The frozen Antarctic is the only continent with no permanent inhabitants—just miles and miles of ice. You wouldn’t think nations would argue over ownership of the coldest place on Earth. But a quiet struggle has been going on for decades over the Earth’s “final frontier.”
When the Russians discovered Antarctica in 1820, they found the last unknown continent. Over the next century and a half, existing nations mapped the continent, made territorial claims, and set up scientific research stations.
In 1961, an international treaty went into effect. Signers agreed to set aside territorial claims for the period of the treaty. The continent would be used only for peaceful purposes.
In 1991, the treaty was renewed for another 50 years. But many experts believe it will be revised or broken long before then.
Both the United Kingdom and Australia have already filed claims to extend the seabed boundaries of their pre-treaty claims.
Why such interest in the world’s coldest continent? Because under all that ice lie gas, oil, and other natural riches. They could make owner nations very wealthy.
And as water shortages become more prevalent around the world—the ice itself could be a freshwater resource.
Claims to the Antarctic look like big pie slices. Since nations don’t agree with each other, some slices even overlap!