A remote, lonely and desolate continent - Long may it remain so.
February 21, 2021 2:39 PM   Subscribe

There is still a large portion of Antarctica that remains unclaimed today. Marie Byrd Land, a vast, remote territory is by far the largest unclaimed land area on Earth.
China’s long march to the South Pole is gaining attention and while the West has scaled back operations in the Antarctic, Russia and China have pushed ahead.
Major powers have never fought over Antarctica, however this may change driven in part by climate change.
In the Global Race for Antarctica is it going to be China vs. Rest of the World
Antarctica ~ some photos.
posted by adamvasco (24 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I just can't with International Geopolitics today.

So I'm just going to say that last link with all the photos is freaking amazing and it is well worth viewing the whole thing.

Includes more cute animals than you can shake a stick at. Is that burying the lede?
posted by deadaluspark at 2:59 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

Looks windy. I think #24 is the most beautiful sunset photo I've ever seen.
posted by aniola at 3:20 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]

This makes me sad. Can't we just leave it be? Let something remain untouched by the filthy hand of man.
posted by Splunge at 3:29 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]

So, rare-earth mines staffed by Uighur/Taiwanese gulag labour?
posted by acb at 3:52 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]

Makes me want to give up my laptop, cell phone, and refrigerator.
posted by aniola at 4:02 PM on February 21

It's the space race in reverse. Australia has had a permanent base there for the last 73 years, and we've always been eager to host international contributions. We've had a long standing open invitation, understanding that in such a challenging environment going alone isn't the best way forward. In this way it's somewhat like the ISS. It's good for scientific cooperation, it's good for diplomacy.

Australians can be rightfully proud of the key role we play in these endeavors, particularly in our efforts to preserve and protect this pristine wilderness. We're very generous with our hospitality, but if you want our help drilling for oil, the answer is a firm no. And of course we're going to be suspicious of anyone who wants to go in alone and be secretive about it. It would seem you don't have noble intentions.

I say the space race in reverse, because that started with fierce competition for supremacy and has come to peaceful cooperation with the ISS. We've seen that can go backwards too, with nationalist fuckwits beating their chest and yelling SPACE FOOOOORCE. We kinda settled the militarization of space, for a while at least. That can change.

One of the great frustrations we have as Australians is our inability to actually enforce anything. Every fucking year, the Japanese come down here to hunt whales and we spring into action and mobilize our patrol boats to intercept them - and watch. We watch them! We're making a list of all the rules they're violating, and we'll send them a sternly worded letter showing them our list. Which they will wipe their ass with because they DGAF. See you next year!
posted by adept256 at 4:04 PM on February 21 [7 favorites]

Pigs are as smart as whales, and they're raised in captivity, and I'd be surprised if rules weren't violated. At least whales are free-range. What's the difference?
posted by aniola at 4:18 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

One difference: one set is highly endangered, the other set exists in uncounted millions.
posted by aramaic at 4:31 PM on February 21 [8 favorites]

Most whales are endangered or threatened AND they play key roles in maintaining functional ocean ecosystems. We're very lucky that we managed to stop most whaling before we killed them all off, and some are starting to recover. If the oceans become whale-less our ocean ecosystems will be even more fucked than they currently are (which is a lot, extremely, very fucked). By contrast, pigs are just machines for ruining rivers + coastal ecosystems + releasing just absolute massive amounts of carbon.
posted by 100kb at 4:33 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]

To clarify though, I support Indigenous traditional whaling because they know how to manage their ecosystems and up north they have very few options for food. Japan doesn't need whale meat for any reason.
posted by 100kb at 4:37 PM on February 21 [7 favorites]

I'd be heartbroken if whales went extinct, but I don't see how the plight of pigs is any better. See: CAFOs. I hope we as a planet can take better care of Antarctica than the care Big Industry takes with, for example, whales and pigs.
posted by aniola at 4:42 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]

The plight of pigs? There's hundreds of millions of them, and they're domesticated, not actual wild animals. They could disappear en masse tomorrow and we'd lose sausage, bacon, their skins, not much more.

...I mean, that would suck - but I don't think The Earth would miss them; it would probably shake them off like dead fleas.
posted by floam at 5:12 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]

I think the intelligence of an animal is not relevant to discussion of whether we should protect it. Pigs are unnecessary and harmful to the earth, whereas whales are helpful and necessary. Kelp is EXTREMELY valuable even though it has no intelligence. If we wipe out all kelp (also possible, btw) climate change will get way, way worse. If we wiped out all pigs it would get better. So personally if I had to choose between saving kelp and saving pigs I'd choose the kelp every time.

Anyway, to bring it back to the topic, I don't know much about the ecology of Antarctica other than it's also getting hotter and penguins are having a really bad time of it.
posted by 100kb at 5:18 PM on February 21 [8 favorites]

100kb thanks for explaining.
posted by aniola at 6:10 PM on February 21

Wild pigs are such earthmoving, foraging, omnivorous machines that I’d be surprised if they aren’t ecosystem engineers too.

But afaik pigs don’t have "grandmother effect", which is one of my lines for defending a species more.
posted by clew at 6:15 PM on February 21

It's surprising how close the highest point in Antarctica is to the lowest: eyeballing it looks like around 1,000 km from Mount Vinson to the Bentley Subglacial Trench. If the latter were free from ice then the ascent to Mount Vinson would be comparable to going from sea level to the peak of Mount Everest.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:10 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

I only mention whaling as an example of how toothless these treaties are in the southern ocean. They are routinely violated and there are no tangible consequences. Is industrial farming less moral than whaling? Are apples better than oranges? Would a gorilla beat a shark in a cage match? Strangely these questions remain unanswered by international law on the high seas.
posted by adept256 at 7:20 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]

You're right. There can be more than one terrible thing. We can work on fixing more than one terrible thing at a time.
posted by aniola at 7:35 PM on February 21

Interesting. How does one enforce this.
Send in Kissenger, Bechtel or the Marines?
posted by clavdivs at 10:00 PM on February 21

Could start by donating to Sea Shepherd.
posted by flabdablet at 1:55 AM on February 22

Very good post, adamvasco.
Both poles are increasingly opening up for geopolitical jockeying.
posted by doctornemo at 5:28 AM on February 22

Marie Byrd Land, a vast, remote territory is by far the largest unclaimed land area on Earth.

Oh fuck yeah. Dibs!! Dibs!!!
posted by stinkfoot at 7:39 AM on February 22

I predict that by 2099, Vail Resorts will own a big chunk of the continent.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:01 AM on February 22

This makes me sad. Can't we just leave it be? Let something remain untouched by the filthy hand of man.

This is more or less the intent of the Antarctic Treaty, which is a bit toothless as mentioned above but it does mean that there continues to be a bit of a stalemate among the countries of the world about actually claiming any territory, since that would interfere with the free access we all enjoy, much like the aforementioned freedom of orbit.

So technically all land in Antarctica is unclaimed, though one has to be nuanced about the understanding of that word to mean "not asserting or recognizing any claims including our own". Perhaps declaimed might be better?
posted by traveler_ at 4:36 PM on February 26

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