Antarctic Land Rush?

Photo credit: CIA

DefenseNews reports on the growing South American interest in Antarctica and the proliferation of polar ships that support these interests. The increased interest is fueled by anticipation that changes in the Antarctic Treaty system will allow resource exploitation.

If the current treaty is altered or abrogated, a number of nations have already made claims to Antarctic territory, held in abeyance by the current treaty. Some of these claims overlap. Interestingly neither the US or Russia has made any specific claims but have reserved the right to make them in the future. (Click on the map above to enlarge and see where the various stations are located.)

There is already much animosity between Argentina and the UK and between Argentina and Chile. The existing treaty system could breakdown at any time. This looks like another good argument for both a new Icebreaker and for bringing back the Polar Sea.

China Goes to the Poles

China Defense Blog has a photo essay from China’s recent expedition to the Arctic, as well as pictures of their station in Antartica. Below is a photo of their large Russian built icebreaker from the post, with the Wiki link for the specs. Note in the link above, their helo looks an awful lot like an H-65. There is also some photos of their new support aircraft, a modified DC-3.
ABOARD XUELONG, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) — A group of Chinese scientists reached the North Pole on Friday afternoon, extending their research on the Arctic Ocean to Earth’s northernmost point.

Fourteen Chinese scientists were flown in by helicopter from icebreaker the Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, which carried a Chinese exploration team and reached a point at 88.22 degrees north latitude and 177.20 degrees west longitude.

Photo: MV Xue Long

Icebreaker Envy

Ryan Erickson has published the Arctic SAR boundaries on the Naval Institute Blog. Looking at this chart got me thinking about ice capable ships. That of course lead to looking for similar information on Antarctica, so this is going to be a survey of What nations are interested in the Polar regions? and What do their ice capable fleets look like?

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Britain’s New Antarctic Patrol Vessel, HMS Protector

3rd Street Promenade
The British are using unconventional means to provide for their need for a patrol vessel capable of operating in ice including patrols in the vicinity of the Falklands and supporting their Antarctic survey stations. They are taking a three year lease on an existing Norwegian vessel that has been used to support the oil industry. Additional modifications are planned including boats and weapons.
“Completed in 2001 and displacing 4,985 tons, she can act as a polar research ship or subsea support vessel, and has 100 berths.”
HMS Protector is filling an unexpected gap in their capabilities after accidental flooding almost sank the previous ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance in December 2008.