An Entertaining Explanation of the Complex Territorial History of Antarctica

In a chilly video, “Who Owns Antarctica?”, the incomparable CGP Grey explains the complex territorial history of Antartica – the only continent in the world without a permanent human population, how the Antarctic Treaty System came to be and what the future holds for the snowy continent.

…the United States and the Soviet Union gave themselves the right to make a claim on Antarctica, not now but maybe later. Given this, quite remarkably, in 1959 the USA and USSR and ten other countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK made a treaty to ease the tensions saying that on Antarctica there would be no military, no mining and no nuclear exploding. The Antarctic paperwork is the first cold war disarmament treaty and set aside then continent for science and nature. …So this looks pretty great what’s the problem with the line about common heritage? Well no one actually give up their claims on Antarctica because the only way to get everyone to sign was to include this clause, which sidestepped the issue, basically saying countries will act as though Antarctica is the common heritage of mankind.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails. Lori can be found posting on Threads and sharing photos on Instagram.