The Antarctic Treaty is one of the world’s most successful international agreements. Antarctica is one of the few places in the world where there has never been war, where the environment is fully protected and where scientific research has priority.
The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 and established Antarctica as a region for peace and cooperation. It applies to all the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude – 10 percent of the Earth – and now has more than 50 signatory nations. Treaty parties meet annually to discuss issues and make decisions. The processes used to manage Antarctic activities are known collectively as the Antarctic Treaty System.
A cornerstone of the Antarctic Treaty is the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (also known as the Madrid Protocol). The Protocol sets aside Antarctica as a natural preserve. It is a legally binding agreement that sets out principles and procedures to protect the Antarctic environment. The Protocol drives all of our activities from what types of food we can take on an emperor penguin visit to how we deal with waste.
All visitors to Antarctica must read and abide by Guidance for Visitors to the Antarctic (Rec 18-1) which explains visitor responsibilities and provides practical steps to enable visitors to comply with the Treaty and Protocol. New Guidelines for Visitors (Res 34-3), adopted by the Treaty Parties in 2011, also apply. Both sets of guidelines are available in a number of different languages from the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. We also fully support voluntary visitor guidelines and best practices established by IAATO.
The South Pole has been designated Antarctic Specially Managed Area No.5, and objectives and procedures are outlined in a detailed Management Plan adopted in 2007. Additional guidelines apply to non-governmental visitors and a series of maps show the ASMA zones and sectors. The plan is regularly reviewed and will be updated in 2017. More information can be found at www.southpole.aq.
Historically, seven countries have laid territorial claims in Antarctica but there are no cities or states in Antarctica. The only places where people live are bases or stations, usually operated by National Antarctic Programs. There are 111 government operated stations south of 60°. ALE operates the only fully-private, semi-permanent camp during the Antarctic summer.
As a US company, we are bound by US legislation governing Antarctic activities. Our operations comply with the Antarctic Conservation Act which formalizes US adherence to Antarctic Treaty and Protocol requirements. We follow established procedures for South Pole visitation and have an excellent working relationship with Amundsen-Scott Station.