Protecting the Antarctic


Antarctica is a mostly unpopulated continent. It is the coldest, driest and most remote place in the world.  And it is the world’s only continent that does not have a native population. No single country owns the Antarctic.  However a number of countries, including Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, France and the United Kingdom, have already laid claim to the Antarctic and others will probably follow. In some areas of the continent, two countries claim the same land.

The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 and creates the rules for the exploration of the Antarctic.  The treaty forbids military activity in the Antarctic, as well as mining.  Many countries, however, think that there are valuable materials and minerals locked up under the frozen Antarctic ice. In addition, the treaty bans nuclear testing as well as dumping nuclear waste. The Antarctic Treaty was made to protect the continent and avoid further disputes. By 2048, the treaty must be renewed. New rules and regulations could be imposed by then.

Currently, almost all of the 70 bases in the Antarctic are used for research and scientific activity. The snow-covered continent is perfect for tracking satellites and space research because it offers clear blue, cloudless skies. Climatologists are studying the development of the ozone layer with growing concern. It was here that a hole in the layer was discovered for the first time. More than 4000 scientists operate the research stations in the Antarctic summer, while only about a thousand populate the continent during the harsh and severe winters.

Environmentalists fear that exploiting Antarctica for military and economic reasons will damage the environment. At present, there is no economic activity in Antarctica, except for cruise ships that travel around the continent.  This could change, if a new treaty allows mining in the Antarctic.  As mineral resources are dwindling in other areas, nations could turn to Antarctica to find and exploit valuable raw materials.

Some geologists say that there are over 200 billion barrels of oil under the Antarctic ice. At the moment getting at these reserves would be very expensive. In addition, economic experts claim that there are large amounts of  coal, nickel and copper under the Antarctic ice.

Byrd Station - Antarctica

Byrd Station - Antarctica



Related Topics



  • avoid =get away from
  • barrel = a large curved container with a flat top, used to measure oil  = 159 litres
  • billion = a thousand million
  • climatologist = person who studies the weather and climate
  • copper = soft, reddish brown metal  that allows heat and electricity to pass through easily
  • create = make
  • cruise = a ship on which you can spend your holidays
  • currently = at the moment
  • development = how something grows
  • discover = find for the first time
  • dispute = argument, quarrel
  • dump = throw away; put something somewhere
  • dwindle = go down, become less
  • economic = for money and profit
  • environmentalist = a person who wants to protect the world around us
  • exploit = to try to get a lot of minerals and raw materials out of an area
  • exploration = travelling to a place to find out more about it
  • forbid = ban, not allow
  • further = more, additional
  • geologist = person who studies the rocks that make up the earth
  • harsh = cruel, unkind
  • however = but
  • impose = to become active
  • in addition = also
  • including = also
  • lay claim = the right to have something that you think belongs to you
  • lock up = trap, block
  • mining = the work of getting minerals and raw materials out of the earth
  • native population = here: people who have always lived in a place and not come from somewhere else
  • nickel = hard, silver-white metal, also used to make steel
  • nuclear waste = the radioactive material  that is left over from nuclear reactors
  • offer = give
  • operate = work at
  • own = possess, have
  • ozone layer = layer of gases in the sky that protects the Earth from the sun’s harmful light
  • populate = to live in a place
  • regulation = law, rule
  • remote = faraway
  • renew = here: the agreement must be made again
  • research = study, examination
  • reserve = here: raw materials that we know about but cannot yet get to
  • severe = here: very cold
  • sign = to put your name on a document
  • single = one
  • space research = the study of the planets and the stars
  • track = follow the path of
  • treaty = a written paper signed by two or more countries
  • unpopulated = with very few people living there
  • valuable = expensive and worth a lot