The British Antarctic Territory (BAT) is a sector of Antarctica claimed by the United Kingdom as one of its 14 British Overseas Territories, of which it is by far the largest by area. It comprises the region south of 60°S latitude and between longitudes 20°W and 80°W, forming a wedge shape that extends to the South Pole, overlapping the Antarctic claims of Argentina (Argentine Antarctica) and Chile (Chilean Antarctic Territory).
The Territory was formed on 3 March 1962, although the UK's claim to this portion of the Antarctic dates back to letters patent of 1908 and 1917. The area now covered by the Territory includes three regions which, before 1962, were administered by the British as separate dependencies of the Falkland Islands: Graham Land, the South Orkney Islands, and the South Shetland Islands. The United Kingdom's claim to the region has been suspended since the Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961, Article 4 of which states "No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim, to territorial sovereignty, shall be asserted while the present Treaty is in force." Most countries do not recognise territorial claims in Antarctica. The United Kingdom has ratified the treaty.
In 2012, the southern part of the territory was named Queen Elizabeth Land in honour of Queen Elizabeth II. The territory is inhabited by the staff of research and support stations operated and maintained by the British Antarctic Survey and other organisations, and stations of Argentina, Chile and other countries. There are no native inhabitants.
British Antarctic Territory
Motto: "Research and Discovery"
Anthem: "God Save the Queen"
Position of the United Kingdom (white) relative to the edge of its Antarctic territorial claim (striped).
|Status||British Overseas Territory|
and administrative centre
|1,709,400 km2 (660,000 sq mi)|
• Summer estimate
|Currency||Pound sterling (GBP)|
|Internet TLD||.aq [b]|
UK Postcode: BIQQ 1ZZ
The United Kingdom has had a continuous presence in the far South Atlantic since 1833 when it reasserted sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. In 1908, the UK extended its territorial claim by declaring sovereignty over "South Georgia, the South Orkneys, the South Shetlands, the Sandwich Islands, and Graham's Land, situated in the South Atlantic Ocean and on the Antarctic continent to the south of the 50th parallel of south latitude, and lying between the 20th and the 80th degrees of west longitude". All these territories were administered as Falkland Islands Dependencies from Stanley by the Governor of the Falkland Islands.
In 1917, the wording of the claim was modified, so as to, among other things, unambiguously include all the territory in the sector stretching to the South Pole (thus encompassing all of the present-day British Antarctic Territory). The new claim covered "all islands and territories whatsoever between the 20th degree of west longitude and the 50th degree of west longitude which are situated south of the 50th parallel of south latitude; and all islands and territories whatsoever between the 50th degree of west longitude and the 80th degree of west longitude which are situated south of the 58th parallel of south latitude".
The United Kingdom also claimed Victoria Land in 1841 and Enderby Land in 1930, however, all territory between 160°E and 45°E was transferred to Australia in 1933.
In 1943, at the height of World War II, the UK undertook a military operation known as Operation Tabarin, to provide reconnaissance and meteorological information in the South Atlantic Ocean. This "secret" wartime project became the civilian Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey and later the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). BAS is responsible for most of the United Kingdom's scientific research in Antarctica. In the 1950s the Antarctic Treaty was negotiated to demilitarise the region and retain Antarctica – defined as all land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude – for peaceful research purposes. The treaty was passed in 1961.
The Antarctic Treaty, signed by all relevant regional claimants, does not in itself either recognise or dispute any territorial claims, leaving this matter to individual signatories. Most of the world's countries do not recognise any national claims to Antarctica. Australia, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom, all of whom have territorial claims on the continent, mutually recognise each other's claims. Argentina and Chile dispute the British claim, and make their own counter-claims that overlap both Britain's and each other's (see Argentine Antarctica and Chilean Antarctic Territory).
The British Antarctic Territory includes the Antarctic Peninsula, the South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands and numerous other offshore islands, the Ronne Ice Shelf (Weddell Sea), parts of Coats Land. A 437,000-square-kilometre (169,000 sq mi) triangle of central Antarctica converging on the South Pole was named Queen Elizabeth Land in December 2012, in honour of the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.
Over 99 per cent of the territory's land surface is covered by a permanent ice sheet, up to about 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) thick. The highest peak was thought to be Mount Jackson, on the Antarctic Peninsula, at 3,184 metres (10,446 ft). However, in 2017 Mount Hope was calculated to be taller at 3,239 metres (10,627 ft).
The Territory has a full suite of laws and legal and postal administrations. Given the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty System, the Territory does not enforce its laws on foreign nations who maintain scientific bases within the Territory. It is self-financing, with income from the sale of postage stamps and income tax.
The territory is fully a part of the British Overseas Territories for nationality purposes. It is possible to hold British Overseas Territories citizenship (BOTC) by virtue of a connection with the territory. Additionally, since the relevant provisions of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002 came into force on 21 May 2002, a BOTC connected with the territory would also hold British citizenship.
Although this territory's immigration laws would not allow for naturalisation, a person born in the territory before 1983 would hold BOTC (and British citizenship) on that basis. British citizenship and BOTC would also extend to the first generation born overseas. No people currently fall into this category. While Emilio Palma was born in the Antarctic territories claimed by the UK, he has not claimed British citizenship. Since his parents were both Argentine citizens and he was born at an Argentine base, he was automatically granted Argentine citizenship by the Argentine government. Changes to British nationality law from 1 January 1983 mean that children born in the territory can only gain BOTC and/or British citizenship if his/her father or mother holds BOTC and/or British citizenship or if his/her father or mother is "ordinarily resident" in the territory in compliance with the relevant immigration legislation. This effectively prevents any more children born in Argentine or Chilean bases within the area of the British claim being able to claim BOTC or British citizenship by virtue of being born within the territory.
Since 1996, the historic base at Port Lockroy on Goudier Island has been staffed by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust during the Antarctic summer. Receiving about 10,000 visitors a year, it is one of the most visited sites on the continent. Visitors can tour the museum, buy souvenirs, post mail, and view the large gentoo penguin colony.
A number of other nations maintain bases in the territory, many in the South Shetland Islands.
Despite the lack of permanent inhabitants, the British Antarctic Territory issues its own postage stamps. While some are actually used by visiting tourists and resident scientists, the bulk are sold overseas to collectors. The first issue came in 1963, an engraved set with 15 values ranging from ½d to one pound, featuring a portrait of Queen Elizabeth overlooking various scenes of human activity in Antarctica. Several additional issues in the 1960s were followed by a decimalisation issue in 1971 produced by overprinting the 1963 stamps.
In 2008–2009, as part of the celebrations of the centenary of the 1908 British territorial claim, the British Antarctic Territory issued its first ever legal-tender coin.
On 18 December 2012, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office announced that the southern part of British Antarctic Territory has been named Queen Elizabeth Land in honour of Queen Elizabeth II in her Diamond Jubilee year. The area, the southern third of the territory, has an area of about 437,000 square kilometres (169,000 sq mi) – almost twice the size of the United Kingdom – and is roughly triangular in shape, with the South Pole at one apex and with the 20°W and 80°W lines of longitude forming the eastern and western boundaries. The northern boundary is formed by the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf on the west and by Coats Land on the east.
The name "Queen Elizabeth Land" will be used in future on all British maps, but due to the unique status of Antarctica, it will be up to other countries to recognise the name if they see fit. Argentina, which lays claim to part of the area, criticised the naming.
Adelaide Island or Isla Adelaida or Isla Belgrano is a large, mainly ice-covered island, 139 kilometres (75 nmi) long and 37 kilometres (20 nmi) wide, lying at the north side of Marguerite Bay off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Ginger Islands lie off the southern end. Mount Bodys is the easternmost mountain on Adelaide Island, rising to over 1,220 m. The island lies within the Argentine, British and Chilean Antarctic claims.British Antarctic Survey
The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is the United Kingdom's national Antarctic operation. It is part of the Natural Environment Research Council. With over 400 staff, BAS takes an active role in Antarctic affairs, operating five research stations, two ships and five aircraft in both polar regions, as well as addressing key global and regional issues. This involves joint research projects with over 40 UK universities and more than 120 national and international collaborations.
Having taken shape from activities during World War II, it was known as the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey until 1962.Coat of arms of the British Antarctic Territory
The coat of arms of the British Antarctic Territory was first granted in 1952, when the territory was still a dependency of the Falkland Islands (along with South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands).
The arms consist of a shield bearing a flaming torch on a wavy background representing the sea. The dexter supporter is a golden lion, representing the United Kingdom. The sinister supporter is an Emperor penguin, representing the native wildlife in the territory. The lion stands on a compartment of grass, while the penguin stands on a compartment of ice. The crest is a representation of the RRS Discovery, the research ship used by Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton on their first journey to the Antarctic.
The motto is “Research and Discovery”, reflecting the aims of the British Antarctic Survey.
The coat of arms appears in the fly of the flag of the British Antarctic Territory.Commissioner for the British Antarctic Territory
The Commissioner for the British Antarctic Territory (BAT), is the head of government in the Antarctic Territory of the United Kingdom. As one of the British Overseas Territories, the commissioner is appointed by the monarch of the United Kingdom on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The British Antarctic Territory was established as a separate British overseas territory in 1962. Originally from 1962 to 1990, a High Commissioner was appointed to oversee the territory who was also Governor of the Falkland Islands. In 1990, administration of the BAT was transferred to a Commissioner based in London.
Since 1998, the Commissioner of the BAT has also served as Commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory.
Prior to 1962, the area was a part of the Falkland Islands Dependencies and as such was administered by the Governor of the Falkland Islands
This is a list of High Commissioners and Commissioners of the British Antarctic Territory (BAT), the area of Antarctica claimed by the United Kingdom.Ellsworth Land
Ellsworth Land is that portion of the Antarctic continent bounded on the west by Marie Byrd Land, on the north by Bellingshausen Sea, on the northeast by the base of Antarctic Peninsula, and on the east by the western margin of Ronne Ice Shelf. It extends between 103°24'W and 79°45'W. The area west of 90°W is unclaimed, the area between 84°W and 90°W is claimed by Chile only, and the remainder by Chile and the United Kingdom as a part of the British Antarctic Territory. Eights Coast stretches between 103°24'W and 89°35'W, and Bryan Coast between 89°35'W and 79°45'W.
It is largely a high ice plateau, but includes the majestic Ellsworth Mountains and a number of scattered mountain groups: Hudson, Jones, Behrendt, Hauberg, Merrick, Sweeney and Scaife Mountains.This land lies near the center of the area traversed by American explorer Lincoln Ellsworth on an airplane flight during November-December 1935. It was named for him by US-ACAN (1962) to commemorate that historic transcontinental flight from Dundee Island to the Ross Ice Shelf.Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf
The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, also known as Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf, is an Antarctic ice shelf bordering the Weddell Sea.Flag of the British Antarctic Territory
The flag of the British Antarctic Territory was granted on 1 August 1963, a year after the British Antarctic Territory, a British Overseas Territory, was created. Previously, the Territory was a part of the Falkland Islands Dependencies and used the same flag.Graham Land
Graham Land is the portion of the Antarctic Peninsula that lies north of a line joining Cape Jeremy and Cape Agassiz. This description of Graham Land is consistent with the 1964 agreement between the British Antarctic Place-names Committee and the US Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names, in which the name "Antarctic Peninsula" was approved for the major peninsula of Antarctica, and the names Graham Land and Palmer Land for the northern and southern portions, respectively. The line dividing them is roughly 69 degrees south.
Graham Land is named after Sir James R. G. Graham, First Lord of the Admiralty at the time of John Biscoe's exploration of the west side of Graham Land in 1832. It is claimed by Argentina (as part of Argentine Antarctica), Britain (as part of the British Antarctic Territory) and Chile (as part of the Chilean Antarctic Territory).
Graham Land is the closest part of Antarctica to South America. Thus it is the usual destination for small ships taking paying visitors on Antarctic trips from South America. (Larger ships are not allowed to disembark passengers.)
Until the discoveries of the British Graham Land Expedition of 1934–1937, it was generally supposed to be an archipelago rather than a peninsula. The mountains of Graham Land are the last range of the American Cordillera, a chain of mountain ranges (cordillera) that consists of an almost continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western "backbone" of North America, Central America, South America and Antarctica.Hope Bay
Hope Bay (Spanish: Bahía Esperanza) on Trinity Peninsula, is 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) long and 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) wide, indenting the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and opening on Antarctic Sound. It is the site of the Argentinian Antarctic settlement Esperanza Base, established in 1952Palmer Archipelago
Palmer Archipelago, also known as Antarctic Archipelago, Archipiélago Palmer, Antarktiske Arkipel or Palmer Inseln, is a group of islands off the northwestern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
It extends from Tower Island in the north to Anvers Island in the south. It is separated by the Gerlache and Bismarck straits from the Antarctic Peninsula and Wilhelm Archipelago, respectively.Palmer Archipelago is located at 64°15′S 62°50′W.Palmer Land
Palmer Land (71°30′S 065°00′W) is the portion of the Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica that lies south of a line joining Cape Jeremy and Cape Agassiz. This application of Palmer Land is consistent with the 1964 agreement between US-ACAN and UK-APC, in which the name Antarctic Peninsula was approved for the major peninsula of Antarctica, and the names Graham Land and Palmer Land for the northern and southern portions, respectively. The line dividing them is roughly 69 degrees south.
.Postage stamps and postal history of the British Antarctic Territory
The British Antarctic Territory (BAT) is a sector of Antarctica claimed by the United Kingdom as one of its 14 British Overseas Territories. It comprises the region south of 60°S latitude and between longitudes 20°W and 80°W, forming a wedge shape that extends to the South Pole. The Territory was formed on 3 March 1962, although the UK's claim to this portion of the Antarctic dates back to Letters Patent of 1908 and 1917. The area now covered by the Territory includes three regions which, before 1962, were administered by the British as separate dependencies of the Falkland Islands: Graham Land, the South Orkney Islands, and the South Shetland Islands.Queen Elizabeth Land
Queen Elizabeth Land is portion of mainland Antarctica named by the government of the United Kingdom and claimed as part of the British Antarctic Territory, which is the largest of the 14 British Overseas Territories. Situated south of Weddell Sea and between longitudes 20°W and 80°W, stretching from Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf to the South Pole. That territory was unnamed until 2012, though most of it was unofficially known as Edith Ronne Land in 1947–68 and includes areas claimed by the United Kingdom, Chile and Argentina.Rothera Research Station
The Rothera Research Station is a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) base on the Antarctic Peninsula, located at Rothera Point, Adelaide Island. Rothera also serves as the capital of the British Antarctic Territory, a British Overseas Territory.Same-sex marriage in the British Antarctic Territory
Same-sex marriage in the British Antarctic Territory, which is a sector of Antarctica and is one of the 14 British Overseas Territories, has been legal since 13 October 2016. Between 2 August 2016 and 30 September 2016, a consultation on a draft of a new marriage ordinance was conducted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The new ordinance stated that the laws relating to marriage in England would apply in the territory, thereby allowing same-sex marriage. The ordinance was proclaimed by Commissioner Peter Hayes on 13 October 2016 and took effect forthwith.Seal Islands (South Shetland Islands)
The Seal Islands (also known as Îles des Phoques, Islas Foca, Islotes Foca and Seal Rocks) are a group of small islands and rocky islets lying about 7 km north and north-west of Elephant Island, in the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. They extend east–west for about 5 km, and are separated from Elephant Island by Sealers Passage. The group takes its name from the largest island, which Captain William Smith named Seal Island in 1820 because of the number of seals killed there.Signy Research Station
Signy Research Station is an Antarctic research base on Signy Island, run by the British Antarctic Survey.South Orkney Islands
The South Orkney Islands are a group of islands in the Southern Ocean, about 604 kilometres (375 mi) north-east of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and 844 kilometres (524 mi) south-west of South Georgia Island. They have a total area of about 620 square kilometres (240 sq mi). The islands are claimed both by Britain (as part of the British Antarctic Territory since 1962, previously as a Falkland Islands Dependency), and by Argentina as part of Argentine Antarctica. Under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, sovereignty claims are held in abeyance.
Britain and Argentina both maintain bases on the islands. The Argentine base, Orcadas, established 1904, is sited on Laurie Island. The 11 buildings of the Argentine station house up to 45 people during the summer, and an average of 14 during winter. The British Antarctic Survey base, Signy Research Station, is located on Signy Island and was established in 1947. Initially operated year-round, since 1995/6 the Signy Research Station has been open only from November to April each year (southern hemisphere summer).
Apart from personnel at the bases, there are no permanent inhabitants on the islands.Weddell Sea
The Weddell Sea is part of the Southern Ocean and contains the Weddell Gyre. Its land boundaries are defined by the bay formed from the coasts of Coats Land and the Antarctic Peninsula. The easternmost point is Cape Norvegia at Princess Martha Coast, Queen Maud Land. To the east of Cape Norvegia is the King Haakon VII Sea. Much of the southern part of the sea is covered by a permanent, massive ice shelf field, the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf.
The sea is contained within the two overlapping Antarctic territorial claims of Argentine Antarctica, the British Antarctic Territory, and also resides partially within the Antarctic Chilean Territory. At its widest the sea is around 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) across, and its area is around 2.8 million square kilometres (1.1×10^6 sq mi).Various ice shelves, including the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, fringe the Weddell sea. Some of the ice shelves on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula, which formerly covered roughly 10,000 square kilometres (3,900 sq mi) of the Weddell Sea, had completely disappeared by 2002. Whilst a dramatic event, the area that disappeared was far smaller than the total area of ice shelf that remains. The Weddell Sea has been deemed by scientists to have the clearest water of any sea. Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, on finding a Secchi disc visible at a depth of 80 metres (260 ft) on 13 October 1986, ascertained that the clarity corresponded to that of distilled water.
In his 1950 book The White Continent, historian Thomas R. Henry writes: "The Weddell Sea is, according to the testimony of all who have sailed through its berg-filled waters, the most treacherous and dismal region on earth. The Ross Sea is relatively peaceful, predictable, and safe." He continues for an entire chapter, relating myths of the green-haired merman sighted in the sea's icy waters, the inability of crews to navigate a path to the coast until 1949, and treacherous "flash freezes" that left ships, such as Ernest Shackleton's Endurance, at the mercy of the ice floes.
Outlying territories of European countries
Territories under European sovereignty but closer to or on continents other than Europe (see inclusion criteria for further information).