Nations with regular operations in Antartica are bound by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. The 12 original nations to adopt the Antarctic treaty were Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union, Japan, South Africa, and Belgium, but the number who have adopted the treaty has grown to 53. It is a symbol of international cooperation that is unparalleled and its influence can clearly be seen in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

    Original 12
    Flags of the first 12 nations to sign the Antarctic Treaty.
    Some important provisions of the Treaty are: Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only (Art. I) Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end … shall continue (Art. II). Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available (Art. III). Among the signatories of the Treaty were seven countries - Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom - with territorial claims, sometimes overlapping. Other countries do not recognize any claims. The US and Russia maintain a “basis of claim”. All positions are explicitly protected in Article IV, which preserves the status quo: "No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica shall be asserted while the present Treaty is in force. To promote the objectives and ensure the observance of the provisions of the Treaty, "All areas of Antarctica, including all stations, installations, and equipment within those areas … shall be open at all times to inspection" (Art. VII). The treaty is explicit about the peaceful use of Antartica, scientific investigation and operations, and environmental protection.

    The transfer of the neutron monitors is an excellent example of scientific cooperation in Antartica. The neutron monitors are the longest running scientific experiment on the continent. To keep them running they are being transferred from McMurdo Station (a US facility) to Jang Bojo (a South Korean Station). This exemplifies the spirit of international cooperation in Antarctica.

    Emblem of the Antarctic Treaty
    The Emblem of the Antarctic Treaty.
    Daily life in the antarctic is also directly influenced by the treaty, particularly by the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. Before setting foot in Antarctica I was made aware of my responsibilities in this regard. Before I left home I was encouraged to wash all items and scrub bags and footwear to reduce the risk of bringing in invasive species or other contaminating bodies. I was also advised to minimize my impact on local wildlife. As a rule of thumb if an animal changes its behavior because of you then you are too close. Before boarding flights I was reminded that spills in the antarctic are a very serious issue. Even a few drips of oil from a snow machine or a bit of gas spilled when fueling equipment need to be reported so that they might be properly contained and cleaned. The folks at McMurdo take this responsibility seriously not only because violation is a crime but more importantly there is a great sense of stewardship and pride among the people in Antartica. The culture is one of respect. I'll be doing my best to live up to that.

    McMurdo Station
    Weather Summary
    Sunny and clear


    Eric Thuma

    It's hard to say but there would be nothing stopping countries or companies from exploiting any resources they might find here.

    Eric Thuma

    I'm not sure how that works. I only know that claims cannot be enlarged and new territorial claims cannot be made in Antartica.

    Rob Mooney

    Are you exited to come home? Or do you wish you could have stayed longer?

    Tyler LaMendola

    That's really cool how the countries came together to protect Antarctica! Such a beautiful and mysterious place needs a well monitored security. That's awesome!

    Eric Thuma

    Clocks at McMurdo are on New Zealand time. Some people do keep strange hours though which is one benefit of 24 hours of daylight.

    Abbey Fallon

    It is too bad that the planet Earth can't fall under a similar treaty, where all countries value all forms of life and are responsible inhabitants. No one country tries to dominate the situation and wants to preserve and maintain a peaceful, healthy existence without forcing their dominance over other inhabitants.

    Abbey Fallon

    I think it is cool that the knowledge and findings are shared between all of the countries and that no country is selfish with information and scientific data. It's cool that we can all learn from each other.

    Lauren Lemke

    For the territories were you able to see or work with people from those territories?

    Eric Thuma

    I visited a New Zealand Base and worked with people from South Korea.

    Lucas Beutler

    I like the premises of the Antarctic Treaty but I think that reporting tiny amounts of spilled fuel is unnecessary. I mean as long as you scrape up the fuel and take care of it I don't see why you would need to report it.

    Elise Rudwinky

    That is so cool how the different nations work together on trying to keep the Antarctic from getting disturbed and keeping wildlife safe.

    Grace Sinclair

    Was there a particular reason/ event that caused the Antarctic Treaty of 1959?

    Barrett Stanley

    Has your time in Antarctica been similar to your time in space?

    Michael Xi

    Did you get to meet people of other nationalities?

    Grant Werling

    Did you have an opportunity to collaborate with scientists and researchers from other countries?

    Eric Thuma

    They have their reasons. A lot of things can persist in soil for a very long time. Oils in particular can spread out very easily as well. I did't find any of the regulations to be overboard.

    Eric Thuma

    It's easy to be cynical about international politics but this kind of thing does show that countries can get together when there is an important issue.

    Eric Thuma

    I don't think that there was a single event but the Col War did have it's influence. The treaty was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War. It was probably easier for the US and the Soviet Union to agree upon Antarctica than a populated region. But that is speculation on my part. I am not a history guy.

    Eric Thuma

    Ha ha. I haven't ever been to space but if you know anyone who is offering I'll take a ride!

    Eric Thuma

    I met folks from New Zealand, Belgium, South Korea, Germany, England, and a few others.

    Eric Thuma

    Well my project involved direct collaboration with South Korean Researchers. We were moving the CoRay neutron monitors to a South Korean station called Jang Bogo.

    Eric Thuma

    Agreed but at least the Antarctic treaty is a start. I got the ball rolling and really set the stage for things like the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Hopefully, nations will be able to continue to come together on the really important stuff. That's one of the reasons I think we need to support polar science. It is one of the very few areas with such a high level of geni=uine international cooperation and it produces tangible results.

    Monica Fan

    That's cool that there is collaboration among the other facilities! Are there any other joint research projects being worked on with other countries?

    Eric Thuma

    There are a lot of international efforts and collabortaion opportunities in Antartica. IceCube Neutrino Observatory, for example, often gets visitors and scientists coming in from CERN. There is a great relationship between Scott Base (a New Zealand base) and McMurdo. You often see Americans at Scott Base and Kiwis at McMurdo.

    Ishpreet Kohli

    Is there a particular reason the neutron monitors get transferred to different locations in Antarctica?

    Michael Polulak

    If you do soil something or make a mess, how would it be taken care of to reduce changes to the environment?

    Eric Thuma

    They weigh about 30 tons so they don't get moved around much. This time there are a number of factors. One of the reasons was that the South Korean station was considering installing a set of neutron monitors but initially felt that the proximity to the McMurdo Monitors would make it a little redundant because McMurdo and Jang Bogo Station are only about 350 miles apart. But the lead scientist working with the neutron monitors here at McMurdo is getting lose to retirement (he isn't quite ready but possibly in the next several years) so they needed someone to take the project over. So the transfer of the neutron monitors really was a win for everyone. It also had the additional benefit that the CosRay building will neo longer have to ba maintained and supplied with power so the McMurdo can reduce it's footprint a bit.

    Eric Thuma

    You do what you can to contain and stop the spill and then you call the fire station. They have been trained to handle clean up. A lot depends on the size and nature of the spill. If you spill a little gas when fueling equipment then most likely they would just dig out the contaminated soil.

    Jahnavi Amam

    I think it's very interesting that there is a treaty that countries follow to protect Antarctica's culture and environment. However, if such treaty wasn't put into place, do you think your condition of living in Antarctica would be drastically different?

    Shachi Joshi

    About the territories you mentioned...How do those work? Is it like an extension of the nation that claims it? Do you need permission to go into another country's territory?

    Devon Tomlin

    How does the station handle sleeping schedules with 24 hour sunlight? Does everyone sleep at the same time or does each person maintain the sleeping schedule that they had going in to the station? Also, which time zone are your clocks based off of?