Antarctica - Profile
- Until very recently the number of sailing boats which visited the seventh continent could be counted in single figures. The increasing popularity of Patagonia among cruising sailors has now spilled over and every year more yachts venture south of the 60th parallel. Almost without exception, their destination is the Antarctic Peninsula, which extends northwards for about 300 miles from the permanently frozen landmass.
- The western side of this peninsula is usually free of ice during the short summer, which makes it possible to find the occasional sheltered anchorage. In some milder years, the peninsula can be free of ice as far south as 70°S, but this is quite rare. The number of protected harbours is very small and any boat venturing that far south should be totally self-sufficient in every respect, as well as strong enough to withstand the danger of collision with floating ice, or even the possibility of being frozen in.
- To study and protect the Antarctic, and also to carry out research in various fields, the international community has agreed to administer the territory jointly. These provisions are encompassed in the Antarctic Treaty which was signed in 1959 by Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the USSR, United Kingdom and USA. The Treaty came into force in 1961; since then a total of 44 countries have acceded to it.
- The Treaty reserves the Antarctic area south of 60°S latitude for peaceful purposes, provides for international scientific co-operation, and preserves for the duration of the Treaty, the status quo as regards territorial rights and claims. In 1991 a Protocol on Environmental Protection was signed by the Treaty parties. The Protocol came into force in January 1998 following ratification by all consultative parties to the Antarctic Treaty. The Protocol consists of a framework document laying out a series of environmental principles contained in six annexes. These deal with environmental impact assessment, conservation of flora and fauna, waste disposal and management, prevention of marine pollution, protected areas and emergency liability.
- Burocracy is marching on, also into the white continent. In case you plan a visit, make sure to comply with the requirements of the Antartic Treaty: www.ats.aq.
- Neither provisions nor repair facilities are available and, for one's own safety, one should not expect to rely on outside help. The personnel of the research stations are usually far too busy to help out, and their resources are also limited, so help can only be expected in serious emergencies.
- Charts may be incomplete or inaccurate; care should be taken over uncharted rocks.
British Antarctic Territory The British Antarctic Territory was established in 1962 and encompasses the lands and islands within the area south of 60°S lying between 20°W and 80°W. The area of approximately 500,000 sq miles (1.3 million sq km) includes the South Orkney and South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula (Palmer Land and Graham Land). There is no permanent population, but there is always a number of scientists and other personnel manning the various research stations.
Australian Antarctic Territory The AAT, with a total land area of 5,800,000 sq km, consists of all islands and territories south of latitude 60°S and between longitudes 45° and 160° east except for the French sector of Terre Adélie (which comprises the islands and territories south of 60°S latitude and between longitudes 136° and 142° east). The AAT is the single largest sector of the continent and covers much of east Antarctica. There are three stations (Mawson, Davis and Casey), and various summer bases and temporary field camps. There is a temporary population of scientists, ranging from about 70 in winter to 200 in summer.
For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page.
There are several bases along the Antarctic Peninsula and most of them are manned during the summer months, when the area is most likely to be visited by cruising boats. None of them should be visited without prior arrangement, or they should be at least contacted on VHF radio before going ashore. The nearest are the Chilean and Argentine bases in Paradise Harbour (64°53'S 62°52'W), the Ukraine base at the Argentine Islands (formerly the British Faraday base at 65°15'S 64°16'W) and the US Palmer base on Anvers Island (64°45'S 64°03'W).
The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust usually has a person on duty during the summer months at the former base, now a museum, at Port Lockroy on Wiencke Island (64°49'S 63°31'W).
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