Online Geography Resources


Antarctica - Where is it? and Whose is it?

Geography Activities


Geography Activities

Who found Antarctica?

The first confirmed sighting of Antarctica can be narrowed down to the crews of ships captained by three individuals. According to various sources ships captained by three men sighted Antarctica in 1820:

  1. Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen (a captain in the Russian Imperial Navy)
  2. Edward Bransfield (a captain in the Royal Navy)
  3. Nathaniel Palmer (an American sealer out of Stonington, Connecticut)
Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen
Nathaniel Palmer
Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen
Nathaniel Palmer


Von Bellingshausen saw Antarctica on January 27, 1820, three days before Bransfield sighted land, and ten months before Palmer did so in November 1820.

The first documented landing on mainland Antarctica was by the American sealer John Davis in Western Antarctica on February 7, 1821, although this claim is disputed.

Geography Activities
Geography Activities

Task: A Postcard from Antarctica

Antarctica Stamp

Imagine you were one of the polar explorers that first sighted Antarctica. Write a first draft of the postcard you would send home to loved ones explaining what you saw and what the experience was like.

Geography Activities

Who does Antarctica belong to? | The Antarctic Treaty System

Antarctica has no government and belongs to no country. Various countries claim areas of it, but while some have mutually recognized each other's claims, no other countries recognize such claims. The area between 90° W and 150° W is the only part of Antarctica not claimed by any country as of yet.
South Pole
Flags of most of the original 12 signatory nations to the Antarctic Treaty.
Antarctica's status is regulated by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and other related agreements, collectively called the Antarctic Treaty System. For the purposes of the Treaty System, Antarctica is defined as all land and ice shelves south of 60° S. The treaty was signed by twelve countries, including the Soviet Union (and later Russia), the United Kingdom, Argentina, and the United States. It set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation, environmental protection, and banned military activity on that continent.

The main treaty was opened for signature on December 1, 1959, and officially entered into force on June 23, 1961. The original signatories were the 12 countries active in Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58 and willing to accept a US invitation to the conference at which the treaty was negotiated. These countries were Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the USSR, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Articles of the Antarctic Treaty

Article 1
The area is to be used for peaceful purposes only; military activity, such as weapons testing, is prohibited, but military personnel and equipment may be used for scientific research or any other peaceful purpose.
Article 2
Freedom of scientific investigation and cooperation shall continue.
Article 3
Free exchange of information and personnel in cooperation with the United Nations and other international agencies.
Article 4
Does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial sovereignty claims and no new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force.
Article 5
Prohibits nuclear explosions or disposal of radioactive wastes.
Article 6
Includes under the treaty all land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees 00 minutes south.
Article 7
Treaty-state observers have free access, including aerial observation, to any area and may inspect all stations, installations, and equipment; advance notice of all activities and of the introduction of military personnel must be given.
Article 8
Allows for jurisdiction over observers and scientists by their own states.
Article 9
Frequent consultative meetings take place among member nations.
Article 10
Treaty states will discourage activities by any country in Antarctica that are contrary to the treaty.
Article 11
Disputes to be settled peacefully by the parties concerned or, ultimately, by the International Court of Justice.
Articles 12, 13, 14
Deal with upholding, interpreting, and amending the treaty among involved nations.
Geography Activities
Geography Activities

Task: Why do you think it is included in the Antarctic Treaty?

Construct a table like the one below and use it to explain why you think each of the articles of the Antarctic Treaty exists. The first one has been done for you.
Summary of Article
Why do you think it is included in the Antarctic Treaty?
Only peaceful uses.
So that there is no pollution from military exercises or testing. No military personal present that might get involved with a 'land grab'.
12, 13, 14
Geography Review


Antacrtica Postcard
Be ready to share what you have written on your postcard home from a polar explorer with the class. on facebook
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