Antarctic Claims

November 12, 1949

Report Outline
New Expeditions to Antarcita
Exploration of South Polar Regions
Claims to Sovereignty in the Antarctic
Resources of the Antarctic Area

New Expeditions to Antarcita

New Expeditions to Antarctica have been announced by half a dozen nations, not including the United States, for the southern summer of 1949–50. The largest and most important of these from a scientific standpoint is the joint expedition of Great Britain, Norway and Sweden scheduled to leave for the far southern continent in November. The smallest, but not the least important from a political standpoint, is the official Soviet mission which sailed from Odessa late in October with the Russian whaling fleet.

Most of the nations which will have official parties in the Antarctic in coming months are claimants to territory there. Russia has made no formal claim to any part of the south polar area to date. However, the All-Union Geographical Society, meeting in Moscow last spring, urged that Russian claims be pressed, on the basis of 19th century Russian discoveries, and the action of the society has been given wide publicity by the Soviet press and radio. The present Russian mission may foreshadow claims to lands already in dispute among Great Britain, Argentina and Chile—possibly to territory that could be claimed by the United States.

Although New England sealers were probably the first men to sight the mainland of Antarctica, and part of the coastline and sections of the interior have been mapped by American official and private expeditions, the Washington government has made no claims in the south polar region. The withholding of American claims has been due in part to acceptance by Secretary of State Hughes 25 years ago of the principle that settlement must follow discovery to validate claims to rights of sovereignty in newly-found territory. The United States holds also that the principal value to civilization of the land surrounding the South Pole lies not so much in its material resources as in the opportunities it offers for fruitful studies of problems which have long vexed the world of science. Such studies could best be advanced through cooperative international effort, and to that end the United States has suggested a relinquishment by all nations of claims to sovereignty in Antarctica.

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