Friday, January 30, 2015

The Colombian Antarctic?

The Colombian ship ARC 20 de Julio among Antarctic icebergs.
The Colombian scientific ship ARC 20 de Julio arrival in Antarctica made waves back home.

Malpelo Island: Colombia's gateway to Antarctica?
But is anybody asking what in the world Colombian scientists are doing on the white continent? Can Colombians, experienced in tropical research, really contribute anything amid snow and ice, where scientists from the United States, Britain, Russia and other nations have been carrying out studies for decades?

Looking toward Antarctica? A booby bird
on Colombia's Malpel Island.
The expedition's website's slogan is 'In search of our own white south.' Does this mean that Colombia is buying into the bizarre 1956 'Teoria da Defrontação' dreamed up by Brazilians desperate for a way to claim a piece of the southern continent. The Teoria holds that any South American nation with territory with an ocean sightline to Antarctica can claim at least a sliver of the continent. Colombia's tiny, uninhabited Malpelo Island just barely meets that criteria. No matter that it's thousands of
Malpelo Island. Withinsight of Antarctica?
miles away, north of the Equator and that no flake of snow has ever fallen on Malpelo, some might see it as justifying a claim on Antarctica.

Needless to say, Brazil's Teoria da Defrontação has not gotten much international legal traction. Antarctica remains a scientific reserve, belonging to nobody.

And it's hard to believe that these researchers couldn't have done lots more valuable science if they'd stayed home and visited Colombia's Amazon, one of the world's most biodiverse places, and one where many or most of the plant and animal species have never been studied.
Colombian jungle. Full of unstudied biodiversity.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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