While crime in Antarctica is relatively rare,[1] isolation and boredom affect certain people there negatively and may lead to crime.[2] Alcoholism is a known problem on the continent, and has led to fights and indecent exposure.[3] Other types of crimes that have occurred in Antarctica include illicit drug use, torturing and killing wildlife, racing motorbikes through environmentally sensitive areas, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, and arson. Sexual harassment also has been reported.[4]

Robberies are rare and unlikely in Antarctica because people entering cannot bring many belongings onto the continent, and because there is very little use for money.[3]

Under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, ratified by 53 nations, persons accused of a crime in Antarctica are subject to punishment by their own country.[3]

National laws applying to crimes in Antarctica

South Africa

South African citizens in Antarctica are subject to South African law under the South African Citizens in Antarctica Act, 1962. Violations of the Antarctic Treaty System are criminal offences under the Antarctic Treaties Act, 1996. Under these two acts, Antarctica is deemed to be within the jurisdiction of the magistrate's court at Cape Town.[5]

United Kingdom

The Antarctic Act 1994 extends the laws of every part of the United Kingdom to UK nationals in Antarctica.[6] Additionally, the Commissioner of the British Antarctic Territory may enact laws for the territory.[7]

United States

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 (enacted 12 October 1984) covers crimes committed by Americans or crimes committed against Americans.[8] Any American who is outside of the United States, but not in another country, is still subject to certain U.S. laws. All Americans committing a crime, and any foreigner committing a crime against an American outside of a sovereign state, are subject to prosecution in a U.S. federal court. This includes international waters and Antarctica.[8] Although nations claim territory in Antarctica, the United States does not recognize these claims.

Examples of crimes covered by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 include murder, maiming, rape, arson, treason, and bribing a federal official.[1]

Sexual harassment and assault

The Australian Antarctic Division released an external review in 2022 revealing allegations of sexual harassment.[9] The division director stepped down in 2023, ahead of the release of additional findings from a subsequent inquiry.[10]

The United States Antarctic Program commissioned an external review following allegations of sexual harassment. The resulting Sexual Assault/Harassment Prevention and Response (SAHPR) report[11] was published in 2022, highlighting issues of sexual assault and harassment, mistrust of the contracted companies, and suggesting avenues for change. In response, the US Congress Committee of Science and Technology held a session addressing the report.[12] In 2023, The National Science Foundation Office of the Inspector General released a report titled "Law Enforcement Perspectives on Sexual Assault and Stalking Issues Pertaining to the United States Antarctic Program".[13]

List of crimes in Antarctica

See also


  1. ^ a b "Audit of NSF's Law Enforcement Program in the Antarctic" (PDF). National Science Foundation Office of the Inspector General. 30 August 2005. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b Joyner, Christopher Clayton; Chopra, Sudhir K. (28 July 1988). The Antarctic Legal Regime. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 67. ISBN 90-247-3618-8.
  3. ^ a b c d Rousseau, Bryant (28 September 2016). "Cold Cases: Crime and Punishment in Antarctica". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  4. ^ Medina, Jennifer (24 September 2018). "Sexual Harassment Allegations Wipe a Name Off the Map". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  5. ^ Joubert, J. J., ed. (2014). Criminal Procedure Handbook (11th ed.). Cape Town: Juta. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-48510-061-4.
  6. ^ "Part III of the Antarctica Act 1994". legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  7. ^ "Legislation". Website of the Government of the British Antarctic Territory. Government of the British Antarctic Territory. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Chapter 6: Living and Working at USAP Facilities : U.S. Criminal Jurisdiction" (PDF). 2018–2020 USAP Participant Guide. United States Antarctic Program. 2018. p. 55. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Antarctic expeditioners complain of 'predatory', widespread sexual harassment as minister, division urge change". ABC News. 29 September 2022. Retrieved 1 April 2023.
  10. ^ "Australian Antarctic head resigns as division faces turmoil over workplace culture". ABC News. 30 January 2023. Retrieved 1 April 2023.
  11. ^ "USAP SAHPR Report" (PDF).
  12. ^ Building a Safer Antarctic Research Environment (EventID=115205), retrieved 1 April 2023
  13. ^ "NSF OIG Law Enforcement Perspectives on Sexual Assault and Stalking Issues Pertaining to the United States Antarctic Program" (PDF).
  14. ^ a b Bennett, John (15 September 2016). "How Antarctic isolation affects the mind". Canadian Geographic. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  15. ^ a b Barrett, Emma; Martin, Paul (23 October 2014). Extreme: Why some people thrive at the limits. OUP Oxford. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-19-164565-5.
  16. ^ Hutchison, Kristan (3 February 2002). "Weathering the Winter" (PDF). The Antarctic Sun. pp. 9–10. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  17. ^ "Almirante Brown Station, Antarctic Peninsula". Waymarking.com. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  18. ^ Rejcek, Peter (20 April 2015). "Passing of a Legend: Death of Capt. Pieter J. Lenie at age 91 marks the end of an era in Antarctica". The Antarctic Sun. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  19. ^ Spielmann, Peter James (14 October 1996). "FBI Agents To Visit Antarctica In Rare Investigation of Assault". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  20. ^ "Antarctica Assault Defendant Released to Halfway House". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 22 October 1996. p. A-5.
  21. ^ "Assault subject pleads not guilty to charges". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 26 October 1996.
  22. ^ a b Serena, Katie (17 November 2017). "The Mystery Of The South Pole's Only Murder". All That's Interesting. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  23. ^ Case 4 - The Death of Rodney Marks (Podcast). Mysterious Circumstances. 1 May 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  24. ^ a b "Man faces attempted murder charge after stabbing at Russia's Antarctic outpost". The Guardian. 24 October 2018. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  25. ^ a b Hale, Tom (26 October 2018). "A Remote Antarctic Research Station Is Now The Scene Of A Brutal Attempted Murder". IFL Science. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  26. ^ a b Haskins, Caroline (25 October 2018). "An Attempted Murder at a Research Station Shows How Crimes Are Prosecuted in Antarctica". Motherboard. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  27. ^ "Cold-Blooded: Scientist In Antarctica Accused Of Stabbing Colleague For Spoiling The Endings Of Books". CBS Los Angeles. 30 October 2018. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  28. ^ a b Mandelbaum, Ryan F. (24 October 2018). "Report: Russian Researcher Charged With Attempted Murder in Stabbing of Colleague in Antarctica". Gizmodo. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  29. ^ a b "Суд в Петербурге прекратил дело полярника, ударившего коллегу ножом" [A court in St. Petersburg dismissed the case of a polar explorer who stabbed a colleague]. MIA Russia Today. 8 February 2018.