Antarctica: A “European Invention”

Bagpiper Gilbert Kerr with penguin during the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, 1902-04. Photo : William Speirs Bruce.


Antarctica is, in a way, a “European invention”. It has captured the imagination of the old continent from Antiquity to the modern era, when it became the focus of the last great age of heroism and imperialism. Antarctica was the last continent to be the subject of European geographic imperialism, a process through which almost the whole territory of the globe was explored, mapped and ultimately annexed. After the Second World War, it was also a testing ground for the invention of world heritage, through the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 which put territorial claims on ice and established international management. Ever since, Europe has seen itself as the protector of this polar space.