5 November, 2000
The People of Antarctica
Since ancient times there was speculation about the existence of a great southern continent. But due to the difficult seas, broad expanse of pack ice, and the hostile climate, the existence of Antarctica was not confirmed until the 1820s.
The extreme environment made the task of exploring Antarctica a slow, painstaking process. Expeditions led by Roald Amundsen of Norway and Robert Scott of England finally reached the South Pole in 1911 and 1912.
The International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-1958 was a turning point in the history of the continent. This was a cooperative effort in which several nations parcticipated in a multitude of scientific endeavors. This concerted effort really opened the Antarctic to scientific research.
The IGY led to the drafting of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959. This agreement set aside existing territorial claims. Instead it provided that the continent would be shared for peaceful purposes. Currently, 43 countries have signed the treaty, which also provides for free exchange of scientific information and environmental protection.
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