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British Antarctic Territory

British Antarctic Territory

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The British Antarctic Territory (BAT) is a sector of Antarctica claimed by the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 as one of its 14 British Overseas Territories. It comprises the region south of 60°S latitude
60th parallel south
The 60th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 60 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. No land lies on the parallel—it crosses nothing but ocean...

 and between longitudes and , forming a wedge shape that extends to the South Pole
South Pole
The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is one of the two points where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth and lies on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole...

. The Territory was formed on 3 March 1962, although the UK's claim to this portion of the Antarctic dates back to Letters Patent
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 of 1908 and 1917. The area now covered by the Territory includes three regions which, before 1962, were administered by the British as separate dependencies of the Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

: Graham Land
Graham Land
Graham Land is that portion of the Antarctic Peninsula which lies north of a line joining Cape Jeremy and Cape Agassiz. This description of Graham Land is consistent with the 1964 agreement between the British Antarctic Place-names Committee and the US Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names, in...

, the South Orkney Islands
South Orkney Islands
The South Orkney Islands are a group of islands in the Southern Ocean, about north-east of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. They have a total area of about ....

, and the South Shetland Islands
South Shetland Islands
The South Shetland Islands are a group of Antarctic islands, lying about north of the Antarctic Peninsula, with a total area of . By the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, the Islands' sovereignty is neither recognized nor disputed by the signatories and they are free for use by any signatory for...

. Since the Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961, Article 1 of which states "The treaty does not recognize, dispute, nor establish territorial sovereignty claims; no new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force", most countries do not recognise territorial claims in Antarctica.

The Territory overlaps the Antarctic claims of Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

  (Argentine Antarctica
Argentine Antarctica
Argentine Antarctica is a sector of Antarctica claimed by Argentina as part of its national territory. The Argentine Antarctic region, consisting of the Antarctic Peninsula and a triangular section extending to the South Pole, is delimited by the 25° West and 74° West meridians and the 60° South...

) and Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 (Antártica Chilena Province
Antártica Chilena Province
Antártica Chilena Province is the southernmost and one of four provinces in Chile's southernmost region, Magallanes and Antártica Chilena Region . The capital is Puerto Williams...

). It is inhabited by the staff of research and support stations operated and maintained by the British Antarctic Survey
British Antarctic Survey
The British Antarctic Survey is the United Kingdom's national Antarctic operation and has an active role in Antarctic affairs. BAS is part of the Natural Environment Research Council and has over 400 staff. It operates five research stations, two ships and five aircraft in and around Antarctica....

 and other organisations, and stations of Argentina, Chile and other countries. There are no native inhabitants.

History


The United Kingdom has had a continuous presence in the far South Atlantic since 1833 when it reasserted sovereignty over its Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

. In 1908, the UK extended its territorial claim by declaring sovereignty over "South Georgia, the South Orkneys, the South Shetlands, and the Sandwich Islands, and Graham's Land
Graham Land
Graham Land is that portion of the Antarctic Peninsula which lies north of a line joining Cape Jeremy and Cape Agassiz. This description of Graham Land is consistent with the 1964 agreement between the British Antarctic Place-names Committee and the US Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names, in...

, situated in the South Atlantic Ocean and on the Antarctic continent to the south of the 50th parallel of south latitude
50th parallel south
The 50th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 50 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and South America....

, and lying between the 20th
20th meridian west
The meridian 20° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, Iceland, the Atlantic Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and the 80th degrees of west longitude
80th meridian west
The meridian 80° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, Central America, South America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole.In Antarctica, the...

". All these territories were administered as Falkland Islands Dependencies
Falkland Islands Dependencies
Falkland Islands Dependencies was the constitutional arrangement for administering the British territories in Sub-Antarctica and Antarctica from 1843 until 1985.-Background:...

 from Stanley
Stanley, Falkland Islands
Stanley is the capital and only true cityin the Falkland Islands. It is located on the isle of East Falkland, on a north-facing slope in one of the wettest parts of the islands. At the 2006 census, the city had a population of 2,115...

 by the Governor of the Falkland Islands
Governor of the Falkland Islands
The Governor of the Falkland Islands is the representative of the British Crown in the Falkland Islands, acting "in Her Majesty's name and on Her Majesty's behalf" as the islands' de facto head of state in the absence of the British monarch...

.

In 1917, the wording of the claim was modified, so as to, inter alia, unambiguously include all the territory in the sector stretching to the South Pole
South Pole
The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is one of the two points where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth and lies on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole...

 (thus encompassing all of the present-day British Antarctic Territory). The new claim covered "all islands and territories whatsoever between the 20th degree of west longitude and the 50th degree of west longitude
50th meridian west
The meridian 50° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, the Atlantic Ocean, South America, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 which are situated south of the 50th parallel of south latitude; and all islands and territories whatsoever between the 50th degree of west longitude and the 80th degree of west longitude which are situated south of the 58th parallel of south latitude
58th parallel south
The 58th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 58 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. No land lies on the parallel—it crosses nothing but ocean....

".

In 1943, at the height of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the UK undertook a military operation known as Operation Tabarin
Operation Tabarin
During World War II, Operation Tabarin was a small British military expedition launched from the UK in 1943 to the Antarctic to establish permanently occupied bases.-Reasons for the expedition:There were several reasons for Tabarin...

, to provide reconnaissance and meteorological information in the South Atlantic Ocean. This "secret" wartime project became the civilian Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey and later the British Antarctic Survey
British Antarctic Survey
The British Antarctic Survey is the United Kingdom's national Antarctic operation and has an active role in Antarctic affairs. BAS is part of the Natural Environment Research Council and has over 400 staff. It operates five research stations, two ships and five aircraft in and around Antarctica....

 (BAS). BAS is responsible for most of the United Kingdom's scientific research in Antarctica. In the 1950s the Antarctic Treaty was negotiated to demilitarise the region and retain Antarctica – defined as all land and ice shelves south of 60°S
60th parallel south
The 60th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 60 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. No land lies on the parallel—it crosses nothing but ocean...

 latitude – for peaceful research purposes. The treaty was passed in 1961.

Recognition



The Antarctic Treaty, signed by all relevant regional claimants, does not in itself either recognise or dispute any territorial claims, leaving this matter to individual signatories. Most of the world's countries do not recognise any national claims to Antarctica. Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, all of whom have territorial claims on the continent, mutually recognise each other's claims. Argentina and Chile dispute the British claim, and make their own counter-claims that overlap both Britain's and each other's (see Argentine Antarctica
Argentine Antarctica
Argentine Antarctica is a sector of Antarctica claimed by Argentina as part of its national territory. The Argentine Antarctic region, consisting of the Antarctic Peninsula and a triangular section extending to the South Pole, is delimited by the 25° West and 74° West meridians and the 60° South...

 and Antártica Chilena Province
Antártica Chilena Province
Antártica Chilena Province is the southernmost and one of four provinces in Chile's southernmost region, Magallanes and Antártica Chilena Region . The capital is Puerto Williams...

).

Geography



Topography


The British Antarctic Territory includes the Antarctic Peninsula
Antarctic Peninsula
The Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica. It extends from a line between Cape Adams and a point on the mainland south of Eklund Islands....

, the South Shetland Islands
South Shetland Islands
The South Shetland Islands are a group of Antarctic islands, lying about north of the Antarctic Peninsula, with a total area of . By the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, the Islands' sovereignty is neither recognized nor disputed by the signatories and they are free for use by any signatory for...

, South Orkney Islands
South Orkney Islands
The South Orkney Islands are a group of islands in the Southern Ocean, about north-east of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. They have a total area of about ....

 and numerous other offshore islands, the Ronne Ice Shelf (Weddell Sea
Weddell Sea
The Weddell Sea is part of the Southern Ocean and contains the Weddell Gyre. Its land boundaries are defined by the bay formed from the coasts of Coats Land and the Antarctic Peninsula. The easternmost point is Cape Norvegia at Princess Martha Coast, Queen Maud Land. To the east of Cape Norvegia is...

), parts of Coats Land
Coats Land
Coats Land is a region in Antarctica which lies westward of Queen Maud Land and forms the eastern shore of the Weddell Sea, extending in a general northeast-southwest direction between 20º00´W and 36º00´W. The northeast part was discovered from the Scotia by William S. Bruce, leader of the Scottish...

, and a triangle of central continental Antarctica converging on the South Pole
South Pole
The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is one of the two points where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth and lies on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole...

.

Over 99 percent of the territory's land surface is covered by a permanent ice sheet, up to 5 kilometres thick. The highest peak is Mount Jackson
Mount Jackson (Antarctica)
Mount Jackson is a massive mountain that dominates the upland in the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula. It rises to a majestic summit peak on south and east, while the north flank is occupied by a vast cirque. Alternate names for the mountain include Mount Andrew Jackson and Mount Ernest...

, on the Antarctic Peninsula, at 10446 feet (3,183.9 m).

Vegetation


There are very few plants in the British Antarctic Territories and most of them are moss
Moss
Mosses are small, soft plants that are typically 1–10 cm tall, though some species are much larger. They commonly grow close together in clumps or mats in damp or shady locations. They do not have flowers or seeds, and their simple leaves cover the thin wiry stems...

es and lichen
Lichen
Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic organism composed of a fungus with a photosynthetic partner , usually either a green alga or cyanobacterium...

s, but there are also two flowering plants: the Antarctic hairgrass and Antarctic pearlwort.

Wildlife


Many bird species, including seven species of penguin
Penguin
Penguins are a group of aquatic, flightless birds living almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere, especially in Antarctica. Highly adapted for life in the water, penguins have countershaded dark and white plumage, and their wings have become flippers...

 breed in the British Antarctic Territories. The British Antarctic Territories are also home to six species of seals
Pinniped
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

.

Administration


The British Antarctic Territory is administered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly called the Foreign Office or the FCO is a British government department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom overseas, created in 1968 by merging the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office.The head of the FCO is the...

 (FCO). A Commissioner
Commissioner of the British Antarctic Territory
This is a list of High Commissioners and Commissioners of the British Antarctic Territory , the area of Antarctica claimed by the United Kingdom....

 is appointed and is always the Head of the FCO's Overseas Territories Department.

The Territory has a full suite of laws, and legal and postal administrations. Given the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty System
Antarctic Treaty System
The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements, collectively called the Antarctic Treaty System or ATS, regulate international relations with respect to Antarctica, Earth's only continent without a native human population. For the purposes of the treaty system, Antarctica is defined as all of the land...

, the Territory does not enforce its laws on foreign nations who maintain scientific bases within the Territory. It is self-financing, with income from the sale of postage stamps and income tax.

Nationality law


The territory is fully a part of the British Overseas Territories for nationality purposes. It is possible to hold British Overseas Territories citizen
British Overseas Territories citizen
The status of British Overseas Territories citizen relates to persons holding British nationality by virtue of a connection with a British Overseas Territory.-British Nationality Act 1981:...

ship (BOTC) by virtue of a connection with the Territory. Additionally, since the relevant provisions of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002
British Overseas Territories Act 2002
The British Overseas Territories Act 2002 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which superseded parts of the British Nationality Act 1981...

 came into force on 21 May 2002, a BOTC connected with the territory would also hold British citizenship.

Although this territory's immigration
Belonger status
Belonger status is a legal classification normally associated with British overseas territories. It refers to people who have close ties to a specific territory, normally by birth and/or ancestry...

 laws would not allow for naturalisation
Naturalization
Naturalization is the acquisition of citizenship and nationality by somebody who was not a citizen of that country at the time of birth....

, a person born in the territory before 1983 would hold BOTC (and British citizenship) on that basis. British citizenship and BOTC would also extend to the first generation born overseas. No people currently fall into this category. While Emilio Palma
Emilio Palma
Emilio Marcos Palma is an Argentine national who is the first person known to be born on the continent of Antarctica. Emilio weighed 7 pounds and 8 ounces when born in Fortín Sargento Cabral at the Esperanza Base near the tip of the Antarctic peninsula...

 was born in the Antarctic territories claimed by the UK, he has not claimed British citizenship, and was automatically granted Argentine citizenship by the government since his parents were both Argentine citizens, and he was born in an Argentine base in Antarctica.
Changes to British nationality law
British nationality law
British nationality law is the law of the United Kingdom that concerns citizenship and other categories of British nationality. The law is complex because of the United Kingdom's former status as an imperial power.-History:...

 from 1 January 1983 ensure that no claims to BOTC or British citizenship by virtue of a connection to the territory can be made by those born from that date.

Research stations



The British Antarctic Survey
British Antarctic Survey
The British Antarctic Survey is the United Kingdom's national Antarctic operation and has an active role in Antarctic affairs. BAS is part of the Natural Environment Research Council and has over 400 staff. It operates five research stations, two ships and five aircraft in and around Antarctica....

 has two permanently staffed research stations in the Territory:
  • Halley
    Halley Research Station
    Halley Research Station, run by the British Antarctic Survey, is located on the Brunt Ice Shelf floating on the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. It is a British research facility dedicated to the study of the Earth's atmosphere...

  • Rothera
    Rothera Research Station
    Rothera research station is a British Antarctic Survey base on the Antarctic Peninsula, located at Rothera Point, Adelaide Island. Rothera also serves as the capital of the British Overseas Territory, the British Antarctic Territory....



Signy
Signy Research Station
Signy Research Station is an Antarctic research base on Signy Island, run by the British Antarctic Survey.-History:Signy was first occupied in 1947 when a meteorological station was established in Factory Cove above the old whaling station. It was the second research base on the South Orkney...

 was operated from 1947 until 1996 and now is only staffed in the summer. There are also two summer-only forward operating stations, at Fossil Bluff
Fossil Bluff
Fossil Bluff is a British Antarctic Survey forward operating station. The bluff is a collection of buildings and facilities, at the centre of which lies the hut....

 and Sky Blu
Sky Blu
Sky Blu is a forward operating station for the British Antarctic Survey in southern Palmer Land, Antarctica. It is in an area of Blue Ice...

.

Faraday was maintained until 1996, when it was sold to Ukraine and renamed Akademik Vernadsky Station.

Since 1996, the historic base at Port Lockroy
Port Lockroy
Port Lockroy is a natural harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula of the British Antarctic Territory. After its discovery in 1904 by the French Antarctic Expedition it was used for whaling between 1911 and 1931 and British military operations during World War II and then continued to operate as a...

 on Goudier Island has been staffed by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust
UK Antarctic Heritage Trust
The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust is a British charity, registered in 1993. The UKAHT is a member of the Antarctic Heritage Trust coalition. The UKAHT's Patron is HRH Princess Anne, The Princess Royal.The organization's stated goals are as follows:...

 during the Antarctic summer. Receiving about 10,000 visitors a year, it is one of the most visited sites on the continent. Visitors can tour the museum, buy souvenirs, post mail, and view the large gentoo penguin
Gentoo penguin
The Gentoo Penguin , Pygoscelis papua, is easily recognized by the wide white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of its head and its bright orange-red bill. The gentoo penguin has pale whitish-pink webbed feet and a fairly long tail - the most prominent tail of all penguins. Chicks have...

 colony.

Argentine presence in the territory dates to the foundation of the Orcadas Base
Orcadas Base
Base Orcadas is an Argentine station in Antarctica, and the first permanent Antarctic station in the area defined by the Antarctic Treaty System. It is located on Laurie Island, one of the South Orkney Islands , at above sea level and from the coastline....

, South Orkney Islands
South Orkney Islands
The South Orkney Islands are a group of islands in the Southern Ocean, about north-east of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. They have a total area of about ....

, in 1903.

A number of other nations maintain bases in the territory, many in the South Shetland Islands.

Postage stamps and coins




Despite the lack of permanent inhabitants, the British Antarctic Territory issues its own postage stamps. While some are actually used by visiting tourists and resident scientists, the bulk are sold overseas to collectors. The first issue came in 1963, an engraved set with 15 values ranging from ½d to one pound, featuring a portrait of Queen Elizabeth overlooking various scenes of human activity in Antarctica. Several additional issues in the 1960s were followed by a decimalisation issue in 1971 produced by overprinting the 1963 stamps.

In 2008/2009, as part of the celebrations of the centenary of the 1908 British territorial claim, the British Antarctic Territory issued its first ever legal-tender coin.

For more information on British currency in the general region, see The Sterling Currency in the South Atlantic and the Antarctic.

See also


  • British Overseas Territories
    British overseas territories
    The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories of the United Kingdom which, although they do not form part of the United Kingdom itself, fall under its jurisdiction. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not acquired independence or have voted to remain British territories...



External links