Much of British Antarctic Territory Named in Honour of the Queen
Today Her Majesty the Queen visited the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to meet staff and have a tour of the building. Having worked in the FCO previously I can vouch that it is a building which has many beautiful rooms with grand Victorian decoration. Part of the building was the old India Office and this is particularly stunningly decorated.
However the culmination of today’s visit was the announcement by Foreign Secretary William Hague that a huge part of the British Antarctic Territory has been named for the first time, in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Around a third of the territory is now to be known as “Queen Elizabeth Land”. Most of Antarctica is named by the powers who own the various sections.
Antartica is governed by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty which came into force in 1961. Under its terms all signatories agree:
- to demilitarize Antarctica, to establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste, and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only;
- to promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica;
- to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty
The United Kingdom is one of the original signatories to the Treaty which covers all of British Antarctic Territory and the overlapping Argentinian and Chilean territorial claims. The UK robustly maintains British claims to the vast area of the continent, issuing postage stamps and ensuring a permanent British presence through scientific research stations in the area supported from the Falkland Islands.