Courtesy Reuters

Antarctic Claims

METEOROLOGICAL observation in the Antarctic is of great importance to long-range weather prediction throughout the Southern Hemisphere. The wild and frigid storms originating over the great glacial plateaus in the interior make themselves felt as far north as the Tropic of Capricorn: it has been estimated that the immense Antarctic ice-cap results in a difference of 10° Fahrenheit between the mean temperatures of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. For this reason it is not surprising that in spite of the hardship and danger of wintering in the Antarctic, there are some eighteen weather stations maintained there throughout the year. The interesting fact is that fifteen of these establishments are concentrated within a radius of five hundred miles of Hope Bay, at the northeastern tip of Palmer Land, which reaches up from the Antarctic Continent into the southern Atlantic.

This compact arrangement is not primarily in the interest of science, although the Palmer Peninsula and its archipelagoes offer particularly interesting topography, weather and ocean currents, and are more accessible than any other Antarctic land areas. The primary reason for their concentration is a unique and anachronous contest of increasing intensity devoted, in effect, to the colonization of the last frontier continent. The principal competitors are Britain, Argentina and Chile, whose efforts have more than quadrupled the Antarctic population since the end of the Second World War. All three have claimed sovereignty over sectors in the American quadrant, with the peninsula and its islands as the main objects of contention.

The competition took a new turn on January 30, 1952, when, with a darkening storm moving in over the icy crags of the Trinity Peninsula, a British ship, the John Biscoe, anchored in the comparative shelter of Hope Bay. The John Biscoe, commanded by Captain William Johnson, is one of the ships assigned to the British Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, and its mission to Hope Bay was to reëstablish a meteorological station first built in 1944 and destroyed by fire during the Antarctic summer of 1948-49.

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