The Antarctic continent extends over 14 million km 2 and is located in the southernmost portion of the planet, bordered by the Antarctic Circle , south of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
During the winter, plus a large ice floe, the Antarctic continent doubles its length, reaching 30 million km 2 .
In Antarctica the natural picture is adverse to human occupation, where temperatures, during the year, rarely exceed positive marks, sparse vegetation is limited to some islands, while in the central portion of the continent the ice cap can reach 4 thousand meters thick, where gusts of wind, the blizzard, are frequent, causing huge icebergs to move at dangerous speeds for navigation.
The icy continent, which contains 90% of the planet’s freshwater reserves, has its few inhabitants, members of the scientific community, isolated in some bases of different nationalities, whose implementation dates back to the early 1960s, when the Antarctic Treaty was signed. .
General characteristics of Antarctica
According to Loverists, Antarctica, which millions of years ago constituted an ancient and vast continent, joining South America, Australia and New Zealand, separated due to the movement of tectonic plates and moved south, being today under the Terrestrial South Pole.
Its relief is mountainous and covered by a layer of ice (inland). The western part is characterized by being a volcanic area, covered with ice, standing out the Erebus and the Terror.
The eastern region, whose land is old (Escudos), has a smooth relief.
The current climatic conditions present extremely low temperatures, even in the summer months (December and January) when the temperature remains below 0 ° C, but in winter it can normally reach below -40 ° C.
However, the study of its fossils allowed to reconstruct its geological past, when there was an extensive forest and the temperatures were similar to those of the subtropical areas.
Under the current conditions, the vegetation consists of mosses and lichens in the warmer areas and, in the others, desolate landscape. And in the sea, there is life, through plankton (a set of microscopic plants and animals that are used to feed others).
An example of this is the krill crustacean, typical of the Southern Ocean, which is a source of protein for large aquatic animals. The blue whale, seal, penguin and birds are part of the Antarctic fauna.
With regard to mineral resources, copper, uranium and coal have still been located in an area that has not yet been explored. among others, and there is an international agreement to research and not withdraw resources, until the exploration process is established. Who has the right to Antarctica Territory for all (international) or for certain countries?
In 1988, the year of the Wellington convention (New Zealand), restrictions were imposed on tourism and economic activities in Antarctica. The Madrid Conference, held in 1991, postponed for 50 years talks on a possible territorial division of Antarctica. and established conditions for environmental protection, which includes the ozone layer , which is greatly affected on the continent, restrictions on tourism, prevention of marine pollution and monitoring of the emission of waste.
Antarctica and the strategic issue
The Antarctic Treaty had its signature and application already in the context of the Cold War .
When it was established in 1959, despite the desire of some countries to divide the continent, the occupation of the icy areas of Antarctica could serve as a pretext for the intensification of disputes between the great powers, which were already living in the nuclear era. In addition, this occupation encountered, as it still does, serious problems, imposed by the adverse natural situation, added up. considering the time of the signing of the Treaty, to technological restrictions greater than the current ones.
Despite its apparently democratic and open aspect, the Antarctic Treaty, which, as we have seen, conditioned the sharing of the continent on the development of local research, excluded the most technologically backward nations.
However, the geopolitical scenario has changed over the years. Yesterday’s military strategy gave way to today’s ecological concern; as a result. we had the Madrid Conference in 1991, which conditioned the action of the countries present in Antarctica to the scientific field, and, ratified by ECO-92 , established parameters for the action of man in the region.
Antarctica is part of the global strategic issue from a tactical, economic, scientific and environmental point of view.
From a tactical point of view, it was in the interests of the military powers to have the Antarctic continent to carry out nuclear tests and, at the same time, to add to the continent strategic weapons essential for the control of important positions in the southern hemisphere .
Economically, the Antarctic continent is in a strategic position for world transport, since oceanic or aerial navigation in the region and / or surroundings is of fundamental importance for the countries of the southern hemisphere and in the east-west connection, except for the waters of the Arctic and the Panama Canal .
In addition to transport, Antarctica’s nature reserves are important future resources, be it fresh water (90% of the world’s reserves), metallic and atomic minerals and fossil fuels. Also consider the food potential of Antarctic waters, such as whales, fish and krill.
In the scientific field, research from the Antarctic community has proved to be quite important, contributing greatly to the study of climate, glacier dynamics, paleoclimate, evolution, astronomy, biology, geology, and in areas related to the study of life on the planet.
The environment finds in Antarctica a broad field of study, in which we highlight efforts to understand the dynamics of the glaciation process and to monitor the evolution of the damage caused by man in the ozone layer.