Statue of Admiral Byrd and flags of Antarctic Treaty member states
Photo Credit - Chris Linder/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

50th Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Antarctic Treaty

The Antarctic Treaty entered into force in June of 1961. The Treaty establishes Antarctica as a scientific preserve, banning military activity on the continent. Military personnel and equipment may be used for scientific research or any other peaceful purpose (such as delivering supplies). The Antarctic Treaty specifically prohibits military activity on land or ice shelves below 60°S.

Temperature Trend Image by NASA
Photo Credit - NASA

50th Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Antarctic Treaty

The Antarctic Treaty was one of the first arms control agreements established during the Cold War. Article V of the Treaty absolutely prohibits nuclear weapons. Additionally the Treaty strictly forbids the disposal of radioactive wastes. The Antarctic is one of nine internationally recognized Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones, which include Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa, Central Asia, Mongolia, the seabed, and outer space.

Flags of several nations on parade at the South Pole
Photo Credit - Glenn Grant/National Science Foundation

50th Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Antarctic Treaty

The Treaty had twelve original signatory countries. Currently, forty-eight nations representing approximately two thirds of the world's population are part of the Antarctic Treaty System.

Text of the Antarctic Treaty (PDF)

Antarctic Treaty Flag
Antarctic Treaty Flag

50th Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Antarctic Treaty

The Antarctic Treaty Secretariat was established in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2003. The Secretariat supports the Treaty system and its main purpose which is to ensure "in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue for ever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord."

Antarctic Treaty Secretariat

Scientific research in the Antarctic
Photo Credit - Peter Rejcek/National Science Foundation

50th Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Antarctic Treaty

Scientific research on marine flora and fauna, the ozone hole, global weather patterns and climate-change all provide valuable data about the state of the earth and its ecology. The information captured from these experiments allows researchers to help leaders develop policies to protect our planet's ecosystems.

Emperor penguins
Photo Credit - Glenn Grant/National Science Foundation

50th Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Antarctic Treaty

Antarctica is the world's largest wilderness area and a place of incomparable natural beauty. It is home to seven species of penguins, including the Emperor Penguin (pictured here) as well as numerous other species of birds, whales, and seals. There are also over 200 species of fish which are known to live in the waters of Antarctica.

Directional sign post
Photo Credit - Glenn Grant/60South.com

50th Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Antarctic Treaty

For the past 50 years, the Antarctic Treaty has served as an extraordinary example of international cooperation which includes scientific research, conservation of marine life, strict controls on pollution to prevent contamination of its environment, and its status as a place dedicated exclusively for peaceful purposes.