This medal was authorized by Public Law 86-600 on July 12, 1961, and the design received final approval in 1963. It is awarded to members of Antarctic expeditions and personnel of the permanent Antarctica stations or for service in contiguous waters, starting with the United States Navy Operation "Highjump" under the late Rear Admiral Richard Byrd in beginning 02 January 1946. It is awarded to officers and enlisted men of the armed forces and to deserving civilians, such as scientists and polar experts.
Subsequent to 01 June 1973, a minimum period of 30 days of service at sea or ashore south of 60 degrees latitude was required. Each day of duty at an outlying station on the Antarctic continent will count as 2 days when determining award eligibility. Effective 01 July 1987, flight crews of aircraft providing logistics support from outside the Antarctic area may qualify for the award after 15 missions (one flight in and out during any 24-hour period equals one mission). Days need not be consecutive.
A "Wintered Over" clasp is awarded to those who have spent the winter months (March through October) in Antarctica. A bronze clasp (or miniature Antarctic continent device on the service ribbon) signifies one winter; gold two and silver three or more winters.
20 June 1998