Welcome readers to todays offering from The Philatelist. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. We have an interesting story to tell of ground breaking treaty that seeks to prevent groundbreaking and how the USA celebrates the treaty while reserving the right to violate it.
The drawing of Antarctica on the stamp is not very well done and this is a missed opportunity. The USA will do very few stamps ever featuring Antarctica. To mess one up therefore is a serious offence. The territory that Britain claims, in violation of the spirit of the treaty, produces stamps that better show off the landscape most of us will never see.
The stamp today is issue C130, a 50 cent airmail stamp issued on June 1st 1991. It was a single stamp issue honoring the 30th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty. According to the Scott catalog, it is worth 45 cents cancelled.
The Antarctic Treaty was well worth celebrating in 1991 and every year. There were scientific stations popping up around Antarctica. These were set up by various countries and a few had started to make formal claims on land area in Antarctica. Antarctica has no native inhabitants and was an unspoiled and cold land. The nature of the expeditions of most of the countries involved service members and equipment from that nation’s military. The presence of armed men and conflicting claims potentially could have lead to an arms race and land grab.
This was a difficult issue to resolve. The 1950s were a time of cold war hostility. This was before there had been any treaty between East and West on arms limitations. There was one advantage however. The East was way behind the West in Antarctica and most of the claims were between a Great Britain that was sheading colonies rapidly and South American countries that could be expected to take the views of the Americans seriously.
The diplomats really did a masterful job with this treaty. All previous claims on Antarctica are frozen without any agreement to recognize them. Scientific outposts are allowed by all signatories of the treaty. Military members and equipment are allowed to be used but all signatories agree to leave them unarmed. All relevant nations signed the treaty and has such it was the first cold war arms control treaty.
The claims were frozen not ended. This was probably why the USA reserved the right to make a claim on Antarctica at a later date. The USA then and now possesses great expeditionary power projection military capability. This is beyond any other nation. So a threat to make a claim on Antarctica from the USA is potentially destabilizing. That has proved to be an effective tool to keep new claims from ruining the treaty. There is a annual meeting of signatories to address issues that come up. Lately they have mainly been about lessening the environmental impact of the outposts on Antarctica.
Well, my drink is empty and so I will pour another so I can raise it up in honor of the Antarctic Treaty and those hardy souls from the many nations that go there to learn more about the world around us. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.