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Slices of the Pie: Mapping Territorial Claims in Antarctica

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antarctic territorial claims map

Slices of the Pie: Mapping Territorial Claims in Antarctica

For the 55% of the world’s population who reside in cities, land is viewed as a precious commodity—every square foot has a value attached to it. As the global population continues to rise toward the eight billion mark, it can seem like humans have laid claim to every available corner of the earth.

While this is mostly true, there is one place on the planet that is vast, empty, and even partially unclaimed: Antarctica.

Today’s map, originally created by the CIA World Factbook, visualizes the active claims on Antarctic territory, as well as the location of many permanent research facilities.

The History of Antarctic Territorial Claims

In the first half of the 20th Century, a number of countries began to claim wedge-shaped portions of territory on the southernmost continent. Even Nazi Germany was in on the action, claiming a large swath of land which they dubbed New Swabia.

After WWII, the Antarctic Treaty system—which established the legal framework for the management of the continent—began to take shape. In the 1950s, seven countries including Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom claimed territorial sovereignty over portions of Antarctica. A number of other nations, including the U.S. and Japan, were engaged in exploration but hadn’t put forward claims in an official capacity.

Territorial claims in AntarcticaTerritory nameArea of claim
🇦🇺 AustraliaAustralian Antarctic Territory3,663,915 mi² (5,896,500 km²)
🇳🇴 NorwayQueen Maud Land1,677,702 mi² (2,700,000 km²)
🇬🇧 United KingdomBritish Antarctic Territory1,062,171 mi² (1,709,400 km²)
🇦🇷 Argentina Argentine Antarctica908,194 mi² (1,461,597 km²)
🇨🇱 ChileChilean Antarctic Territory776,874 mi² (1,250,258 km²)
🇳🇿 New ZealandRoss Dependency279,617 mi² (450,000 km²)
🇫🇷 FranceAdélie Land268,432 mi² (432,000 km²)

Despite the remoteness and inhospitable climate of Antarctica, the idea of claiming such large areas of landmass has proven appealing to countries. Even the smallest claim on the continent is equivalent to the size of Iraq.

A few of the above claims overlap, as is the case on the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts out geographically from the rest of the continent. This area is less remote with a milder climate, and is subject to claims by Argentina, Chile, and the United Kingdom (which governs the nearby Falkland Islands).

Interestingly, there is still a large portion of Antarctica that remains unclaimed today. Just east of the Ross Ice Shelf lies Marie Byrd Land, a vast, remote territory that is by far the largest unclaimed land area on Earth.

While Antarctica has no official government, it is administered through yearly meetings known as the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings. These meetings involve a number of stakeholders, from member nations to observer organizations.

Frontage Theory: Another Way to Slice it

Of course, critics could argue that current claims are arbitrary, and that there is a more equitable way to partition land in Antarctica. That’s where Frontage Theory comes in.

Originally proposed by Brazilian geopolitical scholar Therezinha de Castro, the theory argues that sectors of the Antarctic continent should be distributed according to meridians (the imaginary lines running north–south around the earth). Wherever straight lines running north hit landfall, that country would have sovereignty over the corresponding “wedge” of Antarctic territory.

The map below shows roughly how territorial claims would look under that scenario.

hypothetical Antarctica frontage territories claims

While Brazil has obvious reasons for favoring this solution, it’s also a thought experiment that produces an interesting mix of territorial claims. Not only do nearby countries in Africa and South America get a piece of the pie, but places like Canada and Greenland would end up with territory adjacent to both of the planet’s poles.

Leaving the Pie Unsliced

Thanks to the Antarctic Treaty, there is no mining taking place in Antarctica, and thus far no country has set up a permanent settlement on the continent. Aside from scattered research stations and a few thousand researchers, claims in the region have a limited impact.

For the near future at least, the slicing of the Antarctic pie is only hypothetical.

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Maps

Mapped: The World’s Wettest and Driest Countries

From tropical rainforests to the sandy deserts of North Africa, the world’s wettest and driest countries are a study in contrasts.

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A cropped map of the wettest and driest countries in the world along with their average annual precipitation in millimeters.

Where are the World’s Wettest and Driest Countries?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

From tropical rainforest nations to the sandy deserts of North Africa and the Middle East, the world’s wettest and driest countries are a study in contrasts.

We map and rank the countries that receive the highest and lowest average annual precipitation in millimeters, per latest data from the World Bank.

Ranked: Top 10 Wettest Countries

Colombia tops the list of nations with the highest average precipitation at 3,240 millimeters (128 inches) in a year.

Its Tutunendo district is the one of the world’s wettest places, averaging nearly 12,000 mm (463 inches) of rain annually.

RankCountryAverage Annual
Precipitation (mm)
1Colombia3,240
2Sao Tome & Principe3,200
3Papua New Guinea3,142
4Solomon Islands3,028
5Panama2,928
6Costa Rica2,926
7Samoa2,880
8Malaysia2,875
9Brunei2,722
10Indonesia2,702

Note: Figures are rounded.

Off the coast of Africa however, Sao Tome & Principe is not far behind Colombia, receiving about 3,200 mm of rain in 2020.

Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands also average more than 3,000 mm of rain in a year, and Panama (2,928 mm) rounds out the top five.

Noticeably, all 10 countries lie in close proximity to the equator, and near oceans, where rising hot and humid air leads to abundant rainfall.

Ranked: Top 10 Driest Countries

On the other end of the scale, Egypt records the lowest average annual rainfall across all countries, at 18 mm (0.7 inches). For comparison, Colombia receives nearly 180x the amount of rain Egypt does.

RankCountryAverage Annual
Precipitation (mm)
1Egypt18
2Libya56
3Saudi Arabia59
4Qatar74
5UAE78
6Bahrain83
7Algeria89
8Mauritania92
9Jordan111
10Kuwait121

Note: Figures are rounded.

In fact, countries from North Africa and the Middle East make up the entirety of this list of the driest countries in the world.

Learn More About Rainfall From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Mapping the Unequal Distribution of Global Precipitation which divides the world into two halves: one that receives more than global average of rain (or snow), and one that receives less.

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