Hazardous substances in Antarctica
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
The continent of Antarctica is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, with human survival in this region being totally dependent on the regular and substantial supply of goods and materials from overseas. Energy, primarily in the form of oil, gas and Diesel, form a vital component to this survival in maintaining the functionality for all Antarctic Base stations, field camps and their associated logistics. The transportation, use, storage and disposal of these energy sources has however, in some cases, left a legacy of contamination to areas of the foreshore, seabed and underlying soils. Early expeditions and fledgling base stations were often ill equipped with both the knowledge and facilities to adequately mitigate the adverse environmental effects associated with these substances, and failed to employ the robust and extensive environmental management systems that are present today. Effects on the environment, from anthropogenic sources were historically poorly understood and mismanaged, which has led to a several highly contaminated sites in areas close to current human habitation. In addition, the impacts of human activity on the Antarctic wilderness are often more readily recognizable than anywhere else on the planet. This is due to the absence of any native human population, the relatively recent colonisation of the land and the continent housing some of the most delicate ecosystems of any area on this planet. A significant number of these impacts have arisen on the ice-free ground close to the majority of Antarctic scientific research stations and where significant sites of scientific interest are also located. This review will examine the historic legacy of contamination in Antarctica through the use, storage and disposal of hazardous substances, the short and long terms effects on the fauna and flora of the regions, as well as the legislative framework that currently protects both the Ross Dependency and Antarctica as a whole.