Posted in Antartide Conferenze Home

Talks on Antarctica: United Nations of the World (English)

Talks on Antarctica: United Nations of the World (English) Posted on 26 Luglio 2017

Talks on Antarctica, the United Nations of the World

Topic: the great continent of ice, wind and snow located at the southernmost end of our planet, surrounded by the Southern Ocean, where the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties rage. It is an extraordinary nature reserve, one and a half times as big as the United States, devoted to peace and science, and a continent that does not belong to a country. You do not need a passport to land on Antarctica. The great American explorer Richard E. Byrd wrote: “ I am hopeful that Antarctica in its symbolic robe of white will shine forth as a continent of peace as nations working together there in the cause of science set an example of international cooperation”.

Therefore: the true United Nations of Earth are down there, on the white continent where the South Pole is found. On 28 October 2016, the creation of the Ross Sea Marine Reserve in Antarctica was announced. It is the largest in the world (one and a half times the size of Europe): the international community has finally become aware of the need to protect the valuable Antarctic marine ecosystems. The Agreement will enter into force on December 1st 2017.

                               WHY ANTARCTICA?

1) The continent is entirely devoted “to peace and science” (Madrid Protocol). It is a nature reserve which does not belong to any country, and is a world heritage site. Researchers and logistics technicians from several different countries work together in peace in Antarctica: 5,000 during the austral summer, and 1,000 in the winter.

2) Antarctica is the largest open-air science lab on Earth. The continent is entirely protected, along with the Ross Sea since 2016.

3) No passport is needed to land on Antarctica.

4) Its ‘government’ consists of representatives from the states party to the Antarctic Treaty (AT), a peace treaty signed in 1959, which came into force in 1961. The treaty was renewed in Baltimore in 2009 for another fifty years. Fifty states are party to the AT today (Antarctic Treaty System): the United States was one of the first twelve signatories. The Antarctic Treaty laid the foundations for peaceful and sustainable use and management of the continent. 1) There have never been wars in Antarctica: even during the cold war, the Americans and Soviets worked together in peace on the white continent.

5) Antarctica plays a very important role in regulating the global climate; it is the Earth’s main “cooling system”.

6) It is the last great unexplored continent on Earth: under the ice sheets lie 400 different freshwater lakes (liquid), mountain ranges, volcanoes, gulfs, canyons even bigger than the Grand Canyon … and no one has ever seen them with their own eyes because they are buried under 3-4 km (1¾ to 2½ miles) of ice…….

7) Antarctica is a source of inspiration and wonder for adults, teens and kids: a trip to Antarctica is one of the last great adventures possible on Earth, along with exploration of the ocean depths. And space exploration.

8) The adventures and tales of Antarctic explorers, especially those of the so-called “heroic age of polar exploration” (1900-1914), continue to fuel dreams and thrill audiences throughout the world. Today we have the tales of the modern-day explorers: researchers and logistics technicians.

Lycée Stendhal, Milan (c) DR

Lucia Sala Simion is a professional journalist and science communicator who specializes in Antarctica, the Subantarctic Islands and the polar regions in general. She has been a member of the Consultative Council of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands since 2009. Before embarking on her career as a journalist, Lucia graduated in medicine cum laude at the University of Milan. She has taken part in eight expeditions to Antarctica and has been a guest at several scientific bases (including the US McMurdo station). She has flown on a US Air Force Hercules C-130 over Antarctica and Greenland. She has been on “pilgrimages” to the bases used by Scott, Shackleton and Edmund Hillary on Ross Island, to Carsten Borchgrevink’s base at Cape Adare, and to Base Marret at Dumont d’Urville. She was lucky enough to interview Sir Edmund Hillary and ask him about his 1957-58 expedition to the Geographic South Pole.

Istituto Leone XIII (november 26, 2018)-Photo: Lucia Simion

Lucia Simion is the author of “Antartide, Cuore bianco della Terra” which came out in 2007 during the fourth international polar year. It has also been published in France and Germany. The work was selected by UNEP to become part of a collection of polar books. Lucia Simion has also written numerous articles and reportages on Antarctica, and a children’s book on the fauna in polar regions: “A’ la rencontre des animaux des pôles” (ed. Belin 2013).

She has given lectures on Antarctica at the US McMurdo station; at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) in Boulder, Colorado; at the American Library in Paris; at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (Paris); at the headquarters of the Dassault Aviation Group in France, at the School of Medicine Humanitas University, Rozzano (Milano) and in many schools in Italy, France and Switzerland, including the French Stendhal high school in Milan, the M. D’Azeglio high school in Turin, and the Gonzaga high school in Milan. Lucia Simion has lived in Paris for 25 years.


INTRODUCTION TO ANTARCTICA: Antarctica was discovered about 200 years ago (around 1820) and is the most mysterious and fascinating continent on Earth. No one is left unimpressed. It is one and a half times the size of Europe (46 times the size of Italy) and is 98% covered with ice; its frozen “armour” is an average of 2.2 km thick (about 1.37 miles) and reaches a maximum of 4.4 km (2.73 miles). The ice under the Franco-Italian scientific station Concordia is 3.2 km (2 miles) thick: eleven Eiffel Towers placed one on top of the other! In Antarctica, it is as if time has stood still since the last great ice age, 20,000 years ago. The thickness of the caps was not known until the 1950s. It was not known what they hid. Then, during the third international polar year (1957-58), researchers and technicians aboard motorized convoys explored vast areas of the continent conducting seismic and gravimetric measurements. Between 1969 and 1975, a team of American, British and Danish researchers flew over 60% of the continent aboard a US Navy Hercules C-130 performing radar surveys of the ice to determine the thickness of the caps. The researchers revealed the subglacial geology using this technique, which exploits the ability of electromagnetic waves to penetrate ice. They measured the thickness of the caps and discovered that the continent is below sea level owing to the huge weight of the ice on top (about 30 million km3 [over 7 million cubic miles], the planet’s largest freshwater reserve).

From: Antarctic subglacial lake exploration: first results and future plans, Martin J. Siegert, John C. Priscu, Irina A. Alekhina, Jemma L. Wadham, W. Berry Lyons- The Royal Society (2015)
Assessing the subglacial lake coverage of Antarctica – Sebastian Goeller (a1), Daniel Steinhage (a1), Malte Thoma (a1) and Klaus Grosfeld (a1) online: 27 July 2016- ANNALS OF GLACIOLOGY – Volume 57, Issue 72 July 2016 , pp. 109-117

Nearly 400 subglacial lakes of liquid fresh water have been discovered over the past three decades thanks to satellite observations and the instruments carried on planes. The largest, called Vostok, is 250 km long and 50 km wide. It is from 400 to 1,000 metres (435 to 1,100 yards) deep, and covers an area 34 times the size of Lake Garda. The Soviet scientist Andrei Kapitsa realized there might be water beneath the ice in the 1950s, but the existence of Lake Vostok was only confirmed in 1993 through measurements carried out by the European satellite ERS-1 using a laser altimeter. However nobody has ever seen Lake Vostok with their own eyes since it is buried beneath 4 km (2½ miles) of ice.

Many other mysteries are hidden under the ice caps: the Gamburtsev mountains (a mountain chain as big as our Alps), valleys, bays, rivers and canyons. Antarctica belongs to no one. Territorial claims, military bases, weapon testing and mining research are prohibited. The continent must remain a land of peace and science. Article 1 of the Antarctic Treaty (AT) provides that: “Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only.”  Since 1959, the original Antarctic Treaty (signed in Washington by 12 countries, today 50) has been extended through three conventions and a protocol for the protection of the environment, the Madrid Protocol. It is therefore referred to as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS).

Baltimore, 2009 (c) Lucia Simion
ATCM- Edinbourg 2006 (c) Lucia Simion

Every year, the states party to the treaty gather in a different place to attend a congress known by its acronym, the ATCM (Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting). During this event, which lasts about two weeks, numerous topics are discussed regarding the management of the continent, including tourism (40,000 tourists a year). ATCM 2017 will be held in Beijing, China, one of the great powers with three scientific stations in Antarctica (a fourth is being set up). Every austral summer, about 4,000 researchers and technicians from various countries go to Antarctica to work.

Videoconference with Mario Zucchelli station at terra Nova Bay (c) Lucia Simion
Presentation on Antarctica held at the Fondazione Golinelli, Bologna, Italy (november 2018). Courtesy Pia De Paola


Introduction: a continent devoted to peace and science, a world heritage site.

Geopolitics and management of the continent.

Terra Australis Incognita: discovery and exploration of Antarctica Geological origin, the Gondwana supercontinent

Genesis of the ice caps: Antarctica as a global climate regulator;

How do I get to Antarctica? (military aircraft, icebreakers, sailing boats, private expeditions, etc.)

Scientific bases and everyday life (past and present);

Antarctica: the largest open-air science lab on Earth: description of the most significant research projects (climatology, geology, palaeontology, medicine, glaciology, astrophysics, biology, oceanography, meteorite collection, discovery of Antarctic dinosaurs, etc.)

The wildlife of Antarctica: penguins, seals, fish with antifreeze molecules, cetaceans (whales, killer whales), insects, etc.

Means of transport in Antarctica “Restaurants” in Antarctica (what you eat at the different bases)

Post offices in Antarctica and polar philately: how to receive letters down there Literature, films, travel stories, adventures….. Museums

Turism in Antarctica

TALK ON AMERICAN BASES IN ANTARCTICA: McMurdo on the Ross Island (the largest Antarctic research station), Amundsen-Scott South Pole station at the South Pole, and Palmer on the Antarctic Peninsula. The history of expeditions, the first bases, scientific research, the most significant scientific projects, and the most extraordinary discoveries.

PROPOSED TOPICS ANTARCTICA, the seventh continent, the United Nations of the Earth

THE HEROES OF ANTARCTICA: extraordinary explorers, including James Clark Ross, Charles Wilkes, Jules S. Dumont d’Urville, J.B. Charcot, Douglas Mawson, and the race to conquer the South Pole between Amundsen and Scott; Ernest Shackleton’s expedition, …

THE EXPEDITIONS OF RICHARD E. BYRD, AMERICAN POLAR EXPLORER (1888-1957): the flight over the South Pole in 1929, the Little America base, his second expedition and his solitary stay at base Bolling (1934), Operation Highjump (1946-47), and Operation Deepfreeze (1956-57).

SCIENCE IN ANTARCTICA: A century of scientific research and an extraordinary wealth of discoveries (dinosaurs, palaeoclimate, submerged mountains and lakes under the ice, volcanoes, telescopes, neutrino detectors, discovery of new colonies of Emperor penguins on satellite photos, etc.)

GEOPOLITICS OF ANTARCTICA: the Antarctic Treaty System that governs international relations on the land and ice shelves south of the 60th parallel.

The French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF, founded in 1955): Adélie Land, Crozet islands, Kerguelen Islands, Saint-Paul Islands, Amsterdam Island and Eparses Islands in the Mozambique Channel and East of Madagascar. Lucia Simion is a member of the TAAF Consultative Council.

LIVE VIDEOCONFERENCE WITH A SCIENTIFIC BASE IN ANTARCTICA (via Skype or another systems, for example. Polycom – with a US or Italian base (M. Zucchelli or the Franco-Italian base Concordia. Each talk consists of a multimedia power point presentation which lasts about 45-50 minutes. Twenty minutes are then devoted to questions from the audience.

Istituto Leone XIII, Milan (November 2018). Photo: Lucia Simion
Videconference with the french-italian station Concordia held at the Humanitas School of Medicine, Rozzano (c) Lucia Sala Simion