Today is Antarctica Day which celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, December first in 1959 and the setting aside of nearly 10% of the Earth ”forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes (...) in the interests of all mankind.”
The Treaty recognizes Antarctica as a preserve for peace and scientific study and went into effect with 12 signatories. Today, more than 50 nations recognize the Treaty. It is the foundation upon which decades of scientific achievements and advancements rest.
Among other provisions, the Treaty froze territorial claims to the continent, banned nuclear weapons and waste on the continent, and preserved the entire region south of 60 degrees south latitude for peaceful purposes. The banning of activities of a military nature makes it effectively the first nuclear-arms control agreement in history.
“Antarctica is ground zero for understanding global change effects on society”, said Roberta Marinelli, the Director of US National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs. “The continent, ice sheets, and oceans play a crucial role in the distribution of heat over our planet, and the extent of sea level rise. They also show how earth system processes affect living marine resources that humans depend on”.
US Antarctic Program (USAP) operates three year-round research stations and two research vessels, coordinates all U.S. science conducted on the continent, and works with other federal agencies, the U.S. military, and civilian contractors to provide the logistical support for research. Additionally, USAP works in collaboration with other international Antarctic programs, supporting global research and initiatives.
The research conducted has three goals: To understand the region and its ecosystems. To understand its effects on and responses to global processes such as climate. To use the region as a platform to study the upper atmosphere and space.