On December 1st, Antarctica Day recognizes the anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty. It’s also a day to learn more about this cold and barren continent.
Humans didn’t discover Antarctica until 1820. Once discovered, several nations sought to claim the continent as their own. As tension increased, some countries began working on a peaceful solution. On December 1st, 1959 in Washington, D.C. delegates from 12 countries came together to sign the Antarctic Treaty. These countries included:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Soviet Union
- United Kingdom
- United States
Each of these countries had scientists working on the continent during the International Geophysical Year of 1957-1958. This Treaty became the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War. It symbolized global understanding during a period of intense division and secrecy.
The Antarctic Treaty ensured that all exploration and research on the continent would be for peaceful purposes only. The Treaty also promoted the idea of cooperation between countries and that all scientific observations would be made freely available. Additionally, the continent could never be used for military purposes or radioactive waste disposal.
In recent years, climate change and tourism have become important issues for the Antarctic region. Antarctica has an average temperature in the summer of -18° F. The average temperature in the winter is -76° F. Despite these frigid temperatures, tourism on the continent is growing. In one year, 40,000 people visited the fifth-largest continent. Antarctica is about 5.5 million square miles, which is twice as big as Australia. Ninety percent of the planet’s ice is on Antarctica.
HOW TO OBSERVE ANTARCTICA DAY
On this day, schools, museums, and science centers around the world hold various Antarctica-themed events. Flag displays, writing contests, webinars, and film festivals are just some of the different kinds of activities held on this day. To participate:
- Learn more about the Antarctic Treaty and the continent of Antarctica.
- Hold a contest with family and friends to see who can name the most species of animals that live in Antarctica.
- Watch a documentary on Antarctica, such as Encounters at the End of the World, Antarctica: A Year on Ice, or Shackleton’s Voyage of Endurance.
- Read about famous Antarctic explorers, like Charles Wilkes, Robert Falcon Scott, Jules Dumont, and Ann Bancroft.
Share this day on social media with #AntarcticaDay
ANTARCTICA DAY HISTORY
The Foundation for the Good Governance of International Spaces established Antarctica Day. Their goal was to highlight the international cooperation that makes governance of Antarctica possible. The day was created following the Antarctic Treaty Summit in 2009. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed in 1959.