Published in: Gudmundur Alfredsson, Timo Koivurova (eds in chief) and Hjalti Ómar
Ágústsson (special ed. Volume 6), 6 The Yearbook of Polar Law, Brill/Martinus Nijhoff
Publishers, Boston/Leiden, 2014
Antarctica – A Wilderness Continent for Science:
The ‘Public’s Dream’ as a Mission Impossible?
Kees Bastmeijer1 and Tina Tin2
The Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty have frequently declared their
collective ambition to manage Antarctica “in the interest of all mankind”. However,
the concrete implications of these declarations are not clear. As part of an
international research project, the authors asked people from different parts of the
world to respond to a questionnaire about Antarctica, its values, and the way it
should be managed. Notwithstanding differences in respondents’ nationalities, ages
and the time of data collection, our results indicate that a significant proportion of
the public values Antarctica both as a scientific laboratory and as one of the world’s
Is this ‘public’s dream’ of co-existence of science and wilderness a Mission
Impossible? In this article, we contend that: 1) in theory, it is a Possible Mission that
would connect well with the recognition of science and wilderness in the Antarctic
Treaty System (ATS) instruments; 2) in practice, science in Antarctica has gradual
and cumulative impacts on all three main wilderness qualities of Antarctica (absence
of permanent infrastructure, naturalness and large size); 3) currently, the co-
existence of science and wilderness is not an important consideration in the
management of human activities in Antarctica; and 4) in the future, unless a
proactive and concerted effort is taken by the Consultative Parties, it appears to be a
Mission Impossible, as the expansion of scientific activities and associated logistics
remains uncontrolled, inexorably eroding the Antarctic wilderness. Recent ATS
resolutions and high-level interventions may signify that Treaty Parties are
becoming more aware of the need to increase their cooperation on the ground in
Antarctica and hence, open up a space to allow the coexistence of science and
wilderness in Antarctica to become possible. We propose the adoption of principles
providing clear and concrete guidance on scientific facilities and international
cooperation as a constructive step forward in realising the ‘public’s dream’ of
coexistence of science and wilderness in Antarctica.
1 Kees Bastmeijer is professor of nature conservation and water law at the Tilburg Law School,
Tilburg University, The Netherlands. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 Dr. Tin is an independent environmental consultant based in France. She has been attending the
Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings since 2006 on the delegation of the Antarctic and Southern
Ocean Coalition (ASOC) – the only Environmental Non Governmental Organization delegation at the
meetings. Email: email@example.com.
Management of Antarctica “in the interest of all mankind”
Antarctica is a special place. Not only is it the southern most continent on the planet,
it is also the only continent without an indigenous human population and the only
continent that has not become part of undisputed territorial sovereignty. The 1959
Antarctic Treaty entered into force in 1961. Since then, Antarctica has been managed
by the so-called ‘Consultative Parties’ to the Antarctic Treaty.3 Over the years, the
Consultative Parties have adopted several conventions4, the Protocol on
Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (the Protocol)5 and a large number
of measures and recommendations6 in order to manage human activities in the
Antarctic. This complex of hard-law and soft-law instruments is referred to as the
Antarctic Treaty System (ATS).7 Today, 29 Consultative Parties meet each year at the
Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) to discuss issues related to the
governance of the continent.
The preamble of the Antarctic Treaty states: “Recognising that it is in the
interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively
for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international
discord.” This statement has been repeated in several Recommendations that have
been adopted unanimously by all Consultative Parties. Examples include
Recommendation ATCM VII-6 on the study and discussion of the exploitation of
Antarctic mineral resources (Wellington, 1972), and Recommendation VIII-13, in
which the Consultative Parties agreed “that in considering measures for the wise use
and protection of the Antarctic environment they shall act in accordance with their
responsibility for ensuring that such measures are consistent with the interests of all
mankind.” Furthermore, the preamble of the Protocol states that the Parties are
“[c]onvinced that the development of a comprehensive regime for the protection of
the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems is in the
interest of mankind as a whole.” On the 50th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty in
2009, the 32nd ATCM Washington ministerial declaration “decide[d] to continue and
extend for the benefit of all humankind their cooperation established in the Treaty
3 Antarctic Treaty, Dec. 1, 1959, 12 U.S.T. 794 (entered into force June 23, 1961). For a discussion of the
negotiations on the Antarctic Treaty and political positions of the states involved, see John Hanessian,
‘The Antarctic Treaty 1959’, 9 International & Comparative Law Quarterly (1960): 436-480.
4 1972 Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, 1980 Conservation of Antarctic Marine
Living Resources; see http://www.ats.aq/e/ats_related.htm.
5 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, Madrid, 4 October 1991 (entered into
force 14 January 1998), 30 ILM 1455 (1991). Often referred to as the Madrid Protocol.
6 Texts of all ATS-instruments, ATCM meeting reports, management plans, Environmental Impact
Assessments and operational guidelines are available on the website of the Antarctic Treaty
7 For a definition of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), see: Article 1, under e) of the Protocol:
“‘Antarctic Treaty system’ means the Antarctic Treaty, the measures in effect under that Treaty, its
associated separate international instruments in force and the measures in effect under those
and in the Treaty system over the last fifty years.”8 Based on these and similar texts
in ATS documents, it appears that the Consultative Parties had and continue to have
a collective ambition to manage Antarctica “in the interest of all mankind.”
The concrete implications of the collective ambition to ‘manage Antarctica in
the interest of all mankind’ are not clear. It is striking that neither the topic nor the
terms have been defined, elaborated further, or received much attention in ATS
documents, at ATCMs or in the broader international debate. In 2007, as part of an
international research team, the authors set up a research project entitled “Managing
Antarctica for the Benefit of Mankind: A Research Project on the Public Perception of
Antarctica and the Way it Should be Managed”, with the abbreviated title of AntWILD.
As our starting point, we assumed that, by assuming the responsibility to ‘manage
Antarctica in the interest of all mankind’, the Consultative Parties have accepted
their special responsibility to manage the Antarctic in the interest of their own
citizens9 as well as in the interest of citizens of other states that are not involved in
the ATS.10 We further assumed that, following basic democratic principles,11 this
special responsibility implies that the views of the general public in respect of
Antarctica and the way Antarctica should be managed (i) are known to the
Consultative Parties, and (ii) are being taken into account in discussions and decision
making at the ATCMs. The aim of AntWILD is to collect the opinions of members of
the general public from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures and professions
across the world on Antarctica and how it should be managed. Our research
questions include: Do members of the public consider Antarctica important, and if so, for
what reasons? What are the views of the members of the public in relation to the types of
activities that should be allowed or not be allowed in Antarctica? Data collection has been
conducted on an opportunistic basis. A total of nine data collection exercises have
been conducted between March 2007 and March 2013, bringing together responses
8 Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty. In Final report of the 32nd ATCM. Baltimore, United States, 6-17
April, 2009, Appendix 1, 161-2. Buenos Aires: Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty, 2009.
9 It may even be assumed that the Consultative Parties accept that they have this responsibility
towards future generations of humankind. See Bastmeijer, Kees. “Intergenerational Equity and the
Antarctic Treaty System: Continued Efforts to Prevent 'Mastery'” In The Yearbook of Polar Law, Volume
3, edited by Gudmundur Alfredsson, Timo Koivurova (general eds) and Kamrul Hossain (special ed.
Volume 3), 635 – 682. Boston/Leiden: Brill/Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2011, available at SSRN:
10 While it is highly likely that most Consultative Parties regard Antarctica as a global common, not all
Consultative Parties recognise Antarctica as Common Heritage of Mankind. Although scientific
cooperation and sharing of information are important components of the international agreements,
states do not consider themselves obliged to share all benefits resulting from their scientific research
and other activities in the Antarctic, such as fisheries, tourism or biological prospecting. See Vigni,
Patrizia. ‘The Interaction between the Antarctic Treaty System and Other Relevant Conventions
Applicable to the Antarctic Area”, In Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law, Volume 4, edited by
Armin von Bogdandy and Rüdiger Wolfrum, 481-542, Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2000,
available at: http://www.mpil.de/files/pdf2/mpunyb_vigni_4.pdf.
11 See, for example, UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/55/96. “Promoting and consolidating
democracy”: “Calls upon States to promote and consolidate democracy, inter alia, by:… maximizing
the participation of individuals in decision-making”, available at:
http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/resguide/r55_en.shtml. See also, Inter-Parliamentary Council’s
“Universal Declaration on Democracy”: “The achievement of democracy presupposes a genuine
partnership between men and women in the conduct of the affairs of society in which they work in
equality and complementarity, drawing mutual enrichment from their differences.”, available at:
from a total of 1,072 people. One of the interesting findings of AntWILD has been
that a vast majority of our respondents is of the opinion that Antarctica is important
as both a science laboratory for the benefit of mankind and one of the world’s last
great wildernesses. This outcome constitutes the basis for discussing the central
question of this article: to what extent is Antarctica being managed in accordance with the
‘public’s dream’, i.e., both as a science laboratory and one of world’s last great wildernesses?
In the following section of this article (Section 2), we present some preliminary
findings from AntWILD. These findings provide a backdrop for Sections 3 and 4
where we examine whether the mission of co-existence between science and
wilderness in Antarctica is a possible one. In Section 3, we identify how science and
wilderness are given legal protection under the ATS instruments. In Section 4, we
examine how science and wilderness are managed in practice, looking at the impacts
that scientific research and its associated logistical activities12 have on Antarctica’s
wilderness (Sections 4.1-4.4) and at the effects of environmental management
practices on wilderness protection (Sections 4.5-4.6). In Section 5, we report on new
political developments that appear to be in favour of the ‘public’s dream’ and we
explore how the ‘public’s dream’ can be a Possible Mission. We end with a few
2. The ‘Public’s Dream’: Antarctica for Science & Wilderness
2.1 Research Study Methodology
The first full-scale data collection exercise of AntWILD was conducted in the
Netherlands between March 2007 and June 2008. Students in Tilburg University’s
Master of Environmental Law program were asked to collect answers for a
questionnaire as part of their term-time assignment. The questionnaire was divided
into four parts, containing a total of 15 main questions, which required answers in
the form of multiple choice, short answers, or longer elaborations. A short
introduction at the beginning of the document provided the respondent with some
factual background information on the Antarctic Treaty and the goal of the research.
Care was taken so as not to influence the respondents prior to providing their
responses. A total of 12 students collected 269 useable questionnaires. Respondents
came from diverse backgrounds. Nineteen respondents worked in travel agencies, 27
were inhabitants in an old people’s home, and others were inhabitants from nearby
towns, employees working for different government departments and university
students from different faculties.13
12 In this article, the authors do not differentiate between scientific research activities and logistical
activities. All scientific projects in Antarctica depend on the support of logistical activities, such as the
construction or maintenance of infrastructure and the resupply of food, fuel and equipment.
13 Results of this study have been presented in Tin, Tina, Bastmeijer, Kees, O'Reilly, Jessica and Mayer,
Patrick. “Public Perception of the Antarctic Wilderness: Surveys from an Educated, Environmentally
Knowledgeable European Community”, in Science and Stewardship to Protect and Sustain Wilderness
Values, edited by Alan Watson, Joaquin Murrieta-Saldivar and Brooke McBride, 109-117, Rocky
Mountain Research Station (Proceedings RMRS-P-64), Fort Collins, 2011, available at:
In 2013, a similar exercise was repeated, where 28 students from the Tilburg
University’s Environmental Law Bachelor course were asked to collect
questionnaires randomly from the student body at the university. A total of 227
useable questionnaires of students from the faculties of law, sociology and economy
were returned. In order to allow comparisons to be made between the 2007 and the
2013 results, we selected questionnaires collected from respondents from a similar
age range. Since respondents in 2013 were aged between 18 and 38, we selected a
subset of the 2007 questionnaires, using only responses from respondents aged
between 17 and 39 years old. Table 1 provides a summary of the two datasets.
Table 1: Summary of surveys collected by students from Tilburg University,
Netherlands in 2007 and 2013
March 2007 – June 2008
February – April
12 students of the Masters
of Environmental Law
program at Tilburg
28 students of the
program at Tilburg
People aged between 17-39
Students at Tilburg
University - random
Number of respondents
Number of male respondents (% of
Number of female respondents (% of
24 years old
23 years old
Number of Dutch respondents (% of
Number of respondents from Europe,
excluding the Netherlands (% of
Number of respondents from Asia
Number of respondents from North America
Number of respondents from South America
Number of respondents from other locations
Number of respondents who have medium
to high level of environmental knowledge,
based on self-assessment
Number of respondents who have medium
to high level of knowledge of Antarctica,
based on self-assessment
Number of respondents who have travelled
2.2 Results and General Trends
A slightly higher percentage of female respondents was present in the 2013 dataset
than in 2007. Respondents from 2013 came from a significantly wider number of
nationalities, with only 40% of the respondents being Dutch, while over 99% of the
respondents in 2007 identified themselves as Dutch. None of the respondents from
either survey has travelled to Antarctica. Respondents reported to have generally
high environmental knowledge but low knowledge of Antarctica (Table 1).
In part I of the questionnaire, the respondent was asked to provide some information
about him/herself, including age, gender, educational level, and level of knowledge
about Antarctica. In part II, the respondent was asked to elaborate on his/her
general perception of Antarctica, including his/her impressions of Antarctica and
whether the respondent considers Antarctica interesting or important. Specifically,
question 10 asked:
What is, in your opinion, the importance of Antarctica?
a. a science laboratory for the benefit of mankind
b. a tourist destination
c. one of the world’s last great wildernesses
d. a reserve of mineral resources that might support society in the future
e. the ‘refrigerator’ of the world, an important component of the Earth’s climate system
f. Antarctica does not have any value for mankind
g. other, namely …
You may choose multiple answers. If you choose multiple answers please explain how you see
the different activities co-existing. If you choose other, please explain your answer14.
Despite the different years of data collection and different nationalities of the
respondents, the majority of the respondents from 2007 and 2013 valued Antarctica
for the same reasons. They were: a) a science laboratory for the benefit of mankind,
c) one of the world’s last great wildernesses, and e) the ‘refrigerator’ of the world, an
important component of the Earth’s climate system (Table 2). While not every
respondent simultaneously selected a) science, c) wilderness and e) climate,
approximately half of the respondents chose at least one of the three. Science,
wilderness and climate received one or more times more support from respondents
than b) tourist destination and d) mineral resources.
A statistically significantly higher percentage of respondents from 2007
valued Antarctica as wilderness. A statistically significantly higher percentage of
respondents from 2013 valued Antarctica for its mineral resources (rows highlighted
in grey in Table 2). For all other categories, the chi-square (2) test for equality of
proportions show no statistically significantly differences between the percentages of
supporters in 2007 and 2013.
14 The research team chose to put items a. to e. at the beginning of the list since they represent the
values that most people attributed to Antarctica in our pilot study. Items a. to e. were not assigned
according to any particular order. Items f. and g. were put at the end of the list to provide space for
respondents who want to express opinions that have not been adequately covered by items a. to e..
Table 2: Comparison of how Dutch respondents in 2007 and 2013 value Antarctica
(rows highlighted in grey indicate statistically significant difference between 2007 and 2013
Valued by % of
Valued by % of
component of the
How representative are these results of the global population? Are the observed
trends only an idiosyncrasy of young people in the Netherlands? In order to get
some perspective on this question, we merge the data from Tilburg with data
collected from other countries. Table 3 presents a summary of all nine data collection
exercises that we have conducted between March 2007 and March 2013. There is a
wide diversity in terms of time, sample size and sampling methodology. Due to the
heterogeneity of the amalgamated dataset and the presence of many confounding
factors, we do not intend to conduct a rigorous quantitative comparison or attribute
any definitive relationships between the variables. Our intention is, rather, to
highlight similarities that emerge despite the wide range of differences.
15 With Yates Continuity Correction which compensates for the overestimate of 2 value when each
variable has only two categories. See, Pallant, Julie. SPSS Survival manual, 4th edition. Maidenhead:
16 A value smaller than 0.05 indicates a statistically significant difference at the 95% confidence
Table 3 Summary of surveys presented in Figures 1 and 2
May 2012 –
October 2011 –
March 2007 –
August 2012 – March
Madrid, Spain in
Antarctica on a
by Sierra Club, a
de Palos and
Email invitation sent to
involved with the
Antarctic and Southern
(ASOC). People were
encouraged to forward
the survey to others
12 students of the
from Sierra Club)
Number of male
Number of female
respondents (% of
22 years old
21 years old
58 years old
51 years old
47 years old
37 years old
41 years old
Figure 1 presents the results from Table 2 expanded to include all nine datasets and
responses from a total of 1,072 people. The same trends that were visible in the
Tilburg datasets were repeated in all nine datasets, namely, the majority of
respondents valued Antarctica for a) science, c) wilderness, and e) climate. These
three choices were chosen by 40 to 100% of the respondents, and were chosen
consistently more frequently than the other three choices. In comparison to b) tourist
destination, or d) mineral resources, which was often the fourth most popular
choice, the top three choices were chosen by 50%-500% more respondents.
Figure 1: What is the importance of Antarctica? Responses from 1,072 survey
the benefit of
destination One of the
A reserve of
society in the
No value Others
% of respondents
Georgia, USA students
Madrid, Spain students
Dutch non students
Antarctic touris ts 2007
Canada mixed 2009
Spanis h non students
Wilderness and outdoor
As a cross-check on the reliability of the responses to question 10, question 11 asked
which activities respondents would support. These activities include:
(i) small to medium-scale ship-based tourism (up to 300 tourists per ship; make short
(ii) large-scale ship-based tourism (between 300 and 3 000 tourists per ship; no excursions
ashore; luxury entertainment, dining and sports facilities onboard)
(iii) Development of land-based tourism, e.g., building of hotels, tourist accommodation in
research stations, snow mobile excursions, etc.
(iv) Educational trips, e.g., students
(v) Production of art projects, e.g., films, books, music, paintings
(vi) Building of over-snow road networks
(vii) Building of airstrips
(viii) New stations for conducting scientific research
(ix) Mining / oil exploration
(xi) Hunting for whales
(xii) Exploitation of biological or genetic material for commercial purposes
(xiii) Exploitation of icebergs for fresh water supply
(xiv) Designating Antarctica as a wilderness reserve where development of infrastructure is
Respondents were not informed about which activities are currently taking place in
Antarctica.17 Figure 2 shows that the majority of respondents from all nine datasets
supported: (i) small to medium-scale ship-based tourism, (iv) educational trips, (viii)
new scientific stations and (xiv) wilderness reserve. This appears to corroborate with
the responses from question 10, at least on the point that respondents would like to
see Antarctica protected as both a wilderness reserve and used as a scientific
laboratory for the benefit of mankind.
Figure 2: Which activities do you support taking place in Antarctica? Responses
from 1,072 survey respondents.
Small to medium scale
Large scale ship-based
Mining / oil
Exploiting icebergs for
Georgia, USA students 2012
Madrid, Spain stude nts 2012
Tilburg, Netherla nds students 2013
Tilburg, Netherla nds students 2007
Dutch non students 2007
Antarctic tourists 2007
Canada mixed 2009
Spanish non students 2012
Wildernes s and outdoor enthu siasts 2013
We acknowledge that our datasets are heterogeneous and imperfect: they have only
captured relatively small samples of very diverse populations; data collection
exercises were spread over five years; certain vocabulary may not translate precisely
17 Items ix and xiii are not currently taking place while items iii and xii are taking place at a small
in different languages and may carry ambiguous meanings. Hence, it would be
difficult to establish definitive relationships between variables. Nonetheless, our
datasets remain some of the few datasets examining this topic and, until resources
are available to conduct more comprehensive and robust studies to prove otherwise,
we trust that the strong common trends demonstrated by our datasets appear to
indicate that valuing Antarctica both as a scientific laboratory and as one of the
world’s last wildernesses captures the dreams of a significant proportion of the
public that we have surveyed.
3. The ‘Public’s Dream’ in theory: Science and wilderness in the ATS
Freedom of scientific research is firmly embedded in the Antarctic Treaty itself and
in other ATS-instruments. It is codified as a central principle in Article II of the
Antarctic Treaty18 and conducting science in Antarctica is directly related to the
attribution of ‘Consultative Status’ to a Party to the Treaty. Article XI(2) of the Treaty
states that Contracting Parties that are not original signatories of the Treaty may only
receive the Consultative Status “during such time as that Contracting Party
demonstrates its interest in Antarctica by conducting substantial scientific research
activity there, such as the establishment of a scientific station or the despatch of a
scientific expedition.” Scientific research is (apart from Antarctic governance) also
the main field of cooperation between states in Antarctica.19 The Antarctic Treaty
aims “to promote international co-operation in scientific investigation in Antarctica”
(Art. III(1)) and it acknowledges that the development of international co-operation
on the basis of freedom of scientific investigation “accords with the interests of
science and the progress of all mankind.”20
The protection of Antarctica as a science laboratory is clearly also an objective
of the ATS. Article 3(1) of the Protocol (see below) states that the protection of
Antarctica’s “value as an area for the conduct of scientific research, in particular
research essential to understanding the global environment, shall be fundamental
considerations in the planning and conduct of all activities in the Antarctic Treaty
area.” The Protocol also requires that “Treaty activities in the Antarctic Treaty area
shall be planned and conducted so as to avoid: (vi) degradation of, or substantial risk
to, areas of biological, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness significance.”21
Furthermore, in planning and conducting activities in Antarctica, State Parties are
also obliged “to accord priority to scientific research and to preserve the value of
Antarctica as an area for the conduct of such research, including research essential to
understanding the global environment.”22
18 Article II of the Treaty states: “freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation
towards that end […] shall continue,” an agreement that has been reaffirmed in many other ATS-
19 See, e.g., Art. 2 of the Treaty and Art. 6 of the Protocol.
20 See the Preamble of the Antarctic Treaty.
21 See Art. 3(2)(b)(vi) of the Protocol.
22 See Art. 3(3) of the Protocol.
Compared to the role of science laboratory, Antarctica’s role as one of the world’s
last wildernesses features less prominently in the ATS instruments. Nevertheless the
Consultative Parties have given it substantial recognition, especially during and after
the negotiations of the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource
Activities (CRAMRA)24 in the 1980s. In its preamble, CRAMRA noted Antarctica’s
“unique ecological, scientific and wilderness value”. Article 2(3) stated that “the
Parties acknowledge the special responsibility of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative
Parties for the protection of the environment and the need to: [...] d. respect
Antarctica's scientific value and aesthetic and wilderness qualities.” In view of these
provisions, it is interesting that wilderness protection was in fact one of the
arguments used by Australia to refuse ratification of this convention.25 Shortly after
the refusal of CRAMRA the Consultative Parties agreed to develop a
“comprehensive system for the protection of the Antarctic environment [...]” that
should aim at “ensuring that human activity does not have adverse impacts on the
Antarctic environment or dependent or associated ecosystems or compromise the
scientific, aesthetic or wilderness values of Antarctica”.26 Two years later this
principle was codified in Article 3(1) of the Protocol:
The protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated
ecosystems and the intrinsic value of Antarctica, including its wilderness and
aesthetic values and its values as an area for the conduct of scientific research,
in particular research essential to understanding the global environment, shall
be fundamental considerations in the planning and conduct of all activities in
the Antarctic Treaty area.
In addition, the Protocol provides the instrument to designate an area as an Antarctic
Specially Protected Area (ASPA) in order to protect certain ”outstanding” values,
including wilderness values.27
With these provisions, the Protocol is one of the very few international
agreements in which wilderness values explicitly receive legally protected status.
23 Some parts of this subsection build on Bastmeijer, Kees, “Protecting Polar Wilderness: Just a
Western Philosophical Idea or a Useful Concept for Regulating Human Activities in the Polar
Regions?”, in: Alfredsson, Gudmundur and Koivurova, Timo (eds in chief) and Leary, David (special
ed. Volume 1), 1 The Yearbook of Polar Law, Brill/Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. Boston/Leiden, 2009,
pp. 73-99; the article is also available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1295430; and Bastmeijer, Kees,
“Intergenerational Equity and the Antarctic Treaty System: Continued Efforts to Prevent 'Mastery'’,
in: Alfredsson, Gudmundur and Koivurova, Timo (eds in chief) and Hossain, Kamrul (special ed.
Volume 3), 3 The Yearbook of Polar Law, Brill/Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. Boston/Leiden, 2011, pp.
635 - 682, also available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1762039.
24 Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA), June 2, 1988, 27
ILM 859 (1988), not in force, available at http://sedac.ciesin.org/entri/texts/acrc/cramra.txt.html.
The text of the convention was negotiated between 1981 and adopted in 1988 but it has not been
ratified and has not come into force.
25 See, among others, Brown, A. “New Proposal: The Natural Park’ In The Antarctic Environmental and
International Law edited by J. Verhoeven, P. Sands and M. Bruce, 97-101. London / Boston: Graham &
26 Recommendation XV-1 (1989).
27 Annex V to the Protocol: “Area protection and management”
After the adoption of the Protocol, the ATS has continued to reaffirm its commitment
to the protection of Antarctica’s wilderness in response to the development of
human activity in Antarctica. For instance, the “General Guidelines for Visitors to
the Antarctic,” first adopted at the 18th ATCM in 1994,28 include the statement:
“Antarctica remains relatively pristine. It is the largest wilderness area on earth.
Please keep it that way.”29 In 2009 the Consultative Parties agreed that “[t]ourism
should not be allowed to contribute to the long-term degradation of the Antarctic
environment and its dependent and associated ecosystems, or the intrinsic natural
wilderness and historical values of Antarctica.”30
3.3 The ‘Public’s Dream’: A Possible Mission, at least, in Theory
The above discussion indicates that, at least in theory, the ‘public’s dream’
corresponds well with the protected status inferred on Antarctica by the ATS. To a
certain extent this is not a surprise as environmental protection and conducting
science in Antarctica are closely connected. Not only because many science projects
are of great value for our understanding of global environmental problems, but also
because the pristine environment in Antarctica is one of the key factors that make
Antarctica such a unique and valuable science laboratory. As a commentator during
an international workshop in 1995 stated: “I think that protection of the environment
will become dearer to our hearts because there will be no science if we damage the
environment.”31 This direct interrelationship has also been acknowledged by the
ATCM. For instance, in Recommendation XV-5 (1989), the Consultative Parties
because of its relatively pristine state, Antarctica provides an important
natural laboratory to obtain baseline information on Antarctic environments
and for detecting and monitoring some of the effects of human activities on
the global environments and ecosystems upon which the welfare and survival
of the human species depend.32
Consequently, it could be argued that the importance of Antarctica for scientific
research is necessarily a key motivation for a comprehensive protection of the
Antarctic environment, which is, in turn, the central objective of the Protocol.
However, as will be shown in the following section, in practice, there are also clear
28 See: the “Guidance for Visitors to the Antarctic”, attached to Recommendation XVIII-I (1994): Under
Section E, entitled “Keep Antarctica pristine”.
29 A revised version of these Guidelines was adopted in 2011. See Resolution 3 (2011), “General
Guidelines for Visitors to the Antarctic (Annex)”. In the 2011 version, the last sentence “Please keep it
this way” is replaced by “Please leave no trace of your visit”.
30 Resolution 7 (2009), “General Principles of Antarctic Tourism”.
31 Jackson, Andrew, ed., On the Antarctic Horizon, Proceedings of the International Symposium on the
Future of the Antarctic Treaty System, Ushuaia, Argentina, 20 - 24 March 1995, 36-37. See also Bush, W.M.
“The Antarctic Treaty System, A Framework for Evolution: The Concept of a System”, in Antarctica's
Future: Continuity or Change?, edited by R.A. Herr, H.R. Hall and M.G. Haward, 119-179, Deakin:
Australian Institute of International Affairs, 1990, at 162: “much of the value of Antarctica for science,
particularly to monitor global environmental change, depends on the maintenance of its relatively
32 Recommendation XV-5, “Environmental monitoring activities”, 1989.
tensions between Antarctica’s wilderness values and the conduct of Antarctic
scientific research. While the mission of co-existence between science and wilderness
in Antarctica appears to be a possible one, at least, in theory, it is further complicated
by the realities of logistics and geopolitics.
4. The ‘Public’s Dream’ in practice: Environmental management of
scientific research and impacts on wilderness
4.1 Wilderness characteristics
While the Protocol provides provisions for the protection of Antarctica’s wilderness
values, there is no formal definition of “wilderness values” in the Protocol or in any
other ATS instrument.33 Since the Protocol came into force in 1998, a few
Consultative Parties have repeatedly proposed definitions of wilderness for the
Antarctic context34, with the broad characteristics of remoteness and relative absence
of people and indications of human presence or activity35. However, in general, over
the past 15 years, Consultative Parties have put in little time and effort to discuss
how Antarctica’s wilderness should be protected or agree on a definition of
As a concept, wilderness was neither invented in, nor exclusively applicable
to Antarctica. It has been embedded in national legislations36 and management
practices37 of a large number of countries (many of them Consultative Parties to the
33 Tin, Tina, Hemmings, Alan D. and Roura, Ricardo. “Pressures on the wilderness values of the
Antarctic Continent.” International Journal of Wilderness 14(3) (2008): 7-12.
34 See, for example, United Kingdom. “Wilderness and aesthetic values in Antarctica.” Information
Paper 2, ATCM XXII, Tromsø, Norway, 25 May – 5 June, 1998: “The following appears to be a
reasonable working definition of wilderness: Any part of the Antarctic in which neither permanent
habitation nor any other permanent evidence of present or past human presence is visible”. See also,
New Zealand. “Understanding concepts of footprint and wilderness related to protection of the
Antarctic environment.” Working Paper 35, ATCM XXXIV, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 20 June – 1 July,
2011: “A simple practical definition of Antarctic wilderness may best be the absence of footprint…
Describing footprint more generally as a measure of the spatial extent of disturbance would be more
encompassing for Antarctic usage.”
35 ASOC, Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition. “Beyond direct impacts of multi-year maintained
ice routes. Case study: McMurdo-South Pole surface re-supply traverse.” Information Paper 85,
ATCM XXIV, Edinburgh, UK, 12-23 June, 2006.
36 See, Kormos, Cyril F. A Handbook on International Wilderness Law and Policy. Golden: Fulcrum, 2008.
37 See, for example, Dudley, Nigel, ed. Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories.
Gland: World Conservation Union/IUCN, 2008, available at http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-
wpd/edocs/2008-028.pdf. See also, Kuiters, A.T., Kun, Z., McIntosh, N., Poirters, C. , van Apeldoorn,
R.C. and Vancura, V. (Alterra, Pan Parks Foundation and Eurosite). Guidelines for the management of
wilderness and wild areas in Natura 2000, a document produced under contract from the European
Commission. Brussels: European Commission, 2012, available at
255E90D82E73/0/GuidelinesWilderness_2012.pdf; See also, Fisher, M., Carver, S., Kun, Z.,
McMorran, R., Arrell, K. and Mitchell, G. Review of Status and Conservation of Wild Land in Europe.
Project commissioned by the Scottish Government, Edinburgh: Scottish Government, 2010, available
at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/1051/0109251.pdf, and Wilderness Working Group
(working group of the Wild Europe Initiative). A Working Definition of European Wilderness and Wild
Areas, Draft discussion paper, 25 October 2012.
Antarctic Treaty) and protected areas. Notably, IUCN (the World Conservation
Union) has established wilderness as a stand-alone category of protected areas – a
categorisation that is recognised by international bodies such as the United Nations
and by many national governments as the global standard for defining and
recording protected areas.38 On the basis of legal definitions of wilderness adopted
worldwide, the following three main wilderness characteristics may be
1) The absence of roads, buildings, bridges, tracks, cables or other proofs of the
modern human society, as well as a minimum distance from such facilities
2) Naturalness (ecological intactness, native species and ecosystem and free
functioning natural processes40); and
3) Relatively large in size (often indicated by means of acres or hectares, the time
needed to cross the area, or related to the effective ecological functioning41).
Due to the lack of consensus on a definition of Antarctica’s wilderness, for the
purpose of this section we borrow the three characteristics listed above and apply
them to Antarctica; we then examine how these wilderness characteristics of
Antarctica are impacted by scientific research and related logistics.
4.2 Impacts on Wilderness Characteristic 1: The absence of roads, buildings, permanent
and semi-permanent facilities
Almost all human made objects with a permanent or semi-permanent character in
Antarctica, have been established by governments of Treaty Parties to support
scientific research.42 The Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs
(COMNAP) lists a total of 103 main facilities operated by National Antarctic
Programs (NAPs) in the Antarctic Treaty Area, having a peak simultaneous capacity
for 4,400 people.43 Based on information publicly available on the websites of NAPs
and the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat, Summerson estimated that over 620 items of
infrastructure are standing in Antarctica today,44 having accumulated over the 20th
century (Figure 3a-c45). These include aircraft runways, field camps, abandoned
stations, field huts, refuges, scientific equipment, historic sites and monuments,
38 Dudley, supra note 37.
39 Kormos, supra note 36.
40 Kuiters et al., supra note 37.
41 Wilderness Working Group, supra note 37.
42 See also Bastmeijer, Kees, “Shared Responsibility for Cumulative Environmental Impacts in
Antarctica”, in: Andre Nollkaemper, The Practice of Shared Responsibility, Volume II (Law of the Sea
and Environmental law), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2014 (forthcoming);
43 COMNAP. “Main Antarctic facilities operated by the National Antarctic Programs in the Antarctic
Treaty Area. “Updated 18 November, 2013.
44 Summerson, Rupert. “Protection of wilderness and aesthetic values in Antarctica.” In Protection of
the three poles, edited by Falk Huettmann, 77-109. Tokyo: Springer, 2012.
45 Tin, Tina and Summerson, Rupert. “Growing human footprint, diminishing wilderness in
Antarctica.” International Journal of Wilderness 19(3) (2013): 10-13,36.
depots and other miscellaneous objects. While information exchange is a legal
requirement under the Antarctic Treaty, not all Parties fulfil their obligations46 and
not all information is publicly available. Hence, Figure 3 represents a conservative
estimate of the number and extent of permanent and semi-permanent facilities on
the Antarctic continent.
Figures 3a-c: Human infrastructure in Antarctica in (a) 1912, (b) 1958, and (c) 2012,
based on publicly available data. Not exhaustive. Symbols not to scale. Maps created
by Rupert Summerson.
46 Pertierra, Luis R. and Hughes, Kevin A. “Management of Antarctic Specially Protected Areas:
permitting, visitation and information exchange practices.” Antarctic Science 25(4) (2013): 553-564.
Formally, no ‘roads’ exist in Antarctica but in practice, large numbers of vehicle
tracks crisscross station areas, and in between neighbouring research stations and
field sites. Vehicles tracks, from snow machines, trucks and tractors, can be found on
snow, ice, ice-free soil,47 and, occasionally on vegetation, although significant
damage to vegetation is prohibited under the Protocol.48 Large tractors towing sleds
containing fuel, cargo and living modules for personnel make long-distance
traverses of over 1,000 km several times a year to supply stations that are far away
from the coast.49 Each convoy can be made up of several tractors, and, together with
their payload, can weigh up to several hundreds of tonnes. They travel over
“traverse routes” on the ice that are groomed and marked by flags that remain on
the surface year round. Along the routes, snow and ice are harvested to fill in
crevasses; sometimes explosives are used.50 There has been no systematic census of
the locations and total length of vehicle tracks in Antarctica. How long it takes for
vehicle tracks to disappear over Antarctic soil, vegetation or ice has not been
systematically studied and remains largely unknown.
During the last decade, the distinction between governmental use of facilities
for scientific research and commercial uses has begun to blur: certain facilities that
were established to support scientific research have increasingly been used for
commercial tourism purposes. Lamers reported that “the Uruguayan National
Programme transports and accommodates between 20 and 50 paying visitors at their
Artigas Station on Fildes Peninsula, King George Island to recover some of the
station’s operating costs.”51 In 2011, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition
(ASOC) conducted a survey on this issue among the Consultative Parties and based
on eight responses ASOC concluded: “it is apparent that some Parties have
identified two locations where commercial land-based tourism takes place using
infrastructure from National Antarctic Programs, which indicates a level of support
from those programs: Fildes Peninsula (Teniente R. Marsh Airport) and the blue ice
47 For example, for a map of vehicle tracks in Fildes Peninsula, see, Peter, Hans-Ulrich, Braun,
Christina, Janowski, Susann, Nordt, Anja, Nordt, Anke and Stelter, Michel. The current environmental
situation and proposals for the management of the Fildes Peninsula Region. Dessau-Rolau:
Umweltbundesamt, 2012, available at: http://www.uba.de/uba-info-medien-e/4424.html. For aerial
photograph of vehicle tracks over McMurdo station and Scott Base, see, U.S. Geological Survey,
National Science Foundation. Aerial photographic mosaic of McMurdo Station, USA – Scott Base, NZ,
taken on February 2, 2000. available at: http://www.pgc.umn.edu/maps/antarctic/id/ANT_REF-
48 Annex II to the Protocol: “Conservation of Antarctic flora and fauna.”
49 For locations of traverse routes, see Figure 2 in Tin and Summerson, supra note 45.
50 National Science Foundation. Development and implementation of surface traverse capabilities in
Antarctica. Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation. Final draft. Arlington: National Science
Foundation, 2004, available at:
51 Lamers, M., “The Future of Tourism in Antarctica, Challenges for Sustainability”, Universitaire Pers
Maastricht, 2009, Table 6.2, p. 98. See also Bastmeijer, Kees, Lamers, Machiel and Harcha, Juan.
“Permanent Land-based Facilities for Tourism in Antarctica: The Need for Regulation.” Review of
European Community & International Environmental Law (RECIEL) 17(1) (2008): 84 – 99, Table 2,
available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1766407. See also, Uruguay.
“Visitors Programme to the Artigas Antarctic Scientific Base (BCCA)” Information Paper 56, ATCM
XXVIII, Stockholm, Sweden, 6-17 June 2005.
airstrip near Novolazarevskaya Station in Queen Maud Land.”52 Furthermore, on
Fildes Peninsula, the airstrip is being used to bring commercial tourists to the
Antarctic Peninsula to begin a ship cruise.53 Fly-cruise tourism has increased
dramatically during the 2012-13 season, bringing 2,064 tourists to Antarctica,
compared to 860 in 2011-12, 531 in 2010-11 and 345 in 2009-10.54
To conclude: science in Antarctica has direct and highly visible impacts on the
wilderness characteristic of absence of roads, buildings and proofs of modern human
society. Furthermore, the distinction between government and commercial uses has
begun to blur, which may further increase these impacts, for instance, due to
4.3 Impacts on Wilderness Characteristic 2: Naturalness and ecological intactness
The construction of stations has invariably impacted the surrounding environment,
resulting in the loss of seabird nesting habitat, physical disturbance to soils and
destruction of vegetation. Day-to-day operation of stations and ships give rise to
activity, noise and light; some studies have documented that these disturbances have
caused reductions or increased mortality in seabird populations.55 Fuel spills are one
of the most widespread sources of localised pollution near stations.56 The largest fuel
spill in Antarctica happened at sea as the Argentine resupply ship Bahia Paraiso ran
aground in 1989, contaminating water, sediments and organisms within a 3 km
radius.57 Long-lived chemical contaminants are found in the water, air and ground
around stations, as a result of waste disposal and combustion processes. The amount
of contaminated soil and waste was estimated to be of the order of 1-10 million m3 in
the 1990s.58 On Fildes Peninsula, where four countries run six permanent research
stations, a high concentration of scientific research and associated logistical activities
have led to considerable damage to vegetation, habitat destruction by quarrying and
chronic hydrocarbon contamination.59 Scientific coordination between stations on
Fildes Peninsula is minimal; station staff and scientists are seen to contravene legally
52 ASOC “Land based tourism in Antarctica” Information Paper 87, ATCM XXXIV, Buenos Aires, 20
June – 1 July 2011, p.4. Russia Federation. “Queen Maud Land – A new center for non-governmental
activity in the Antarctic”, Working Paper 61, Punta del Este, Uruguay, 3-14 May 2010.
54 International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. “Antarctic Tourism Fact Sheet 2013-2014.”
55 Kerry, Knowles R. and Riddle, Martin J., eds. Health of Antarctic wildlife: a challenge for science and
policy. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer, 2009. See also Tin, T., Fleming, Z.L., Hughes, K.A., Ainley, D.G.,
Convey, P., Moreno, C.A., Pfeiffer, S., Scott, J. and Snape, I. “Impacts of local human activities on the
Antarctic environment.” Antarctic Science 21(1) (2009): 3-33.
56 Bargagli, Roberto. Antarctic ecosystems: environmental contamination, climate change, and human impact.
Berlin Heidelberg: Springer, 2005.
57 Kennicutt, M.C., Sweet, S.T., Fraser, W.R., Stockton, W.L. and Culver, M., “Grounding of the Bahia
Paraiso at Arthur Harbor, Antarctica. 1. Distribution and fate of oil spill related hydrocarbons.”
Environmental Science and Technology 25 (2009): 509-518.
58 Tin et al., supra note 55.
59 See, Peter et al., supra note 47. See, also, Braun, Christina, Mustafa, Osama, Nordt, Anja, Pfeiffer,
Simone and Peter, Hans-Ulrich. “Environmental monitoring and management proposals for the
Fildes region, King George Island, Antarctica.” Polar Research 31 (201): 18206,
binding environmental regulations; the visible effects of human activity have
rendered the region to be considered unattractive for tourism.60
Fossil fuel is the main energy source used for travelling, living and working in
Antarctica. The overall amount of fuel consumed is small on a global scale but the
amount consumed per person during his/her short stay61 in Antarctica is extremely
high. Based on rough estimates, every person who travelled to Antarctica during the
2004/5 season emitted as much carbon dioxide (CO2) during his/her stay in
Antarctica as the global average per person over the whole year.62 Antarctica is often
promoted as an important scientific laboratory for understanding global climate
changes;63 at the same time, climate change is expected to have significant impacts
on the Antarctic region64 and the ATCM’s Committee on Environmental Protection
(CEP) has been considering the “implications of climate change for management of
Antarctic environment” as an action of high priority since 2008.65 Yet, travelling to
and working in Antarctica aggravates climate change and its impacts through the
consumption of fossil fuels and emission of CO2. A tension clearly exists between the
Consultative Parties’ commitment to protect the ecological intactness of the Antarctic
wilderness and the desire to use Antarctica as a scientific laboratory to study global
Tensions and contradictions arise regularly when the pristine environment of
a place is what makes it unique and valuable for scientific research. The undisturbed
ice layers of the Antarctic ice sheet hold records of the Earth’s climate from the last
hundreds of thousands of years. Scientists have drilled to the bottom of the Antarctic
61 The majority of visitors and workers stay in Antarctica for a period of a few weeks while some can
stay up to several months.
62 In Shirsat, S.V. and Graf, H.F. “An emission inventory of sulfur from anthropogenic sources in
Antarctica.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 9 (2009): 3397–3408, the authors estimated that power
generation, vehicular, marine and airborne traffic in the Antarctic region emitted a total of 208
kilotons of CO2 in the 2004/5 seasons. Using information from the International Association of
Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and COMNAP, it is estimated that approximately 50,000 people
travelled to Antarctica during the 2004/5 season. Therefore, roughly speaking, each person was
accountable for the emission of 4 tons of carbon dioxide during his / her stay in Antarctica, which
typically lasted from several days to several months. According to International Energy Agency. CO2
emissions from fuel combustion. Highlights. 2009 edition. Paris: International Energy Agency, 2009, the
global average CO2emission from the combustion of fossil fuel is estimated at 4.2 tons per person for
the year 2005. For more details, see ASOC. “Environmental and economic benefits of climate change
mitigation and adaptation in Antarctica.” Information Paper, Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts on
Climate Change, Svolvaer, Norway, April 6-9, 2010.
63 See for example: Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty, supra note 8 at 163-4: “Appendix 2. Antarctic
Treaty-Arctic Council Joint Meeting Washington Ministerial Declaration on the International Polar
Year and Polar Science”.
64 Turner, J., Bindschadler, R.A., Convey, P., Di Prisco, G., Fahrbach, E., Gutt, J., Hodgson, D.A.,
Mayewski, P.A. and Summerhayes, C.P, eds. Antarctic climate change and the environment. A
contribution to the International Polar Year 2007-2008. Cambridge: Scientific Committee on Antarctic
Research, 2009, available at: http://www.scar.org/publications/occasionals/acce.html
65 Final report of the 31st ATCM, Kyiv, Ukraine, 2-13 June, 2008. Buenos Aires: Secretariat of the Antarctic
66 Chaturvedi, Sanjay. “The Antarctic ‘climate security’ dilemma and the future of Antarctic
governance.” in Antarctic security in the twenty-first century. Legal and policy perspectives, edited by
Hemmings, Alan D., Rothwell Donald R. and Scott Karen N., 257-283. Milton Park / New York:
ice sheet that is several kilometres thick and have extracted information that has
been extremely valuable in improving modern society’s understanding of global
climate change.67 However, in return, when ice is retrieved from the ice sheet,
petroleum-based lubricants are left in the drill holes in the ice sheet for tens of
thousands of years,68 impacting irreversibly the naturalness of the area. In other
cases, water composition and the possibility of the existence of living organisms in
the pristine subglacial lakes lying beneath the ice sheet have become the subject of
intense scientific interest. These lakes have been isolated from the atmosphere for
millions of years;69 introduction of materials that are alien to the native lake
environment risks contamination of the lakes70 and impacts irreversibly their
Worldwide, the introduction and establishment of non-native species impacts
native ecosystems and is one of the main threats for biological diversity. While few
non-native species have been established in Antarctica to date, climate warming and
increasing human activity are augmenting the risks.71 Recent research indicates that
scientists carry more non-native plant seeds per person to Antarctica than tourists.72
To conclude: science in Antarctica has direct and cumulative impacts on the
wilderness characteristic of naturalness, outweighing impacts from commercial
activities in many respects.
67 See, e.g., Masson-Delmotte, V., Buiron, D., Ekaykin, A., Frezzotti, M., Gallée, H., Jouzel, J., Krinner,
G., Landais, A., Motoyama, H., Oerter, H., Pol, K., Pollard, D., Ritz, C., Schlosser, E., Sime, L.C.,
Sodemann, H., Stenni, B., Uemura, R. and Vimeux, F. “A comparison of the present and last
interglacial periods in six Antarctic ice cores.” Climate of the Past 7 (2011): 397-423. See also, Petit, J.R.,
Jouzel, J., Raynaud, D., Barkov, N.I., Barnola, J.-M., Basile, I., Bender, M., Chappellaz, J., Davis, M.,
Delaygue, G., Delmotte, M., Kotlyakov, V.M., Legrand, M., Lipenkov, V.Y., Lorius, C., Pépin, L., Ritz,
C., Saltzman, E. and Stievenard, M. “Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from
the Vostok ice core, Antarctica.” Nature 399 (1999): 429-436.
68 See, e.g., Frezzotti, M., Giuliani, P. and Torcini, S. Talos Dome Ice Core Project (TALDICE): Initial
Environmental Evaluation for recovering a deep ice core at Talos Dome, East Antarctica. Rome: Consortium
for the implementation of the National Programme of Antarctica Research ENEA CR, 2005.
69 Rogers, Scott O., Shtarkman, Yury M., Koçer, Zeynep A., Edgar, Robyn, Veerapaneni, Ram and
D’Elia, Tom. “Ecology of subglacial Lake Vostok (Antarctica), based on metagenomic
/metatranscriptomic analyses of accretion ice.” Biology 2(2) (2013): 629-650.
70 Cowan, Don A., Chown, Steven L., Convey, Peter, Tuffin, Marla, Hughes, Kevin, Pointing, Steven,
Vincent, Warwick F. “Non-indigenous microorganisms in the Antarctic: assessing the risks. “Trends in
Microbiology 19 (11) (2011): 540-548.
71 Hughes, Kevin A., Convey, Peter and Huiskes, Ad H.L. “Global movement and homogenisation of
biota: challenges to the environmental management of Antarctica.” In Antarctic futures. Human
engagement with the Antarctic environment, edited by Tina Tin, Daniela Liggett, Patrick T. Maher, and
Machiel Lamersm, 113-137. Dordrecht: Springer, Dordrecht, 2014.
72 Chown, Steven L., Huiskes, Ad H.L., Gremmen, Niek J.M., Lee, Jennifer E., Terauds, Aleks, Crosbie,
Kim, Frenot, Yves, Hughes, Kevin A., Imura, Satoshi, Kiefer, Kate, Lebouvier, Marc, Raymond, Ben,
Tsujimoto, Megumu, Ware, Chris, Van de Vijver, Bart and Bergstrom, Dana M. “Continent-wide risk
assessment or the establishment of nonindigenous species in Antarctica.” Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences 109(13) (27 March 2012): 4938-4943, available at:
http://www.pnas.org/content/109/13/4938.full.pdf+html. The article also makes clear that these
differences in propagule load are tempered due to the fact that the annual tourist numbers are higher
than those of scientists.
4.4 Impacts on Wilderness Characteristic 3: Relatively large in size
With its 14 million km2, the Antarctic continent covers about one tenth of the Earth’s
surface. Before the arrival of the first humans, it was essentially a “blank canvas”, a
large contiguous wilderness without any alterations from human intervention. Two
hundred years after the arrival of the first humans in the Antarctic region, human
activities still only take place over less than 1% of the surface of the Antarctic
continent.73 Wilderness areas of this size are rare on Earth in the 21st century.74
While the total surface area of the Antarctic Treaty Area75 remains large, the
geographical expansion of human activities has the effect of breaking up the
previously contiguous Antarctic wilderness into smaller pieces. Technological
advances are allowing stations and research activities to reach further into remote
parts of Antarctica. New stations are built in previously unoccupied areas. Stations
and field camps are used as bases to access more remote locations. Unvisited areas
are becoming a rarity even in Antarctica.76 Distances between human infrastructure
have decreased. While Antarctica started off as a “blank canvas” – a large contiguous
wilderness - it is becoming a “torn canvas”, where smaller fragments of wilderness
are separated by holes of non-wilderness.77
The largest nationally protected areas in the world have surface areas in the
order of several hundred thousand square kilometres.78 The Antarctic wilderness,
with a surface area of millions of square kilometres is indisputably unique and rare
and, according to our public perception research, highly valued by the general
To conclude: science in Antarctica has gradual and cumulative impacts on the
wilderness characteristic of relatively large in size.
4.5 Environmental management practices in support of the ‘Public’s Dream’
Particularly with the adoption of the Protocol in 1991, environmental protection has
become the third pillar of the ATS – in addition to safeguarding peace and scientific
cooperation. While few of the provisions of the Protocol explicitly focus on
wilderness protection (see Section 3.2), many of its instruments are of great relevance
for limiting the ecological footprint of science programs in Antarctica, hence, directly
supporting the ‘public’s dream’ of the coexistence of science and wilderness.
Obligatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures are designed to
minimise the likelihood and magnitude of environmental impacts of human
73 Summerson, R.M.V. “The protection of wilderness and aesthetic values in Antarctica.” PhD thesis,
The University of Melbourne, 2013.
74 IUCN and UNEP. The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge,
75 The continent and its surrounding oceans up to 60 degrees latitude South, a total of one-sixth of the
planet’s surface or 85 million square kilometres.
76 Hughes, Kevin A., Fretwell, Peter, Rae, Joanna, Holmes, Keith and Fleming, Andrew. “Untouched
Antarctica: mapping a finite and diminishing environmental resource” Antarctic Science 23 (2011): 537-
77 Carver, Steve and Tin, Tina. Mapping and modelling wilderness values in Antarctica. Leeds: Wildland
Research Institute, Leeds, 2013.
78 IUCN and UNEP, supra note 74.
activities; provisions on waste management aim to reduce the amount of waste
disposed of in the Antarctic Treaty area; provisions on the protection of Antarctica
flora and fauna focus on the minimisation of human interference of native plants and
animals; and the instrument of designating Antarctic Specially Protected Areas
(ASPAs) allow areas to be set aside, areas where human visitation is limited, and
where ‘outstanding values’ can be protected from human interference.79
The ATS is clearly also a very active governance system with annual debates
at the ATCM and the meeting of the CEP, as well as intersessional discussion
groups, about the implementation of agreed provisions and the need to take
additional instruments to address new challenges. Soft-law instruments and
guidelines are constantly being developed. Recent examples include a non legally
binding Non Native Species Manual aimed at minimising the unintentional
introduction of non native species in face of climate change and expansion of human
activities80 and a Clean Up Manual to provide recommendatory guidance on the
repair and remediation of contaminated sites.81 Furthermore, in the CEP, New
Zealand has been leading the further development of existing EIA guidelines to
include guidance on the consideration of wilderness values in the preparation of
NAPs also work together, bilaterally, multilaterally or through COMNAP to
enhance their environmental standards. For instance, COMNAP has organised
workshops to facilitate the exchange of best practices on waste management as well
as for energy management. Stations run by several NAPs have adopted
Environmental Management Systems that have been certified to meet the
internationally accepted standard of ISO 14001.83 Certification to a common standard
establishes a common reference for communication about environmental
management issues between NAPs.84
Environmental management initiatives have also been initiated by the
scientific community. To help scientists conduct their science in a careful and
responsible manner, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) has
produced a series of codes of conduct.85 Their voluntary codes of conduct for: (i)
terrestrial scientific field research in Antarctica, (ii) use of animals for scientific
purpose, and (iii) exploration and research of subglacial aquatic environments,
79 See Annexes I, II, III and V of Protocol. See also, New Zealand. “Further information about
wilderness protection in Antarctica and use of tools in the Protocol.” Information Paper 60; and
ASOC. “Annex V Inviolate and reference areas: current management practices” Information Paper 49;
both papers presented at ATCM XXXV, Hobart, Australia,11-20 June, 2012.
80 Non Native Species online Manual. http://www.ats.aq/e/ep_faflo_nns.htm
81 Resolution 2(2013) “Antarctic Clean-Up Manual”.
82 New Zealand. “Possible guidance material to assist Parties to take account of wilderness values
when undertaking environmental impact assessments.” Working Paper 35, ATCM XXXVI, Brussels,
Belgium, 20-29 May, 2013.
83 Sánchez, Rodolfo Andrés and Njaastad, B. “Future challenges in environmental management of
National Antarctic Programs.” In Antarctic futures. Human engagement with the Antarctic environment,
edited by Tina Tin, Daniela Liggett, Patrick T. Maher and Machiel Lamers, 297-306. Dordrecht:
85 See Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Codes of conduct for fieldwork, the use of animals
and exploration and research of subglacial aquatic environments.
provide ample creative examples of how to minimise the environmental impact of
scientific research in the Antarctic wilderness.
4.6 Practices not in support of the ‘Public’s Dream’: The Taboos of ‘Non-Use’ and ‘No Go’
Although the efforts outlined in Section 4.5 are relevant for limiting the tensions
between scientific research and the environmental objectives of the Protocol, it
should be noted that most instruments may be characterised as ‘conditions’ for
conducting activities in the Antarctic. Limitations (‘non-use’) appear to be seldom
accepted. While Consultative Parties have accepted the strict prohibition of some
activities, such as commercial mining and military activities, in general, Antarctica is
considered to be open for most activities as long as certain conditions are respected.
This is a human behaviour that is not exclusive to scientific research or Antarctic
affairs. It reflects a more general behaviour of contemporary human societies
whereby states, institutions and/or individuals have difficulty accepting limitations
to our ambitions. Consequently, the role of most environmental protection laws is
limited to mitigating the significance of negative environmental impacts of human
activities,86 rather than prohibiting activities and avoiding impacts all together. Most
serious global environmental concerns, such as climate change and biodiversity loss,
are a result of the accumulation of negative environmental impacts caused by lawful
The case in Antarctica may be illustrated by the ineffectiveness of the ‘No Go’
or ‘No Action’ alternative in the EIA process. The ATCM’s “Guidelines for
Environmental Impact Assessment in Antarctica” states that:
The alternative of not proceeding with the proposed activity (i.e., the “no-
action” alternative) should always be included in any analysis of
environmental impacts of the proposed activity.87
Yet, to date, not a single Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation (CEE) – the
highest level of EIA under the ATS, applied to activities that are likely to have more
than a minor or transitory impact – has led to the decision to adopt the ‘No Go’
alternative.88 Even in the case where there was significant international criticism,
neither the EIA process nor international diplomacy resulted in the proposed activity
being modified or abandoned.89
86 Bastmeijer, Kees. “Ecological Restoration in International Biodiversity Law: A Promising Strategy to
Address Our Failure to Prevent?”, in: Bowman, M.J.S. , Davies, P., and Goodwin, E.J. Research
Handbook on Biodiversity and Law, Edgar Elgar, 2014 (forthcoming).
87 Resolution 4 (2005), ATCM XXVIII, Stockholm. “Updating of guidelines for Environmental Impact
Assessment in Antarctica” Attachment. “Guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessment in
88 Hemmings, Alan D. and Kriwoken Lorne K. “High Level Antarctic EIA under the Madrid Protocol:
State Practice and the Effectiveness of the Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation Process.”
International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 10(3) (2010): 187-208.
89 See case of Lake Vostok in: Scott, Karen N. “Scientific rhetoric and Antarctic Security.”in Antarctic
security in the twenty-first century. Legal and policy perspectives, edited by Alan D. Hemmings, Donald R.
Rothwell and Karen N. Scott, 285-306. Milton Park / New York: Routledge, 2012.
When ‘non-use’, ‘no go’, ‘no action’ are not viable means of action, then
unlimited growth becomes the norm. One aspect of this unlimited growth is that it is
not a result of any large-scale, long-term strategic planning.
Unplanned, unlimited expansion of human activities in Antarctica may be
illustrated by the developments regarding scientific research stations. The rate of
construction of new stations was highest during the two decades of the 1980s and
the 1950s (see Table 4). Concern for the increase of numbers of research stations in
Antarctica already received explicit attention before the adoption of the Protocol.
With the adoption of Recommendation XV-17 in 1989, the governments of the
Consultative Parties were recommended “to take […] measures to avoid excessive
concentration in Antarctica of such stations or facilities”, although these measures
related only to “consultations, co-ordination and possible cooperation.”90 This
Recommendation received a codification in a hard law instrument with the adoption
of Article 6 of the Protocol. This provision requires the Contracting Parties to
“consult with other Parties with regard to the choice of sites for prospective stations
and other facilities so as to avoid the cumulative impacts caused by their excessive
concentration in any location” and “where appropriate, undertake joint expeditions
and share the use of stations and other facilities.”91 However, the practical
implementation of this obligation is clearly problematic: 17 states each run only one
station; one state runs five stations; three other states run more than 10 stations
each.92 Only two Antarctic research stations are run by more than one state, and both
stations involve only two states.93 Although stations are now being built at a lower
rate, new stations continue to be built and contribute to the expansion of the human
footprint each year (Table 4). Each year, Consultative Parties continue to submit
EIAs indicating their plans to conduct new and/or existing activities that may have
more than minor and transitory environmental impacts.94
90 Recommendation ATCM XV-17, “Establishing of new stations”, 1989.
91 Art. 6(1)(d) and (e) of the Protocol.
92 Include existing research stations published by COMNAP, supra note 43 and planned stations
which have not yet been constructed but where CEEs have been submitted: Belarus. Construction and
operation of Belarusian Antarctic Research Station at Mount Vechhernyaya, Enderby Land. 2013. Polar
Research Institute of China, Tongji University. Draft of the Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation.
Proposed construction and operation of a new Chinese research station, Victoria Land, Antarctica. Draft CEE.
93 Hemmings, Alan D. “Why did we get an International Space Station before an International
Antarctic Station?” The Polar Journal 1(1) (2011): 5-16. In January 2013, The Netherlands opened Dirck
Gerritsz Laboratory at the UK Rothera research station, which may also be seen as a joint facility. See
Van der Kroef, Dick and Shears, John, “The Dirck Gerritsz Laboratory at Rothera Research Station:
UK-Netherlands Collaboration”, in: Gillian Wratt (ed.), A Story of Antarctic Co-operation. 25 Years of the
Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs, COMNAP, 2013, 65.
94 Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty, EIA database.
Table 4: Number of research stations opened during each decade from 1900
First year station was opened
Number of stations
Opening date unavailable
Sánchez and Njaastad postulated that “[t]he number of land-based installations run
by NAPs is not likely to increase much”, due to high costs and increased sharing of
facilities;96 however, costs of such facilities have always been high and, to date, have
not prevented the continuous increase of facilities (see Figures 3a-c and Table 4),
even at locations where sharing appears a logical approach due to existing facilities.
For instance, on Fildes Peninsula, where six stations are situated in close proximity,
Braun et al observed that: “a clear trend in extending station facilities […] has
become evident, as five out of six stations have been extended since 2006.”97 “As a
consequence of the station extensions between 2006 and 2011, the area consumption
by station buildings increased by 24% […].”98 This applies also to other less crowded
regions in the Antarctic Treaty area, although to a lesser extent.99
While new facilities are being constructed, the Protocol also requires
Consultative Parties to remove abandoned work sites.100 In practice, the rate of
removal lags far behind the rate of new construction.101 In addition, old facilities are
sometimes transferred to another state government or non-state actors, sometimes
95 For data sources, see note 92.
96 Sánchez and Njaastad, supra note 83.
97 Braun, Christina, Hertel, Fritz, Mustafa, Osama, Nordt, Anja, Pfeiffer, Simone and Peter, Hans-
Ulrich. “Environmental Assessment and Management Challenges of the Fildes Peninsula Region.” In
Antarctic futures. Human engagement with the Antarctic environment, edited by Tina Tin, Daniela Liggett,
Patrick T. Maher and Machiel Lamers, 169-192, at 179. Dordrecht: Springer, 2014.
98 Ibid., 180.
99 Among research stations that open after 2010: India’s Bharati station is located in the Larsemann
Hills where there are already 4 existing stations. Korea’s Jang Bongo station and China’s proposed
new station in Terra Nova Bay are within 50 km of 2 existing stations. Belarus’s proposed new station
in Enderby Land is within 30 km of 1 existing station. See: National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean
Research. Final CEE of New Indian Research Station at Larsemann Hills, Antarctica. Goa: National Centre
for Antarctic and Ocean Research, 2010). Belarus, supra note 92. Polar Research Institute of China,
Tongji University, supra note 92.
100 See Article 5 of Annex III to the Protocol. See also Recommendation XV-3 (1989).
101 Between 1998 and 2013, 14 Consultative Parties have submitted 22 papers to the ATCM describing
the cleaning up of approximately 20 waste disposal sites, planes, stations or debris areas. See
Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty. Meeting documents, Category: Waste management and disposal.
designated as historic sites,102 or state governments may consider that the removal
“would result in greater adverse environmental impact than leaving the structure or
waste material in its existing location”.103 As the rate of construction of new facilities
exceeds that of removal of old facilities, the net result is an expansion of human
footprint and erosion of wilderness.
State governments have various reasons for wanting to establish a strong
presence on the continent. While the text of Article IX(2) of the Antarctic Treaty
makes clear that ownership of infrastructure in Antarctica is not a pre-requisite for
consultative status, owning one (or several) station(s) in Antarctica may allow states
to strengthen their application for this status, to ensure annual budget for polar
research programs or to emphasise their position as claimant state in the Antarctic.104
As pointed out by Karen Scott, “all consultative parties to a greater or lesser extent
support national science programmes in order to maintain political influence within
the regime.”105 In this respect, the unplanned, unlimited expansion of the human
footprint in Antarctica and consequently, the erosion of the Antarctic wilderness is a
phenomenon that falls under Francioni’s observation that “most environmental
damage is caused by lawful acts that have had adverse effects on the
5. Making the ‘Public’s Dream’ a Possible Mission
Is realising the ‘public’s dream’ of coexistence of science and wilderness a Mission
Impossible? Based on our discussions above, we conclude that: (i) in theory, it is a
Possible Mission that would connect well with the explicit recognition of science and
wilderness in the ATS instruments; (ii) in practice, science in Antarctica has gradual
and cumulative impacts on all three main wilderness qualities of Antarctica (absence
of permanent infrastructure, naturalness and large size); (iii) currently, the co-
existence of science and wilderness is not an important consideration in the
management of human activities in Antarctica; and (iv) in the future, unless a
proactive and concerted effort is taken by the Consultative Parties, it appears to be a
Mission Impossible, as the expansion of scientific activities and associated logistics
remains uncontrolled, inexorably eroding the Antarctic wilderness.
102 Ibid. See also Roura, Ricardo. “Antarctic scientific bases: cultural heritage and environmental
perspectives 1983-2008,” in Historical polar bases – preservation and management, edited by S. Barr and P.
Chaplin, 38-52. ICOMOS (International Council of Monuments and Sites). Monuments and Sites
Series Volume XVII. Oslo: ICOMOS International Polar Heritage Committee, 2008.
103 Article 5 of Annex III to the Protocol, under b).
104 For a discussion on the interrelations between science and politics, see Scott, Karen N., supra note
105 Ibid., at 292.
106 Francioni. F. “Liability For Damage to the Common Environment: The Case of Antarctica.” RECIEL
3 (1994): 223, as cited by Silja Vöneky, “The Liability Annex to the Protocol on Environmental
Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.” in International Law Today: New Challenges and the Need for Reform?
Beiträge zum ausländischen öffentlichen Recht und Völkerrecht, Volume 193, edited by Doris König, Peter-
Tobias Stoll, Volker Röben, Nele Matz-Lück, 165-197, at 176-177. Berlin/Heidelberg/New York:
Springer, 2008, available at http://www.mpil.de/shared/data/pdf/text_liabilityannex_voeneky.pdf.
5.1 A Renewed Hope?
The concern of accumulation of research facilities has recently received high-level
attention at the ATCM. In Brussels, where the 36th ATCM was held (2013), his
Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco gave an inspiring address “by praising the
history of cooperation between Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties, and
encouraging Parties to build on the example of the two out of 80 Antarctic research
stations that were operated as multi-national stations.”107 A similar message was
delivered at the same meeting by the Hon. Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister of
France and Ambassador for the Poles who “appealed to the Parties to increase their
level of international scientific cooperation”108 and “announced his joint initiative
with Australia’s former Prime Minister the Hon. Robert Hawke and H.S.H. Prince
Albert II to foster an improved level of cooperation between national Antarctic
programmes, including through the sharing of transport and station logistics.”109
In recent years, Consultative Parties have adopted Resolution 3 in 2012 on
‘Improving Cooperation in Antarctica’, recommending that “the Parties and other
Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting participants conduct a discussion on
promoting broader Antarctic cooperation”110 and Resolution 2 (2009) recommending
“that the Parties continue to recognize the importance of COMNAP as a body
supporting the Antarctic Treaty Parties and promoting close cooperation among the
National Antarctic programs.”111 Though vague in wording and lacking clear and
concrete guidance, the presence of these recent resolutions and high-level
interventions may signify that Consultative Parties may soon be ready to increase
their cooperation on the ground in Antarctica and hence, open up a space to allow
the coexistence of science and wilderness in Antarctica to become possible.
5.2 Charting the course
If Parties should decide to face the challenge that they have launched themselves
and manage Antarctica “in the interest of mankind” and subsequently make the
‘public’s dream’ a reality, many existing ATS instruments have already laid solid
legal and administrative foundations for this work to proceed (See Section 3).
Among recent developments, the ATCM will have the chance to use their newly
agreed multi-year strategic work plan at the 37th ATCM in Brasilia in 2014, to “share
and discuss strategic science priorities in order to identify opportunities for
collaboration.”112 While Parties have adopted a resolution on the “General Principles
of Antarctic tourism” (Resolution 7 (2009)), they have not yet adopted similar
principles on Antarctica’s dominant activity – scientific research. In view of the
conclusions in this article, the authors advise the ATCM to adopt a number of
general principles on scientific facilities and international cooperation in order to
reverse the ongoing trend of erosion of the Antarctic wilderness by limiting the
107 Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty. Final report of the 36th ATCM 36, Brussels, Belgium, 20-29 May,
2013, para. 8. Buenos Aires: Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty, 2013.
108 Ibid., para. 12.
110 Resolution 3 (2012), “Improving Cooperation in Antarctica”.
111 Resolution 2 (2009), “Role and Place of COMNAP”.
112 Decision 3 (2013). “Multi-Year Strategic Work Plan for the ATCM” Annex.
human footprint arising from scientific research and associated logistical activities.
Adopting principles which have unambiguous wording, and which provide clear
and concrete guidance on operational matters, will be a constructive step forward in
realising the coexistence of science and wilderness.
Without the intention of being exhaustive and only as an impulse to spark off
discussion, we provide the following possible principles based on, in part, existing
legal provisions, adopted resolutions and ATCM Report language:
Recognising that Antarctica’s unique scientific values depend on its pristine
Reaffirming the importance of scientific research that is essential to
understanding the global environment;114
Reaffirming their will to protect the Antarctic environment, in the interest of
mankind as a whole and to preserve the value of Antarctica as an area for the
conduct of scientific research;115
Recommend that the Parties:116
a) accord priority to research that can only take place in Antarctica and is
essential to understanding the global environment and to research that aims
to support an effective protection of the Antarctic values mentioned in Article
3(1) of the Protocol;117
b) do not establish permanent infrastructure if the aims of this infrastructure
may reasonably be achieved through international cooperation (e.g. joint use
of existing facilities) 118 or through alternative forms of research that do not
require (additional) physical presence in Antarctica (e.g., use of existing data,
data collection by people already present in the Antarctic, use of remote
sensing systems, use of existing data archives, etc.);119
113 Recommendation XV-5, supra note 32.
114 Protocol Article 3. “Environmental Principles.”
115 Resolution 1 (2011). “Strengthening Support for the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the
116 The ATCM should discuss whether the instrument should be a non-legally binding ‘Resolution’ or
a legally binding ‘Measure’. If the ATCM would aim to adopt a Measure (an approach favoured by
the present authors), this wording should be replaced by: “Recommend to their Governments the
following Measure for approval in accordance with paragraph 4 of Article IX of the Antarctic Treaty:
117 Such as in the case of Antarctic Specially Protected Areas. See Resolution 2(2011) Annex “Guide to
the Preparation of Management Plans for Antarctic Specially Protected Areas.”
118 Materials that are no longer of use to one station can be made available for reuse by neighbouring
stations and research teams, reducing the energy that is expended in shipping out wastes and
shipping in new materials. For regular maintenance of instruments, instead of sending a dedicated
team, it may be possible to have the tasks performed by personnel that are already in Antarctica,
thereby reducing human presence in Antarctica. See Germany and South Africa. “Dismantling and
subsequent use of Neumayer Station II for SANAP summer station and Russian Antarctic
expedition.” Information Paper 110, ATCM XXXIII, 3-14 May, 2010. See also, Peter et al., supra note 44.
119 Reducing human presence in a wilderness is the most effective way of preventing human impacts
on wilderness. Scientists go into wilderness to collect data that they can use to better understand
natural systems. Early on, at the start of the planning of a scientific project, the following questions
c) will not engage in scientific activities that degrade or pose substantial risk to
areas of biological, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness significance;120
d) acknowledge that, if the establishment of a new station or major logistic
support facility is considered necessary in accordance with the previous
principles, such an activity is likely to have more than a minor or transitory
impact on the Antarctic environment and must therefore be subjected to a
e) ensure that in the CEE process and the decision making process, the ‘No
Action’ alternative is explicitly considered as a viable alternative to the
f) ensure that, in light of the obligations under Annex I and Article 1(5) of
Annex III to the Protocol, the EIA for a new station or facility or for a
rebuilding or expansion of a station or facility will include, in addition to the
information mentioned in Annex I and the Guidelines on EIA, information on:
the envisaged period of use;
how the station or facility will be dismantled after this period of use;
what the costs of such dismantling will be;123
g) aim to prevent a further increase of the human footprint in Antarctica by
ensuring an adequate implementation of Article 1(5) of Annex III to the
Protocol, and by ensuring a balance between the dismantling of stations and
facilities and the establishment of new stations and facilities;
h) ensure that stations, facilities or logistic activities that have been planned and
evaluated for the purpose of supporting scientific research in Antarctica will
not be sold or handed over to non-governmental operators that aim to
support non-scientific activities;
need to be considered: Do people need to be in Antarctica? Can existing data archives be mined for
elements that have not been analysed before? Will meta-analyses of existing data provide additional
information? What will new data bring that old data cannot address? Is it possible to use remote
sensing and automated techniques, such as satellites, cameras, data loggers? See Hughes et al., supra
120 See Art. 3(2)(b)(vi) of the Protocol.
121 Recommendation ATCM XV-17, supra note 90.
122 Resolution 4 (2005), supra note 87.
123 Italy and France stated in a paper for the CEP in 2013 that “a cursory look at all the CEEs relating
to the construction of new bases in Antarctica since 1993 (Annex B) shows that remediation is never
taken into account in a systematic manner. As a general rule, Parties simply specify that the stations
can be easily dismantled and the materials removed from Antarctica.” France and Italy. “The need to
take into account the dismantling costs of stations in Comprehensive Environmental Evaluations
(CEE) relating to their construction.”, 4. Working Paper 42, ATCM XXXVI, Brussels, Belgium, 20-29,
2013. Based on the discussion of this paper, the CEP “had suggested that the potential to
decommission a station should be given serious consideration in the design phase, and had agreed to
consider the issue of decommissioning in any future review of CEP’s Guidelines for Environmental
Impact Assessment in Antarctica.” See Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty, supra note 104, at para. 110.
i) acknowledge that the above principles are not intended to interfere with the
possibility of a non-Consultative Party to establish a station or facility for the
purpose of supporting scientific research in Antarctica but aim to ensure that
such Parties may maximise their contribution to knowledge and the
protection of the Antarctic.124
j) take the above principles into account when evaluating an application of a
Contracting Party to the Antarctic Treaty for consultative status in accordance
with Article IX(2) of the Treaty;
k) cooperate, through the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat and COMNAP, to
maintain and regularly update a public database of the locations and use of
all infrastructure and the locations and durations of human activities in
Antarctica,125 and ensure that such a database will be used to monitor the
evolution of the human footprint and aid the CEP in providing the ATCM
advice on the state of the Antarctic environment.126
Alan Hemmings noted that “the values which have been granted considerability
within the ATS continue to shape the Antarctic regime today, and the Antarctic
future will depend upon the sorts of values that can gain a hearing within this
system.”127 The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty is one
of the very few international agreements in which wilderness values explicitly
receive legally protected status. Recently, Consultative Parties have reaffirmed their
commitment in “proactively addressing future environmental, scientific,
management and operational challenges”.128 Clearly, environmental protection and
scientific research are highly valued by Parties. This coincides with the results of our
research where we found that members of the public value both as a scientific
laboratory and as one of the world’s last wildernesses. With this convergence of
interests, it would appear that realising the ‘public’s dream’ of coexistence of
wilderness and science in Antarctica should not be a Mission Impossible. However,
as is currently practiced, science in Antarctica (i) has direct and highly visible
impacts on the wilderness characteristic of absence of roads, buildings and other
proofs of modern human society; (ii) has direct and cumulative impacts on the
wilderness characteristic of naturalness, outweighing impacts from commercial
activities in many respects; and (iii) has gradual and cumulative impacts on the
wilderness characteristic of relatively large in size. Furthermore, the distinction
124 Recommendation ATCM XV-17, supra note 90.
125 See Jabour, Julia. “National Antarctic Programs and their impact on the environment.” in Health of
Antarctic Widllife. A challenge for science and policy, edited by, Knowles R. Kerry and Martin J. Riddle,
211-229. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer, 2009).
126 See requirement under Protocol, Article 12(1)(g).
127 Hemmings, Alan D. “Considerable values in Antarctica.” The Polar Journal 2(1) (2012): 139-156.
128 “Declaration on Antarctic cooperation on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the entry into force
of the Antarctic Treaty.” in Final Report of the 34th ATCM, Appendix 1, 177-8. Buenos Aires: Secretariat
of the Antarctic Treaty, 2011.
between government and commercial uses has begun to blur, which may further
increase these impacts, for instance, due to intensified use of existing facilities.
In view of the commitment of the Consultative Parties to the ATS instruments
and their explicit acknowledgement of their special responsibility to manage the
Antarctic in the benefit of all mankind, the ATCM should become aware of this slow
but continuing process of wilderness decrease and no longer delay the
implementation of concrete action on the ground. The authors hope that adopting
principles which have unambiguous wording, and which provide clear and concrete
guidance on operational matters related to science, will be a constructive step
forward in realising the public’s dream of coexistence of science and wilderness in
The authors would like to thank the core team members of AntWILD: Jessica
O’Reilly and Pat Maher, and the consortium partners: John Peden, Javier Benayas,
Luis Pertierra, Diane Erceg, Amelia Casanovas, Rosa Jijon and Kern Hildebrand, for
their contribution to the research. Rupert Summerson is thanked for his approval for
the reproduction of the maps in subsection 4.2.
List of captions
Figure 1: What is the importance of Antarctica? Responses from 1,072 survey
Figure 2: Which activities do you support taking place in Antarctica? Responses
from 1,072 survey respondents.
Figures 3a-c: Human infrastructure in Antarctica in (a) 1912, (b) 1958, and (c) 2012,
based on publicly available data. Not exhaustive. Symbols not to scale. Maps created
by Rupert Summerson.