National Geographic : 1990 Apr
IMAGINED by the ancient Greeks and conjectured by medieval geographers, the large continent at the south end of the world was not actually seen until the early 19th cen tury. The first two explorers to reach the South Pole, Roald Amundsen of Norway and Rob ert F. Scott of Britain, were honored in the naming of the U. S. Amundsen-Scott Station. Reports of abundant whales and seals brought ships that har vested the southern ocean. A rich array of wildlife begins at the Antarctic Convergence, where northern currents meet fertile polar waters. Nutrients roiled up from the depths sup port a plankton community that sustains a menagerie of birds, dolphins, and other creatures. The promise-and peril-of Antarctica has been that no one owns it, although seven nations have pressed sometimes over lapping claims. A 1959 treaty provides that the continent be used only for peaceful, scientific purposes. The agreement is open for review starting in 1991. A U. S. congressional report. estimates that at current prices profitable mining could not take place for at least three decades. In 1988 the United States and other nations agreed to a con vention designed to protect the land from damage should miner al extraction ever be permitted. This has not satisfied Green peace and other environmental groups, which seek to preserve the continent as a world park. SOUTH PACIFIC OCEAN ,c 4 N" ' . Ieb be / .... I.SW . LAND ANTARCTICA Vinson Mass (16067ft) 4897 , Wno as +~-~ *O .