Almirante Brown Antarctic Base is an Argentine research base. When we visited, there was “nobody home” but I suspect that really isn’t the point of these kinds of stations. On our journey we saw active bases, inactive bases, and rescue huts… all operated by different countries. While a lot of important research happens on the continent, I suspect that many of these facilities are actually there as “sovereignty” place markers… pieces on the territorial claim board should the status of Antarctica change. Currently the Antarctic Treaty System designates Antarctica as “ a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.” According to the Environmental Protocol in the treaty, “All activities relating to Antarctic mineral resources, except for scientific research, are forbidden.” Essentially, Antarctica is currently a giant park that several countries have land claims upon, but in the interest of peace they’ve all agreed to get along, even where claims overlap. In that context, the stations are there just in case the treaty falls apart.
I can’t imagine being a miner in Antarctica, but even this amateur eye was able to spot copper along the coastline. There is also new research to show that Antarctica may harbor diamonds. It is my hope that the lure of the resources in this pristine and hostile continent never become so tempting that someone tries to re-open the terms of the treaty. But it if the treaty is re-opened, several countries are in line to divvy up the spoils.
Other notes from this day:
- We got to walk up to a great lookout location behind Almirante. It was a bit of a climb, but well worth the visit.
- On our Zodiac expedition, we floated through a field of “brash ice“… a large area of small, floating ice chunks. It was as if someone had put the local glacier ice machine on “crush.” Very beautiful.
- I didn’t get a photo, but I am pretty sure it was this day that we encountered a Minke whale quite close to our Zodiac. The Minke is a small baleen whale designed for speed, which is a good thing when the predator that wants to eat you is an Orca. By way of comparsion, both whales are approximately the same size.