has been signed by 48 countries to regulate international relations.
Britain showed its intentions with the Falklands
However, it is unlikely Argentina will go behind the back of Britain again, after the Falklands War of 1982.
The 10-week conflict, ordered under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, proved Britain was willing to travel the entire Atlantic Ocean, just to protect its Crown colony.
The debate has become relevant again after Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s primary victory in the Argentinian election as a running mate of Alberto Fernandez.
The result sparked fears of a possible battle for land – but Express.co.uk has explained why it would be a near-impossible task for the new government to take any action.
In 1994, an amendment was added to Argentina’s Constitution today that Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands could only ever be effected by peaceful means, meaning the Constitution explicitly rules out invasion.