Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013



This week's blog comes to us from the Antarctic!  That's where the Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge is taking place.  Basically, it's a bunch of wealthy, adventurous dudes who are racing to the South Pole for charity.  It's too bad the event isn't being turned into a Reality TV show.  We love the stars.  There's Hunky Prince Harry, "True Blood" star Alexander Skarsgard and Dominic West from 'The Wire.'   Watching them slogging through the snow would make for a great show!

Anyhow, we here at the DUNER BLOG saw the event as a great opportunity to answer the age old question: Who owns Antarctica anyhow? 

RUSSIA.  If any one nation has a valid claim to the entire continent, it's Russia.  Per the colonial rules: Whichever European explorer sees a land mass first, gets to claim it as sovereign territory.  Therefore, the Russian explorer Mikhail Lazarev was indeed the first human ever to see the frozen land in 1830  Today, the largest research base on Antarctica bears the name of his ship: The Vostok.

NORWAY.  If Russia's claims seem arbitrary, then we really need to take Norway's into consideration.  On December 14th, 1911 famed explorer Roald Adumnson became the first person to set foot on the South Pole.  Joining him were four other Norwegians and 16 dogs.  They plopped their flag deep into the ice and called it Queen Maud Land.

BRITAIN & FRANCE.  Following World War I, both nations simultaneously made large claims of Antarctic land.  Using the South Pole as the center, they carved up slices of pie based on longitude lines.  These claims were coordinated with scientific missions as well.  England's slice is called Queen Elizabeth's Land while France's territory is known as Adelie's Land.

GERMANY.  Everyone knows the Third Reich was into World Domination...but didja know they conquered Antarctica?  True story: In 1938, German planes dropped thousands of aluminum poles with plastic swastika flags over 96,500 square miles of land.  Hitler called the new province 'New Schwabia."  NOTE: These claims are defunct today.

NEW ZEALAND.  The British explorer James Clark Ross was one of the first people to map the continent's coastline from 1839 - 43.  The region due south of New Zealand was called Victoria's Land.  After independence, the Royal Crown officially seeded the area to the new government in Wellington.  Out of respect, the region was renamed after the explorer as the Ross Dependency.

AUSTRALIA.  Shortly afterward, the jealous Aussies demanded a share of Antarctica as well.  Enderby Land was made official a year later in 1933.  Since Australia has the largest coastline facing Antarctica, it has the biggest chunk of land as well.  NOTE: This is where every one's favorite Antarctic movie, March of the Penguins, was filmed.

CHILE.  Conversely, if Australia has the longest southern-facing coastline, then poor, skinny Chile has the smallest.  However, Chile happens to be the nation closest to Antarctica.  This means quicker access to bases.

ARGENTINA.  Naturally, the Argentine claim begins at the exact spot where the Chilean claim ends.  It is interesting to note that both South American nations have their Antarctic wedges classified as official provinces, despite their lack of a permanent populations.  

ANTARCTIC TREATY.  On December 1, 1959, all eight nations signed legislation which neither validated their claims nor disavowed them.  Rather, it laid down rules for future use of Antarctic lands.  Specifically, it sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation and bans military activity and mining.  However...if something really valuable is discovered, you know this piece of paper will be scrapped!

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