Courtesy Reuters

THE bottom quarter of our planet is its most lonely region, consisting largely of ocean areas and Antarctica. Until the end of the last century no human being, so far as was known, had set foot on the Antarctic continent. Today some ten nations have about 40 outposts in that area and the time has come when the great Powers must decide what is their interest in this little-explored land mass and what to do about it.

Most of the stations there were set up to carry out observations during the International Geophysical Year, which runs for 18 months until the end

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