Permanent Occupation and the Antarctic Treaty | Polar Unbound

Permanent Occupation and the Antarctic Treaty

After WWII, Antarctic exploration once again picked up and entered a new phase of permanent occupation. Though Britain had technically led the way with the establishment of their secret bases, Argentina followed up in 1947 with the construction of a base on Gamma Island. Only a week later, Chile set up a base in the South Shetlands. Thus began a scramble, and by 1955, Argentina, Britain and Chile had established 21 stations in the Antarctic Peninsula region. 

A major motivator for international occupation was the International Geophysical Year (IGY), an event conceived in the same spirit of the International Polar Years of 1882-83 and 1932-33, though those scientific cooperations had largely centered around the Arctic. The IGY was scheduled for 1957-1958 with the intent of bringing international focus to the Antarctic. The incentive proved successful, and by 1956-1957 the IGY was underway and 42 bases supported 6,167 people. 

The IGY eventually proved so successful that every participating nation established permanent research programs, and the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) created the Special Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) in an effort to coordinate scientific cooperation between participating nations. This also lead to the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, which neutralized territorial claims while dedicating Antarctica for scientific and peaceful purposes.