Antarctica stands alone as the sole continent devoid of permanent human habitation. Nonetheless, there exist enduring human outposts where scientists and support personnel inhabit these remote reaches on a rotational basis throughout the year.
The continent of Antarctica encompasses the vast majority of the Antarctic expanse. This frigid and distant realm, situated in the Southern Hemisphere, is demarcated by the Antarctic Convergence—an irregular line of latitude where frigid, southward-flowing Antarctic waters converge with the warmer waters of the world's oceans. Antarctica blankets approximately 20 per cent of the Southern Hemisphere.
Antarctica has no countries, yet seven distinct countries lay territorial claims across this frozen domain.
List of Territorial Ownership of Countries In Antarctica
As previously mentioned, seven nations assert territorial ownership in Antarctica. These nations include:
- France (Adélie Land)
- United Kingdom (British Antarctic Territory)
- New Zealand (Ross Dependency)
- Norway (Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land)
- Australia (Australian Antarctic Territory)
- Chile (Chilean Antarctic Territory)
- Argentina (Argentine Antarctica)
While France first staked its claim to a portion of the continent in 1840, the majority of claims materialized during the early-to-mid 1900s, courtesy of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Norway, Australia, Chile, Argentina, and Germany.
By 1959, twelve countries collaboratively conceived the 1959 Antarctic Treaty: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the U.S.S.R. (Russia), the United Kingdom, and the United States. This treaty took effect in 1961 and had garnered signatures from 54 nations by 2021. The Antarctic Treaty designates the continent as a neutral territory exclusively dedicated to peaceful scientific pursuits.
Regions In Antarctica
The majority of Antarctica's regions are shrouded in perpetual snow, with winter temperatures plummeting as low as -76°F (-60°C). Antarctica's harsh climate and conditions have precluded human colonization, maintaining the land as an open expanse largely devoid of territorial disputes.
Here is a list of regions in Antarctica:
1. The South Orkney Islands
Located in the Southern Ocean, 604 kilometres north of the Antarctic Peninsula, this region has been under British sovereignty as part of the British Antarctic Territory since 1962.
2. Enderby Land
Stretching from Edward VIII Bay in the east to Queen Maud Land in the west, this area encompasses 2,000 square kilometres of ice-free coastal land. Due to its remoteness and limited visitation, information about the region's flora and fauna remains scant. However, surveys have revealed the presence of springtails, tardigrades, and nematodes, over 20 species of liverworts and mosses, and 30 species of lichens.
3. Ellsworth Land
Situated between the Bellingshausen Sea and the Ronne Ice Shelf, this sub-region was discovered by Lincoln Ellsworth and Herbert Hollick-Keyon during a pioneering crossing of Antarctica. It boasts a few isolated ice-free areas, primarily on mountaintops. Scientific study in this region has been sparse, but records indicate low plant diversity, with only 40 species of lichens and five species of mosses documented.
4. Adélie Land
Extending from the Southern Ocean coastline to the South Pole, this sub-region was discovered in 1840 by the French explorer Jules Dumont D'Urville, who bestowed the name in honour of his wife. In 1952, France took administrative control under the French Southern Antarctic districts and established a meteorological station in the area. Adélie Land experiences katabatic winds that push sea ice away from the coastline.
Marie Byrd Land
This expansive, unclaimed territory covers over 1,600,000 square kilometres. It was named after the wife of Richard E. Byrd, the first naval officer to explore the region in the 20th century. Situated south of the Pacific Ocean and east of the Ross Sea, the region features predominantly lichens and non-living aquatic algae as its vegetation. Among the notable organisms is the Buellia frigida lichen, known for its resilience in extreme conditions, often utilized in experiments simulating space conditions. Invertebrates in this Antarctic region include nematodes, springtails, mites, and rotifers.
Queen Maud Land
Encompassing a landmass of 2.7 million square kilometres, this region borders the Australian Antarctic Territory to the east and the British Antarctic Territory to the west. It is believed that Hjlmar Riiser-Larsen, a Norwegian citizen, was the first to set foot in the area. In 1939, the area was placed under Norwegian protectorate administration. The vast majority of Queen Maud Land is blanketed by ice sheets, with limited pockets of flora growth primarily on mountain ranges.