Parallel Agendas for the International Geophysical Year


The archipelago of Svalbard in the High Arctic and Antarctica, respectively, are very good examples of the different management approaches in the polar regions in accordance with differing historical background factors. While economic exploitation triggered the “Treaty concerning the Archipelago of Spitsbergen" (“Svalbard Treaty”) of 1920, scientific curiosity drove expeditions to explore the unknown South Polar region in the early 20th century. This paper will show how an international co-operation established by the International Geographical Congress in Berlin (1899) successfully organized the first scientific program in Antarctica in 1901-1904, while an International Polar Commission to promote and support polar exploration set up in 1906 did not last long, because corresponding national polar institutions were still missing. The Svalbard Treaty that granted sovereignty to Norway and exploitation rights to all Treaty nations illustrates how claims could be handled in connection with exploitation of an originally uninhabited polar region, while the International Society for the Exploration of the Arctic Regions by Means of Aircraft (Aeroarctic) established in 1924, is an example of an international organization that was able to organize and develop a joint scientific program. During the Cold War, Antarctica was not only claimed for economic resources (whaling and fishing), but also as a strategically important arena. The biggest scientific experiment of the time, the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958), led to the Antarctic Treaty and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, which were arrangements comparable to the Arctic ones just cited, with the difference that geographical claims were frozen.



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Dr. Olav Orheim Senior Adviser, Research Council of Norway and Former Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, Norway


Professor Gillian Triggs Dean of Law School, University of Sydney, Australia
Dr. Cornelia Lüdecke Privatdozent, Centre for the History of Science, University of Hamburg, Germany
Professor Paul Berkman Chair of the International Board for the Antarctic Treaty Summit


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