Australia’s Antarctic program
Australia currently lays territorial claim over the largest portion of Antarctica compared to any other country in the world. This represents 41% of Antarctica’s claimed landmass.
Australian Territory size: 5,896,500 ㎢
This is unknown to many Australian’s and is somewhat astonishing internationally.
How did this come to be?
Britain laid claim over large portions of Antarctica, beginning in the 1840’s.
In 1933 Australia was handed ‘ownership’ over a large part of the British claim over Antarctica. Australia now controlled (as the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act reads)
“all the islands and territories, other than Adelie Land, situated south of the 60th degree south latitude and lying between the 160th degree east longitude and the 45th degree east longitude, is hereby declared to be accepted by the Commonwealth (the Australian government) as a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, by the name of the Australian Antarctic Territory”.
Heard Island and Macdonald Island were added to the territory in 1947, and Australia began its first station on the continent in 1954 named Mawson Station.
Australia maintains a year-round permanent presence in Antarctica through its three research stations. Casey, Davis and Mawson stations. Its scientific program covers physical and life sciences in the atmospheric, terrestrial and marine domains as well as human biology and medical research.
Many other countries hold portions of Antarctica under their stewardship, such as: Great Britain, New Zealand, Norway, Argentina, Chile and France.
This does not mean that other nations cannot conduct scientific research on Antarctica, and a section of Antarctica remains ‘unclaimed’ or ‘unseeded’ for international use.
There are research facilities on Antarctica from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Russia, India, China, the USA, Romania, France, Italy. 150 countries and institutions collaborate on research conducted on Antarctica.
Interestingly Australia and Antarctica were actually joined together as recently as 30 million years ago during, and over time were separated with continental shift. The government of Australia seeks to play a leadership role in research within Antarctica and recently purchases a $1.9Billion AUD research and re-supply ice-breaker vessel named the RSV Nuyina.