WHY WORLD POWERS ARE FIGHTING OVER THIS SLIVER OF ANTARCTIC OCEAN

SOURCE: MOTHERBOARD

Almost 60 years ago, preceding the height of the Cold War, scientists from 67 countries defied their allegiances for the sake of exploration and discovery. Now, many of those nations have thrown scientific diplomacy to the wind, and are increasingly fighting over ownership of a tiny—but hugely valuable—stretch of Antarctic ocean that few have ever seen.

Between 1957 and 1958, global teams of researchers participated in a monumental scientific truce called theInternational Geophysical Year (IGY). The agreement allowed a union of countries to dispatch experts to remote ends of the Earth on collaborative expeditions aimed at studying unknown geological phenomena. Under the guidance of the International Council of Scientific Unions, a special committee was formed to ensure the missions would remain “nonnationalistic, apolitical, and geared toward a scientific agenda.”

Following post-World War II advances in science, there was no better time for discovery. And the IGY offered a promising opportunity for physicists to showcase their innovative work in the burgeoning research of cosmic rays, geomagnetism, ionospheric physics, seismology, and other nascent disciplines.

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