31 January, 1998
Hi from the Ross Sea! Well, we left the Cape Adare area this morning and have been in transit to the Eastern Ross Sea for most of the day. Before leaving, I helped to pull in the seismic line . . . and it was COLD outside! The temperature didn't read that low on the thermometer (-3 C), but with 25 mph winds and no sun it was definitely chilly. In addition, you can imagine what those 25 mph winds do to the water. They create lots of waves. When we finally pulled in the seismic gear, the chop was so bad that we weren't getting any good data. It's a good thing that we were near the end of our line.
Yesterday, we were looking at some of the rules that are in effect for the continent of Antarctica. The question was: "What do you suppose are the specific rules that have been made to protect Antarctica?" As you probably remember, Antarctica is not owned by any one nation. The countries who conduct research in Antarctica have worked together to come up with the Antarctic Treaty, which was originally signed my 12 nations in 1961 and now includes 43 different countries. In this agreement, countries active in Antarctica consult on the uses of the whole continent. Specifically, the treaty includes all the area south of 60 degrees South latitude. The Treaty itself includes 12 arcticles, but can be summarized with the following:
1) It stipulates that Antarctica should be used for peaceful purposes only
2) It prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of nuclear waste 3) It guarantees the freedom of science and promotes sharing among scientists
4) It allows on-site inspection by foreign observers to make sure the Treaty is being followed
5) It does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial claims
Although the Antarctic Treaty seems very complete, there have been many other treaties passed since 1961 to make more specific rules about protecting Antarctica. The most recent agreement was the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. It was passed in 1991, and it applies to all people and activities on the continent of Antarctica. Some of the special regulations include:
1) Respect Protected Areas -- This specifies that a person may not damage, remove, or destroy historic sites or monuments. In some places, people are even required to have a permit to enter.
2) Respect Scientific Research --People are not allowed to interfere with scientific research, facilities, or equipment. They are also required to obtain permission before visiting Antarctic science and logistic support facilities.
3) Be Safe -- People must be prepared for severe and changeable weather. They should not expect a rescue service. Rather, they should work towards self-sufficiency. Their clothing and equipment must meet Antarctic standards. They also must respect any smoking restrictions and not enter emergency refuges except in the case of emergencies.
4) Protect Antarctic Wildlife -- The taking of Antarctic wildlife is prohibited unless someone has a permit. No person is allowed to feed, touch or handle birds or seals. They may not damage plants. No non-native plants or animals are allowed in Antarctica. Guns and explosives are prohibited. In addition, vehicles (on land, air, or sea) should be used in ways that do not disturb wildlife. Even our ship avoids ice that is carrying seals or penguins. (What types of wildlife would you expect to find in the interior of the continent . . . far away from the ocean?)
5) Keep Antarctica Pristine -- People are not allowed to dispose of litter or garbage on the land and open burning is prohibited. Lakes and streams must not be polluted, and special rules must be followed for materials disposed at sea. Graffiti or carving on rocks or buildings is prohibited. It is illegal to take any geological (rock) or biological (egg, fossil, bone, etc.) specimens as a souvenir. It is also illegal to take parts or contents of buildings or to deface or vandalize buildings of any type.
This agreement also set some other rules -- for example it also prohibits mining in Antarctica. Sometimes it is difficult to get all the nations of the Antarctic Treaty to agree to more specific rules such as these, but they are really good for the continent and the ocean around the continent. Antarctica is the last pristine place on the planet. I am very glad that the people and the countries who work her are working together to protect its environment!
I'm looking forward to hearing some more questions soon! It's been another wonderful day in Antarctica . . . I'm really glad that I'm able to share this experience with you! See you tomorrow!
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