Question: private vs gov’t missions

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    Baghdad Jim

    I ran across these sites by pure accident and it got me to wondering about the Treaty terms. I’ll admit to taking the cheaters way out on this one and rather than read thru the entire wording, hopefully someone here will already know the answers.

    Was it only mineral exploitation that was prohibited or was it all commercial ventures? If someone had the money, could they set up a hotel if they stayed within the eco boundaries? I never really though about thos expeditions that people make to the south-pole or to wherever they fancy, but those are all privately funded. Do they claim to be doing research along the way? Temp readings now and then would qualify I guess.

    If not, then it would be purely tourism…granted, its a bit extreme for tourism but so is climbing Everest. I see those as being paid for by sponsors who receive little more than recognition and a small bit of advertising. Same with people trekking the ice.

    But these links, this is a wholly private group that facilitates trekkers as being more accessible by maintaining the infrastructure so every person doesnt have to start from scratch – – – but it still looks like a business to me. It might be a rugged way to do it but it appears to still be for-profit.

    I wonder where they draw the line because ultimately, all the contractors are for-profit but the money is coming from government agencies. These are contractors basically making money off the cold version of Outward Bound.

    I’m not bashing the idea at all, its just something I never really thought about until today. Both sites describe themselves openly as a tourism agency. Contractors arent supposed to mess with the penguins and only certain researchers are supposed to interact in the course of study…..what about these people, does the treaty restrict them too?


    Been_There is the treaty expert, but I’ll answer what I think I know..

    ANI (and ALE) are indeed private, for-profit companies. During the summer months they fly people around the continent on private expeditions, including bunches of tourists to and from the South Pole.

    > Was it only mineral exploitation that was prohibited or was it all
    > commercial ventures?

    Mineral exploitation, nuclear testing, and nuclear dumping. There are also now protections for marine mammals. Commercial, non-exploitative ventures are permitted. You can still go fishing and happily put species on the brink of extinction.

    > If someone had the money, could they set up a hotel if they stayed
    > within the eco boundaries?

    That’s a frequent topic of conversation. ANI avoids the issue by setting up a temporary camp, removed at the end of the season. I figure it’s only a matter of time before someone (probably the Argentinians) builds a hotel, most likely on King George Island. Governments may be annoyed by it, but if it’s done in an eco-friendly way I’m not sure if there’s anything in the treaty that would prevent it. Private individuals and businesses still have to abide by their country’s laws, and if their country is a signatory to the treaty then they have to abide by that too. If the builder was from a non-signatory country… I don’t know that there’s anything anyone could do, other than frown in that direction and maybe apply political pressure.

    > Do they claim to be doing research along the way?

    Nope. They take in tourist $$$. 30K or so to go to the Pole.

    ANI may be an irritant to some governments but they generally operate in a friendly, professional way. I’d like to take a trip with them sometime myself (not to the Pole, thank you).

    Baghdad Jim

    thats good insight Glenn, thanks!

    BT, whatcha got on this one?

    Been There


    For starterrs the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty and Agreed measures are codified by various laws and regulations by the US government and other countries. The majority of US laws and regulations are in the Antarctic Conservation Act which you can find on the web.

    Any US citizen, any US company and any individual working or participanting in an expedition as part of the US activity, government or private, is covered by these laws and regulations. As such the companies like ANI must comply with the same standards that the US Antarctic Program operates under. For the most part these standards come from the Agreed Measures of the Treaty as codified by the ACA. The Treaty does not spell out specifics such as permitting proceedures, reporting, enforcement, fines, etc. but the ACA does.

    So the short story is most private, for profit operators are required to operate in compliance with a standard derived from the Antarctic Treaty and codified by their countries laws and regulations. Not all countries are signators to the Treaty, but over two thirds of the worlds population are represtented.

    There is another international treaty, the Convention for the Protection of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, CCAMLR, that dealing with things like fishing, etc Also on the web.

    Another organization of note is the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO). You can go to their web site for information but they have an excellent set of standards for all their members and the majority of private operators are members.

    So could a private group establish a full time, year round station in Antarctica. Yes they could but would have to comply with all environmental standards. None have to date but some private groups have wintered over. Remember a private company is a for profit organization and having a year round operation is very expensive and I doubt their would be any profit.

    I could go on but that’s enough for now.


    Baghdad Jim

    Thanks BT! You gave me some good leads for reading material. Apologies on the delay of response, power just came back after 5 days outage…. lil’ bit o storm in these parts recently.

    Been There

    You are welcome. The Antarctic Treaty is an amazing document and has stood the test of time. First international treaty that had the provision for inspections of other countries facilities. The US inspects different stations every couple years. Also skillfully dealt with the question of terratorial claims by stating nothing a country does during the period of the treaty, which by the way has no end date, will enhance nor detract from your right to make a claim. Also interesting is the US and the former Soviet Union never had a formal claim, but the USSR had stations in each claim area and the US has a station at South Pole, were most of the claims intersect.

    What’s your temperature range this time of year? At least you don’t have to worry about freezing when the power goes out.


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