Australian Antarctic Territory

2016

The AAT (Figure ANT1) comprises an area of approximately 5.9 million km2, and its coastline extends more than 11,200 kilometres (excluding offshore islands). Only 1110 kilometres, or 10 per cent, of the coastline is exposed rock—the rest is ice. Some parts of the rock coastline are very steep, such as the Scullin Monolith, and only a few areas offer the opportunity for establishing scientific research stations on ice-free rock. The locations of Australian facilities, and areas where regular research and support operations take place are comparatively small. However, they are concentrated in coastal ice-free areas that are more susceptible to impacts arising from human activities.

 
A map of Antarctica showing the 2 areas that make up the Australian Antarctic Territory. The territory takes up more than one-third of the continent’s land area.

A map of Antarctica showing the 2 areas that make up the Australian Antarctic Territory. The territory takes up more than one-third of the continent’s land area.

Source: Adapted from a map provided by the Australian Antarctic Data Centre

Figure ANT1 Antarctica and the Australian Antarctic Territory

Australia has strong and longstanding national interests in Antarctica. These interests determine the underlying policy settings that frame Australia’s engagement in Antarctica. The Australian Antarctic strategy and 20-year action plan (Australian Government 2016), launched in April 2016, outlines Australia’s national interests in Antarctica, which are to:
  • maintain Antarctica’s freedom from strategic or political confrontation
  • preserve Australia’s sovereignty over the AAT, including our sovereign rights over adjacent offshore areas
  • support a strong and effective Antarctic Treaty System
  • conduct world-class scientific research consistent with national priorities
  • protect the Antarctic environment, having regard to its special qualities and effects on our region
  • be informed about, and able to influence, developments in a region geographically proximate to Antarctica
  • foster economic opportunities arising from Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, consistent with our Antarctic Treaty System obligations, including the ban on mining and oil drilling.

The AAT is administered by the AAD of the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy. Australia maintains a permanent presence in Antarctica through 3 continuously occupied continental stations, as well as temporary field stations. Australia also has a permanent research station on Macquarie Island (Figure ANT2).

Scientific research is conducted in diverse areas of Antarctic science on land and at sea. The goals and priorities of the scientific work are set out in the Australian Antarctic science strategic plan 2011–12 to 2020–21 (AAD 2011). The activities and outcomes of the scientific work are enhanced through Australia’s engagement with the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP). SCAR is a body of the International Council for Science that is charged with the initiation, promotion and coordination of scientific research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. COMNAP is the international association that brings together national Antarctic programs to develop and promote best practice in managing the support of scientific research in Antarctica.

A map of the tip of Antarctica located to the south of Australia, showing the positions of Casey, Davis and Mawson stations, which are all located along the coastline.

A map of the tip of Antarctica located to the south of Australia, showing the positions of Casey, Davis and Mawson stations, which are all located along the coastline.

Sources: Map provided by the Australian Antarctic Data Centre; additional data from Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission et al. (2003). Antarctic Digital Database version 5, © Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research 1993–2006

Figure ANT2 Subantarctic and East Antarctic operational area of the Australian Antarctic Division

Klekociuk A, Wienecke B (2016). Antarctic environment: Australian Antarctic Territory. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/antarctic-environment/topic/2016/australian-antarctic-territory, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65b2b307c0