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Antarctic Treaty System

From 1957-1958, twelve countries participated in expeditions to Antarctica and established over 50 stations. The continent became a focus for studies in oceanography, meteorology, glaciology, and surveying. Since 1961, the Antarctic Treaty System has governed the activities of nations in Antarctica. Today 39 countries, representing all economic systems, all geographic areas and almost all political viewpoints, participate in the treaty system. Several agreements in one, the treaty is in effect an arms control measure, a claims settlement, a science compact and a framework for a limited method of administration in Antarctica affairs. Originally, there were twelve countries, including the United States, that signed the treaty to preserve Antarctica as a continent of peace.

The terms of the treaty are as follows:

  1. Peaceful use of Antarctica
  2. Military operations, except in support of peaceful activities, are prohibited.
  3. Freedom of scientific investigation and the exchange of program plans, personnel, observations, and results.
  4. Nuclear testing and disposal of radioactive waste is prohibited.
  5. Existing claims are not recognized and the assertion of new claims is prohibited.
  6. Any treaty nation has the authority to inspect others' stations and equipment.

The following are the twelve original countries of the Antarctic Treaty (with their current national flags):

United States


South Africa



New Zealand


USSR, now represented by Russia

Great Britain





Something to Think About

  1. Do you agree with the terms of the treaty? Why or why not? If you could change the treaty what changes would you make?
  2. Why do you think countries were interested in Antarctica fifty years ago? Why do you think the United States is still interested in this icy continent? What do you think would happen if the treaty were eliminated?




Published: Wed Oct 12 11:07:07 EDT 2022