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Reinvigorating Peru’s role in Antarctic
geopolitics
a

b

Wilder Alejandro Sanchez & Otto Raul Tielemans Jr.
a

Council on Hemispheric Affairs, 1250 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite
1C, Washington, DC 20016, USA
b

The George Washington University, 1957 E. Street NW,
Washington, DC 20052, USA
Published online: 17 Jun 2015.

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To cite this article: Wilder Alejandro Sanchez & Otto Raul Tielemans Jr. (2015)
Reinvigorating Peru’s role in Antarctic geopolitics, The Polar Journal, 5:1, 101-112, DOI:
10.1080/2154896X.2015.1030164
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The Polar Journal, 2015
Vol. 5, No. 1, 101–112, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2154896X.2015.1030164

OPINION
Reinvigorating Peru’s role in Antarctic geopolitics
Wilder Alejandro Sancheza* and Otto Raul Tielemans Jr.b
a

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Council on Hemispheric Affairs, 1250 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 1C, Washington, DC
20016, USA; bThe George Washington University, 1957 E. Street NW, Washington, DC
20052, USA
Peru has lagged in expanding its miniscule operations in the Antarctic. With
neighbours such as Russia and China consistently appropriating greater resources
towards its Antarctic bases, Peru can only lay claim to a seasonally operating
base and naval vessel capable of annual expeditions to the frozen continent. The
lack of investment in the region is crippling to the Andean nation, diminishing
its presence and potential influence in the region. With the Antarctic Treaty of
1959 potentially up for revision in 2048, it is in Peru’s national interest to
cement, promote and protect its fragile presence in Antarctica. As such, this
essay will not only discuss Peru’s historical interactions with the Antarctic dating
back to the 1970s, but it will also seek to highlight recent expeditions, including
a visit by President Humala to Antarctica in 2013. It is the opinion of the authors
that Peruvian initiatives in the Antarctic have been minimalist and insufficient to
cement its role as relevant player in Antarctic geopolitics. Furthermore, this
essay provides recommendations regarding what initiatives Lima can execute in
the near future to not only increase its presence but also showcase it to the
world. These suggestions include obtaining a second vessel, establishing a
permanent base and promoting Peruvian scientific research regarding the Antarctic to the international academic community and even low-cost initiatives such
as utilising the Internet to promote Peru’s Antarctic history and contributions to
the protection of this important region.
Keyword: Peru; Antarctica; Foreign Policy; national interests; BIC Humboldt;
Machu Picchu; ANTAR

With the global community constantly seeking to unearth greater quantities of natural resources, the Antarctic has established itself as one of the final frontiers for
lucrative extraction ventures. Among the interested are countries such as Argentina,
Australia, Chile and China – each with their established research bases and intricate
network of Antarctic infrastructure (i.e. telecommunications systems, vessels, etc.).
Most commonly overlooked, however, is the Andean nation of Peru. Defined by
its constitution as an “Antarctic nation”, Peru has in recent decades maintained a
small but constant presence in the Antarctic, igniting a sense of pride and prestige
for the Peruvian Government, scientific community and military. Although the
armed forces are credited with spearheading Peru’s presence in the white continent
in the 1970s, only a small portion of the Peruvian population is aware of its nation’s
ventures in the Antarctic. After all, with little more than a seasonally operating
scientific base and an ageing naval vessel that conducts annual scientific expeditions,
*Corresponding author. Email: wilder.a.sanchez@gmail.com
© 2015 Taylor & Francis

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there is few ammunition on behalf of the Andean nation to conduct any type of
attention-grabbing expeditions or explorations.
Nevertheless, Peru attempts to remain an active role in the region. And although
its scientific experiments are ongoing, it is debatable to what extent the country is
impacting the global scientific community. Neither can it be said that the base,
Machu Picchu, holds strategic value for the country’s commercial and national
security interests (although the base is necessary to demonstrate that the country is
conducting substantial research activity in Antarctica in order to be a consultative
party of the Antarctic Treaty System). The authors of this analysis argue that Peru
currently has no clear policy towards the white continent, and is only executing
minimum initiatives necessary (i.e. scientific expeditions and a semi-permanent
base) to retain its relevance in the region. The accelerated melting of the poles is
driving global powers to look at the South Pole; however, Peru is failing to elevate
its standing among its international counterparts. As such, with the Antarctic Treaty
of 1959 to be reviewed in 2048 (50 years after it entered into force), it is in Peru’s
national interest to formulate a short- and a long-term policy leading up to 2048
regarding its presence and objectives in the area. Otherwise, the Andean state is in
jeopardy of losing its little influence over the continent’s affairs. (Certainly, there is
the scenario where no party calls for a review in 2048, but the authors of this article
support the assumption that global geopolitics, and the battle for control over
Antarctic resources, will be motives for a review of the Treaty.)
Peru’s role in the Antarctic
The first legal statement regarding Peru’s interest in the Antarctic can be found in
the country’s 1979 constitution, drafted a year prior to the country’s return to democratic governance from over a decade of military rule (1968–1980).1 On 3 May
1979, the National Assembly passed a declaration claiming Peru as being a nation
linked to the Antarctic due to its geographical position, “as well as due to ecological
and historical factors”.2 A similar declaration was made and added to the country’s
constitution in 1993 by Peru’s national legislature. Additionally, the Peruvian
Government has drafted a Política Nacional Antártica (Antarctic National Policy)
that was passed in 11 June 2002 (via the Decreto Supremo Nº 016-2002-RE). The
fact that the Peruvian Government’s decision to highlight its connections with the
Antarctic while the country was ruled by the military is interesting but should not be
interpreted as a defining factor. The Andean state has a strong history of dealing
with maritime issues, such as, for example, its fierce protection of its control over
200 nautical miles as its exclusive economic zone, and, at the time, there was a
strong momentum to get involved in Antarctic geopolitics in order to ensure that the
frozen continent remained a military-free zone and protected from changes that
could impact the world, particularly neighbouring South America and Peru itself.
As opposed to several other governments, however, Peru does not officially claim
any territory within the Antarctic (though, following Brazil’s “defrontacion” theory,
Peru could theoretically claim a sector of the Antarctic). As a matter of fact, it was
not until 1981, after the country had returned to democratic governance, that the
Andean nation became a signatory of the Antarctic Treaty. Years later, in 1989, Lima
1
2

Decreto Supremo No 014-2014-RE.
Constitucion Politica del Peru.

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became a “Consultative Party”. According to the Treaty’s Article IX.2, a Consultative
Party is entitled to participate in Consultative Meetings during such times as it
“demonstrates its interest in Antarctica by conducting substantial research activity
there, such as the establishment of a scientific station or the dispatch of a scientific
expedition”. This shift in membership status occurred after the South American country successfully carried out two expeditions to the Antarctic, and established its current scientific base. As a signatory and Consultative Party, Peru acquired “a voice and
a ‘vote’ in the decision-making process regarding the [Antarctic] Treaty and the
formulation of the judiciary regimen” that rules it.3 (It is worth noting that the Antarctic Treaty System works on consensus decision-making, but the Peruvian Government is nevertheless pleased that it now has decision-making rights.) The Peruvian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs adds that the state aims to “protect the Antarctic as a
peace zone and natural reserve [for scientific expeditions] which are important for the
international scientific community and also a priority for Peru”.4
It is also worth recognising that the Peruvian Government has sought to legitimise its role in the region not simply by becoming a more active member in the
region, but also by attempting to include the Antarctic as part of its bureaucratic
affairs. For example, the Peruvian Government has created a “White Book” – a
manual-type journal that discusses the Andean nation’s interest in the Antarctic.
Chapter II of the White Book is titled “Peru en el Mundo” and has a brief
description of Peru’s Antarctic history and facts about the Machu Picchu base. As
for Peruvian initiatives in Antarctica, one lone sentence explains, “in order to be
recognized as a consulting member of the Antarctic Council, Peru carries out the
following activities”.5 The White Book goes on to list the aforementioned scientific
expeditions and the non-permanent scientific base as the cornerstone of its Antarctic
projects.
Argentina, the Humboldt and Machu Picchu
Peru’s initial Antarctic presence in the Antarctic was made possible with the help of
its partner, Argentina. Seen as an act that highlights the hospitable diplomatic
relations between both Latin American governments (particularly during a time
when both countries were ruled by military juntas). One of the first Peruvian military officer who travelled to Antarctica is the now retired Army Brigadier General
(ret.) Jose Maria Herrera Rosas.6 In 1981, he was invited by the Argentine military
to visit one of their bases. Having proved successful, a second military delegation
made up of three officers, including the aforementioned Herrera, returned to the
Antarctic, with the continued help of the Argentine navy. In an interview with the
authors, Peruvian Army Colonel (ret.) Wilder Sanchez Gambini explained, “it makes
sense for the armed forces to take point in travelling to the Antarctic as we had the
budget, training and willingness to be the first ones to go”.7
Years later, Peru finally achieved a prominent Antarctic presence, establishing
the scientific base Estación Antartica Machu Picchu (named in honour of the famous
3

Decreto Supremo No 014-2014-RE. Politica Nacional Antartica. Point No. 8.
Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Soberania, Limites y Asuntos Antarticos.”
5
Peru White Book, Chapter II, 54.
6
Zorrilla, “Fue Recibida la Vigesima Expedicion ANTAR XX.”
7
Sanchez Gambini, interview.
4

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Inca citadel) in 1989. In 2005, Peru published the aforementioned White Book,
specifying that the base’s living quarters are 210 square metres in diameter, providing room for 28 staff members. The base is located on King George Island, and it
carries out scientific experiments relating to: human biology, oceanography, biology,
terrestrial magnetism and geophysics.8
Peru’s annual arrival on the continent occurs through the use of the Buque de
Investigación Científica (BIC – Scientific Research Vessel) Humboldt. The vessel
was built in 1978, by a Peruvian Navy shipyard with German assistance, and has
reportedly been updated twice, once in 1989 and then again between 2010 and
2012. In its most recent renovation, the BIC Humboldt received a new engine and
navigation systems. Nevertheless, the vessel is rapidly approaching four decades of
age, and it would suit the government to consider an additional vessel, given that
any substantive damage to the vessel would terminate, at least temporarily, the
country’s transportation to the region. In March 2013, upon the return of the BIC
Humboldt from an Antarctic expedition, Peruvian Minister of Production, Gladys
Triveño, declared that the government was evaluating the possibility of having a
permanent presence in the Antarctic. Nevertheless, Triveño explained that what was
needed was an oceanographic vessel with the capability of withstanding tough polar
climates, which Peru currently did not possess.9 According to Rear Admiral Carlos
Tejada, commander of the Peruvian Navy, such a vessel would cost around $40
million USD; a significant amount, even for a country like Peru that is currently
enjoying a period of substantial economic development.
Even though the objective of this essay is not to compare Peru’s Antarctic initiatives with other countries, a brief comparison can be made regarding equipment.
When it comes to other Latin American nations, the BIC Humboldt is considered to
be neither superior nor inferior to its counterparts. For example, Colombia sent its
humble 20 de Julio, a patrol boat, to Antarctica in December 2014 – marking the
South American state’s first scientific expedition to the white continent in a vessel
not specifically designed for the Antarctic, unlike the BIC Humboldt.10 As for
Argentina, which does have territorial claims, it suffered a devastating blow when its
icebreaker, the ARA Almirante Irízar, had a fire in 2007. The vessel, which was constructed in the mid-1970s, has yet to be fully repaired given the country’s crippling
economic condition.11 If compared Peru to Colombia, which is utilising a patrol boat
to reach the Antarctic instead of a scientific vessel, and Argentina, which lost its flagship icebreaker, then Lima is not at a loss regarding the current operational status of
the BIC Humboldt. With that said, the BIC Humboldt has encountered various
operational deficiencies in the past and a replacement in the near future will be
necessary. This would aid Peru’s Antarctic activities because not would it provide a
more modern vessel, but it would give Peru a place ahead of other South American
states that currently lack a vessel specifically designed for scientific voyages to the
white continent. While this may not necessarily translate into greater scientific
discoveries, among developing nations, possessing more advanced technology that
other South American nations lack is a source of pride in itself.
8

Peru White Book, Chapter II, 54.
Contreras, “Peru evaluar permanecer mas tiempo en la Antartida.”
10
Saumeth, “El buque ARC 20 de Julio zarpa en la primera expedición de Colombia a la
Antártida” (accessed January 20, 2015).
11
“Conocé por dentro cómo está quedando el nuevo Rompehielos Almirante Irízar,” Minutouno, November 1, 2014 (accessed January 20, 2015).
9

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The personnel living on the Machu Picchu base are a combination of military
personnel and scientists.12 These scientists include personnel from the Instituto del
Mar del Perú (IMARPE – Peruvian Institute of the Sea) or the Servicio Nacional de
Meteorologia e Hidrologia del Perú (SENAMHI – Peruvian National Service of
Meteorology and Hydrology). As for the armed forces, over the past decades,
officers from the Peruvian Army, Air Force and Navy have travelled aboard the
Humboldt and lived in the polar region. It should be noted that while military
involvement is in part correlated to the country’s national security issues, it is also
in part due to the country’s partial inability to stock its Antarctic base with enough
experienced scientists.
Peru’s expeditions to the Antarctic are called ANTAR (short for Antarctica). In
order to oversee the country’s activities in the Antarctic, the Peruvian Government
created the Comisión Nacional de Asuntos Antarticos (CONAAN – National
Commission for Antarctic Affairs) in 1983. The Peruvian Government passed Law
Nº 27870, which restructured the CONAAN and renamed as the Instituto Antartico
Peruano (INANPE – Antarctic Peruvian Institute) in 2002.13 The INANPE is now a
more decentralised entity, part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has the
scientific and technical autonomy necessary to carry out projects in the Antarctic.14
The Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also created an entity that oversees
Peru’s Antarctic objectives, called the General Directorate for Sovereignty, Borders
and Antarctic Affairs.15
As a final note to Peru’s presence in the Antarctic, we will briefly mention some
facts about some of the most recent ANTAR expeditions. For example, ANTAR
XXII, which lasted from December 2013 to March 2014. The expedition had a team
of 106 personnel, including members of the Peruvian Army, Air Force, IMARPE,
SENAMHI and various Peruvian universities.16 The Peruvian media reported that
the scientific expedition had representatives from friendly countries like Argentina,
Brazil, Chile, China and the US – all of which had a vested interest, whether
humanitarian, political or economic, in the region.17 As for more recent developments, ANTAR XXIII took place between January and February of 2015. A decree
by the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment explains that a total of 27 individuals
flew from Peru to the Machu Picchu base, only two of which are from the armed
forces, while the rest come from a variety of government entities (i.e. the Ministry
of Health and Ministry of Agriculture) as well as Peruvian universities like San
Marcos and the Universidad Científica del Sur.18
Why go to Antarctica?
At the time of writing, Peru deployed its newest expedition to Antarctica, ANTAR
XXIII. As we can expect the Andean state to continue its annual expeditions to the
Zorrilla, “Fue Recibida la Vigesima Expedicion ANTAR XX.”
“La Antartida,” Direccion de Hidrografia y Navegacion, Marina de Guerra del Peru.
14
“La Antartida,” Direccion de Hidrografia y Navegacion, Marina de Guerra del Peru.
15
“Soberania, Limites y AsuntosAntarticos,” Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
16
La Republica, “A mediados de enero expedicion peruana llegara a Antartida,” also see
SENAMHI, “SENAMHI participo de mission peruana en la Antartida.”
17
RPP, “Buque Humboldt parte en su vigesima segunda expedicion a la Antartida.”
18
Sistema Nacional de Información Ambiental. “Autorizan viaje de personal peruano expedicionario a la Antártida, en comisión de servicios,” January 9, 2015 (accessed January 20,
2015).
12
13

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frozen continent, a March 2013 article in the respected Peruvian daily newspaper La
República posed the very relevant question: Why does Peru carry out studies in the
Antarctic?19 The same newspaper responded its own query, explaining that changes
there can impact the Humboldt Current, which flows on South America’s Pacific
Coast from southern Chile to northern Peru. This can have important repercussions
on marine species that Peru’s fishing industry relies upon; moreover, changes in the
Antarctic environment can affect the waves of cold temperature that reach Peru’s
southern regions, including the Andes. Additionally, Peruvian scientists have
recently carried out experiments around the Lange Glacier, close to the Machu
Picchu station as well as studies on krill, a shrimp-like creature that lives in
Antarctic waters.20
However, while Peru has the capacity to commercially harvest, market and sell
krill as a viable protein-dense food that can eliminate hunger and/or malnutrition in
parts of the developing world (with the likelihood of generating sizeable profits), the
lack of action on thought has prevented Peru from moving forth in achieving any
type of land expansion or technological advancement in the region. This all but reinforces the notion that Peru is falling behind in its ability to carve itself a secure
“seat” in the future negotiations that will decide the fate of the region.
Peruvian coverage of Antarctic expeditions
Peruvian media and social media outlets have aided Peru in increasing its notoriety
in Antarctica. While minimal, Peru’s presence received a boost in early 2013 when
president, Ollanta Humala, travelled to the frozen continent. His journey was in honour of the 25th anniversary of Peru’s first expedition to Antarctica and marked the
first time that a Peruvian head of state visited Antarctica.21 (The Flickr account of
the Peruvian presidency has an extensive gallery of photos of President Humala’s
2013 trip to the Machu Picchu station.)
Journalist, Denisse Sotomayor, also visited the white continent as part of the
ANTAR XX expedition. Upon her return to Peru, she displayed to the public her
collection of photographs and videos depicting daily life at the Machu Picchu base
at the Metropolitan Museum of Lima in the hopes of garnering public interest.22
Similarly, the Peruvian Directorate of Hydrography and Navigation, an agency of
the Peruvian Navy, created a website for the ANTAR XXII expedition, which
includes a map, photographs and a log of vessel’s voyage.
However, although political figures and journalists may attempt to increase the
Andean state’s profile in the region, the aforementioned retired Colonel Sanchez
argued that: “The media will only cover our programme when the BIC Humboldt
either departs for an expedition or arrives from it”. Hence, in spite of these highprofile trips and online marketing initiatives, it can be argued that knowledge of
Peru’s presence in the Antarctic is minimal among the Peruvian population. As such,
the government has failed to be consistent in informing and educating the Peruvian
populace over the importance of the country’s continuous presence on the frozen
Contreras, “Peru evaluar permanecer mas tiempo en la Antartida.”
ANDINA, “Cientificos peruanos investigan relacion de krill con otras especies de la Antartida” and SENAMHI, “SENAMHI participo de mission peruana en la Antartida.”
21
Sanchez, “Presidente Peruano Ollanta Humala viaja a la Antartida: Un breve
analisisgeopolitico.”
22
Peru21, “Machu Picchu en la Antartida.”
19
20

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continent. Certainly, this is not simply a Peruvian problem, as even countries with
more bases and territorial claims to the Antarctic have to deal with local populations
that are unaware of their governments’ Antarctic activities.
While a greater physical presence in the Antarctic is an obvious suggestion, Peru
can similarly boost its credentials through scholarly pursuits. Scientists from various
nations regularly carry out experiments in the Antarctic, publishing their findings;
moreover, at the international affairs level, think tanks such as Australia’s Lowly
Institute or Argentina’s Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales (Argentine
Center for International Studies – CAEI) publish reports and essays about their
respective nations’ policy and activities in the Antarctic.23. An ambitious programme
of publishing results from scientific investigations as well as policy commentaries,
in both English and Spanish, would help boost the visibility of Peru’s role in the
Antarctic.
As previously mentioned, China has a centre now devoted to Antarctic studies,
while Australian think tanks publish commentaries about their state’s Antarctic
claims. When it comes to Latin America, the Argentine think tank CAEI has published a series of reports concerning Argentina’s commitment to its Antarctic claims,
in spite of the problems Argentina’s scientific vessel has suffered.24
As for Peru, the authors of this essay would argue that while Peruvian research
regarding its Antarctic activities does exist, it is obscure and random rather than
consistent. For example, while Peru has hosted meetings of the Antarctic parties,
educational conferences on this issue are incredibly scarce. In fact, the authors of
this essay have only been able to find one conference on the subject: a seminar on
the role of the Antarctic in the global climate, which took place in 2011 at the
Universidad Católica, in Lima.25 This does not mean that other such seminars have
not occurred, but if this is the case, the authors cannot find any trace of them online.
As for scientific publications, the website of IMARPE, the Peruvian Institute for
the Sea, does have a database of publications relating to Peruvian Antarctic activities; however, there are two problems with this positive initiative. First of all,
IMARPE’s website is not particularly user friendly, as articles are uploaded randomly and infrequently. Moreover, the online database seems to offer a bibliography
of publications, which means that people interested in an article would have to
contact IMARPE for a digital copy or, more likely, go to this centre, located in the
Callao province, in order to access it. As for scientific and academic publications,
Peru has indeed published quite a few of these; however, they are similarly difficult
to come by. According to IMARPE’s database, in 1999, a report was published on
Antarctic birds as indicators of krill abundance and distribution around Elephant
Island. Unfortunately, according to the database, this report is out of stock.26 There
are several other krill-related reports, such as a 1997 analysis about the abundance
of krill around the Bransfield Strait during the ANTAR I, II and III expeditions;
however, they do not seem to be able to be accessed online, which severely limits
their relevance in the international scientific community.

Fogarty, “Antarctica.” Also see, CAEI, “Observatorio Polar.”
Recce, “Argentina: Pais Austral, Sudamericano y Emergente.”
25
Instituto de Ciencias de la Naturaleza, Territorio y Energías Renovables. “Seminario Rol de
la Antártida en el Clima Global,” September 26, 2011 (accessed January 20, 2015).
26
“Publicaciones Iremar,” Iremar, October 4, 2011 (accessed January 20, 2015).
23
24

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As for increasing its physical presence, nowadays Peru’s decade-long burgeoning
economy has garnered it the title as one of Latin America’s “pumas”.27 This is in
part due to the Andean nation being a member of the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc
containing Latin America’s rising economies (Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru),
which promotes the free movement of goods, services and people among its members.28 Lima has also been proactive in its negotiations towards the Trans-Pacific
Partnership, an ambitious project to create a free trade area between United States,
Latin American economies located on the Pacific Coast and nations from the Asia
Pacific. This agreement is speculated to blossom Peru’s already handsome economy,
endowing the country with a new avenue of riches that it can use towards
exploration in the Antarctica.
This positive economic outlook has allowed the Peruvian Government to carry
out ambitious modernisation and expansion projects. Already the Peruvian Navy is
constructing a new vessel that will be used to educate cadets, expected to surpass its
neighbours by having the biggest training vessel in Latin America.29Additionally, in
early 2014, Peru and France signed a deal via which the Andean nation will acquire
an Aerosat-300 satellite to improve its space programme.30 While the satellite will
be important for national security, it will also be utilised for scientific research, such
as tracking weather patterns over Peruvian territory. The acquisition of the satellite
demonstrates that the Peruvian Government is interested in continuing to develop its
domestic scientific community and capabilities; apart from space, the Antarctic is
another obvious area where Lima can increase the country’s presence.
With these motions set in place, now would be the ideal moment for the Peruvian
Government to boost its Antarctic presence. One important fact about Peru’s research
in the Antarctic so far, as mentioned earlier, is that it focuses on marine research,
namely the krill. Peruvian scientists could make valuable contributions to the study of
krill, but for this a more advanced vessel is necessary. Hence, it would make sense to
support the ageing BIC Humboldt with a newer, state-of-the-art vessel. This would
have the additional positive effect of raising the visibility of Peruvian scientific
expeditions. As previously mentioned, the Peruvian media focuses on covering the
departure and arrival of the BIC Humboldt for the ANTAR expeditions; hence, it
would raise Peru’s international profile, not to mention increase awareness and a
sense of national pride among the general population, if the media covers (and
praises), not one but a (mini) fleet of two ships leaving the port of Callao with
Antarctica as destination.
Moreover, Peruvian scientists can make important headway in how changes in
the Antarctic affect South America. The link between the two region’s environments
is one of the reasons stated by the Peruvian Government to justify its activities in
the frozen continent. Case in point, a (very) brief three-page article in the magazine
“Bitácora Hidrogáfrica”, published by the Peruvian Navy, explains how Antarctic
winds can join the anticyclone of the South Pacific (also known as the South Pacific
High), which enters the territories of Argentina, Bolivia and then Peru via the southern Amazon. “Via this process, the temperatures of the jungle decrease significantly
“Pacific Pumas,” The Economist, November 15, 2014 (accessed January 20, 2015).
Baumann, “Pacific Alliance Seeks Regional Integration and Foreign Investment in Latin
America,” (accessed January 20, 2015).
29
Defensa.com, “Avances en la construcción del Buque Escuela para la Marina de Guerra del
Peru BAP ‘Union’.”
30
Sanchez, “Peru’s Satellite Buy Next Step Towards the Stars.”
27
28

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[and are accompanied] by moderately strong winds”, the article concludes.31 In other
words, this is an area in which Peruvian scientists can be at the forefront of scientific
inquiries. An increased understanding of how the Antarctic influences weather patterns in the Peruvian Andes and Amazon regions would be immensely important for
the Peruvian Government as these findings would help Lima prepare for supporting
its population in those regions when extreme weather events occur (commonly
known in Peru as “friajes”, loosely translated to “freezes”).
The Arctic race is well underway, and fight over control over the Antarctic will
only increase in the near future (whether we will see a drastic review of the Antarctic Treaty in 2048 remains to be seen). Of course, Peru is not the sole nation that is
lagging behind in its Antarctic policy. Even the United States, due to geopolitical
priorities, budgetary constraints and political gridlock, suspended the Antarctic
research season in 2013.32 Nevertheless, some states have been proactive in
asserting their dominance in the Antarctica – greatly aided by countries like China.
Beijing has cemented its interest in the Antarctic by establishing various bases there
and opening a new research centre for Antarctic studies.33 Russia compliments
China’s actions, already having pledged more than $30 million on Antarctic polar
stations in 2014.34
Recommendations: immediate and long-term initiatives
Some recommendations for Peruvian policy-makers to take into account for the
future of the country’s Antarctic-related initiatives include:
• Purchase (or construct) a new scientific vessel to replace, the ageing BIC
Humboldt, or travel with it to Antarctica as part of a two-vessel fleet. Making
the Machu Picchu base into a permanent station is also a possibility, but the
authors of this commentary would advise that for the immediate future, Peru
should focus on marine-based research as it already has a history of this
regarding krill.
• Promote funding for Peruvian research centres such as IMARPE and the
Navy’s Directorate of Hydrography to educate a new generation of Peruvian
polar scientists.
• Form alliances with other South American nations (i.e. Argentina, which currently lacks an icebreaker, or Colombia, which has a growing interest) as a
means of forming a coalition that will act as a counterweight towards state
actors such as China and Russia who have a history of attempting to monopolise their political and economic interests in a particular region.
• Support Peru’s scientific community so that it may carry out groundbreaking
scientific research that can increase the country’s international stance regarding
Antarctic studies. One suggestion could be additional research on how changes
in the Antarctic impact the South American sub-continent, including the Peruvian Andes and Amazon, and using this knowledge to help countries develop
tactics to combat or prevent Antarctic-born extreme weather patterns.
Otiniano, “El Clima Antartico y repercusiones en el Peru,” 35.
Morello, “United States Suspends Antarctic Research Season” (accessed January 20, 2015).
33
Brady, The Emerging Politics of Antarctica.
34
Russia Today, “Russia to Spend $30mln.”
31
32

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• The Peruvian Government should carry out a domestic educational campaign
to continue expanding knowledge among the Peruvian population about Peru’s
Antarctic presence. The aforementioned museum exhibition and the website of
the ANTAR XXII expedition are positive initiatives that should be encouraged,
utilising low-cost tools such as the Internet to spread knowledge of Peru’s
Antarctic history both domestically and internationally.
• Moreover, Peru could cover the costs of greater Antarctica expeditions by
pursuing commercial interests – case in point krill, a sea-based organism that
is rich in nutrients.35 There is hope that krill could be used as a means of
feeding the ever-growing human population. Peru could capitalise on this by
focusing its scientific experiments on the future of krill with the goal of human
consumption. This would be an important contribution to the global science
community, while simultaneously raising Peru’s international pedigree. As
previously noted, Peru has already carried out research regarding krill in the
Bransfield Strait during various ANTAR expeditions, but this material is difficult to come by (specially online), which severely limits how the potential
influence and future relevance of Peru’s scientific research.
Conclusions
Peru must be proactive in modernising its Antarctic equipment, particularly the
acquisition of a new scientific vessel, and additional scientific research (most likely
around krill and the impacts of the Antarctic’s environment throughout South
America) that can be circulated to the global scientific community if it wishes to
have a viable role in the likely scenario of negotiations of the Antarctic Treaty in
2048. Failing to do so will not only be a waste in all the progress that Peru has
made, but it will also leave the Antarctic under the control of already powerful states
such as the Australia, China, Russia and the US.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

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