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American Interests in Antarctica

Author: Frank G. Klotz, Senior Fellow for Strategic Studies and Arms Control
January 17, 2012
National Interest


A hundred years ago today, British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and four companions reached the South Pole. It was a bittersweet moment. For seventy-eight days, they had man-hauled their heavy-laden sleds for eight hundred miles hoping to win the race to the "last place on earth." They arrived at their goal only to discover that a Norwegian party led by Roald Amundsen had come and gone five weeks earlier. Tragically, Scott's entire party perished on the journey back to their main base. Delayed by fierce storms, they ran out of food and fuel. They died only eleven miles from a cache of supplies they had laid the previous year.

Antarctica rarely makes the news. There are a few exceptions. Articles on global warming often refer to research conducted in Antarctica on the ozone layer and glacial melting. Scientific discoveries—in fields ranging from astrophysics to microbiology—are regularly published in specialized journals. The centenary of the Amundsen and Scott expeditions also led to a spate of stories on Antarctica's history. But what's not generally reported is that the United States also has important national interests in the region. These interests must be fully understood and carefully considered, especially as the federal government looks for ways to reduce the deficit.

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