Antarctica – dividing up the spoils

November 7, 2007

On my way back from Spain yesterday I was reading The Economist about territorial claims on Antarctica:

“Last month Britain said that—in what was just a routine piece of “legal book-keeping”, or so diplomats said—it was preparing a claim to an economic zone off the coast of Antarctica stretching up to 350 nautical miles from the land mass that it already regards as British.”

They included this useful little map:

Antarctic map - Economist

… which got me wondering about which other countries might also lay claim to a slice of Antarctica based on their having un-restricted southern passage across open seas to the continent. Playing around with Pierre Gorissen‘s excellent Latitude and Longitude finder , some basic MS Excel skills shaken up with a bit of Gimp gave me this (click to view full size):

Antarctic pie chart

It turns out that there are 47 countries that might have some sort of claim on Antartica on the basis that they have south facing coastline with direct cross ocean access to the Antarctic. Unexpected results – include the surprising news (to me at least) that Somalia, Yemen and Oman could make claims – as well as Iran who (I suspect) might be tempted to set up an “Icelamic Republic” (sorry I couldn’t resist that one).

(N.B: I didn’t include lots of small islands – like the French islands in the Southern Ocean, the Andaman Islands, Hawaii and the Galapagos).

There is a whole article on Wikipedia about Antarctic territorial claims; which says “[Brazil] … has proposed a theory to delimiting territories using meridians, which would give territories to Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Ecuador too” – it doesn’t mention Senegal, Togo, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia or Greenland.  Here is a quote from one of the maps on the Wikipedia page:

Twenty-one of the 28 Antarctic consultative nations have made no claims to Antarctic territory (although Russia and the USA have reserved the right to do so) and they do not recognise the claims of other nations.

You can download the data as a Tab delimited text file which is published under a Creative Commons cc-by-sa license with an GPAC addendum (Give Peace A Chance). This means that if you do use the data I have collected you have to promise not to use it as a justification for war.

11 Responses to “Antarctica – dividing up the spoils”

  1. […] the whole world. For a bit more about the sources and methods used by Paul Youlten, please click here to read his post on the subject. Via the Youlten method of frontage-ing, no less than 47 countries […]

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  3. Kristina Says:

    I just discovered this (thanks to Wikipedia, haha) when I was researching Argentina this week. I guess this is one thing global warming could solve 😉

  4. I realize this is three years on but on what basis have you decided that Antarctic claims should be “based on [a claimant] having un-restricted southern passage across open seas to the continent.” This is apparently not the basis of most existing claims. See, for example, this article:


  5. sdafa Says:

    the map is wrong WHY DOES THE USA GET SO MUCH

  6. Territorio Antartico Colombiano Says:

    Colombia ???????????

  7. brenn Says:

    And France ? never heard about French Southern Territories, Reunion Island, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Clipperton Island ??? all have facing coastline with direct cross ocean access to the Antarctic….but your have not forgotten Falkland islands for UK….

    • Yes, you are right, the chart is not perfect and France would have a small slice of Antartica. But Reunion Island (for example) is just 65km east to west. New Caledonia’s is much bigger 345km? but partly blocked by New Zealand. The Falklands are 255km east to west, and because the Falkland Islands are much closer to the Antarctic coastline they get a bigger slice.

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