mark south erased a fantasy of a warm, habitable, and most importantly, proﬁtable region to thesouth. Seeking to extricate himself from an increasingly bad investment, Cook staked the bottomof the map, overwriting the Greeks’ previous imaginary,
Terra Australis Incognita
(the unknownsouthern land), with his own terminus of impassable ice.
Cook’s mark stood for barely 40 yearsbefore a frenzy of sealing voyages gave way, once the seal population was dispatched, to furtherterritorial conquest. But his instinct to make Antarctic territory a limit to modernity’s drive toknow the world is echoed in the persistent need to place a future in Antarctica, a future thatAntarctica’s materiality thwarts.Antarctica’s remoteness, lack of indigenes, and almost otherworldly harshness has preventedthe development of even the crudest industries, save for tourism. While tourism continues togrow and reward a range of private and self-regulating companies – exploiting for proﬁt thevery pristinity its industry threatens – my interest is in Antarctica’s resistance to the types of resource extraction typically pursued by nations either within their own borders or under colonial-ism.
In its vast and mostly desert-like qualities Antarctica challenges the way capital has mappedthe earth into zones of productivity, themselves resolved into further layers of industry or labor-value.
For a long time Antarctica was for all intents and purposes what Cook predicted: a waste-land of marginal human concern, resistant to all but a few hardy and well-funded expeditions.But Antarctica’s salience has risen since World War II, especially as a result of the developmentof the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) and the science activities occurring under the InternationalGeophysical Year (IGY). The ATS sets Antarctica aside from competition over territory andfrom capital development, instead designating it for the sole beneﬁt of international science.Standing ﬁrm as a legal structure for approaching Antarctica, the ATS and its member stateshave through the 1970s and 1980s added amendments and protocols to address renewed interestin resources, protect its environment, and consider inclusion of nations with relatively little histor-ical connection to the continent.
The 1991 ‘Pax Antarctica,’ or the agreement to extend earlierdeferrals of contests over territory, power, and policy, re-ratiﬁed the basic tenets of the ATS, ban-ning militarization and commercial resource mining and deferring national claims at least until2048. The implications of the ATS regime have been profound, both structuring the possibilitiesfor states to engage Antarctica, while limiting those very engagements to those directly related toscience. State-run science has in many ways solved the problem of Antarctica’s troublesome
Books on Antarctica typically open with a gesture to the continent’s earliest speculative conceptualizations by theEgyptian Ptolemy, whose second century map of the world introduced the area he labeled
terra australis incognita
. Seefor example, P.I. Mitterling,
America in the Antarctic to 1840
, Urbana, 1959, 4.
For an essay on representation and symbolism as forms of value generated by corporate involvement in Antarcticasee E. Glasberg, Virtual capitalism,
Political and Legal Anthropology Review
21(1) (1998) 65–76. Tourism as an industrydeserves separate consideration.
See S. Pyne, The extraterrestrial earth: Antarctica as analogue for space exploration,
23 (2007) 147– 149 for a discussion of the limitations of human inhabitation in Antarctica and its repercussions for science policy andcultural development, including resource extraction, in Antarctica.
For an assessment of Antarctic tourism see P. Mason, The growth of tourism in Antarctica,
Vol 85(4)(2000) 358. For a more complex argument on the interrelation of tourism, self-regulation of the industry, and activityon the continent more broadly, see C. Murray and J. Jabour, Independent expeditions and Antarctic tourism policy,
40 (215) 309–317. On the ATS see O. Stokke and D. Vidas (Eds),
Governing the Antarctic: the Eﬀectivenessand Legitimacy of the Antarctic Treaty System
, New York, 1996.640
E. Glasberg / Journal of Historical Geography 34 (2008) 639–657