Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

11. Who is running the show? Who is in charge? Is there a government?

Carter,

Good question.  I actually did not know the answer to this, so I had to do a bit of research.  I do know that we have a Station Manager who helps run the show down here.  Each field camp and South Pole also has a Station Manager in charge.  The majority of the other people in charge of Raytheon (who supplies the support staff for NSF) are in Denver, CO.  The politics of the National Science Foundation (NSF) is complicated as well.

But, as far as Antarctica as a continent goes, we have to refer to the Antarctic Treaty because there is no government in Antarctica.  The continent is considered politically neutral and no one country owns it.  The treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries (including the US) to make Antarctica a scientific preserve and adopt environmental protection measures.  The primary purpose of the Antarctic Treaty is to ensure “in the interests 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”  According to the World Desk Reference online, there are territorial claims by Australia, France, New Zealand, and Norway, and overlapping claims in the Antarctic Peninsula by Argentina, Chile, and the UK.  However, other countries do not recognize these claims. 

The treaty also banned military activity on the continent (including formation of military bases, training and weapons testing).  The military does have a presence at McMurdo to support the scientific research.  The military provides all transportation to and from Antarctica for the USAP personnel.

For more information, you can access the Antarctic Treaty Handbook:

http://www.state.gov/g/oes/rls/rpts/ant/

Let me know if there are any further questions about this – I am sure I can dig up the answers somewhere.

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