The Ross Dependency is a region of Antarctica defined by a sector originating at the South Pole, passing along longitudes 160° east to 150° west, and terminating at latitude 60° south. It is claimed by New Zealand. Since the Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961, Article IV of which states: "No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica", most countries do not recognise territorial claims in Antarctica.
|Sovereign state||New Zealand|
|Claim transferred to New Zealand||1923|
|Sector claim||160°E – 150°W|
and administrative centre
|Government||Dependency under a constitutional monarchy|
|450,000 km2 (170,000 sq mi)|
• Seasonal estimate
|Currency||New Zealand dollar (NZ$) (NZD)|
|Time zone||UTC+12:00 (NZST)|
• Summer (DST)
|Calling code||+64 2409|
The Dependency takes its name from Sir James Clark Ross, who discovered the Ross Sea, and includes part of Victoria Land, and most of the Ross Ice Shelf. Ross Island, Balleny Islands and the small Scott Island also form part of the Dependency, as does the ice-covered Roosevelt Island.
History of claim
Following his discovery of Victoria Land in 1841, James Clark Ross took possession of this territory, along with the surrounding sea, on behalf of Britain. On 30 July 1923, the British Government passed an Order in Council under the British Settlements Act 1887, which defined the current borders of the Ross Dependency as follows:
From and after the publication of this Order in the Government Gazette of the Dominion of New Zealand that part of His Majesty's Dominions in the Antarctic Seas, which comprises all the islands and territories between the 160th degree of East Longitude and the 150th degree of West Longitude which are situated south of the 60th degree of South Latitude shall be named the Ross Dependency.
The Order in Council then went on to appoint the Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of New Zealand as the Governor of the territory. This Order in Council was published in the New Zealand Gazette on 16 August 1923, and on 14 November 1923, the Governor-General issued regulations extending New Zealand law to the Ross Dependency.
After the Order in Council was read in the New Zealand House of Representatives by the Prime Minister of New Zealand William Massey, a clarification was made by the Attorney-General Sir Francis Bell in the legislative council. Sir Francis stated that:
The boundaries of New Zealand are not extended to include the Ross sea and adjacent lands. His Majesty's delegation to the Governor-General of New Zealand did not confer upon the government or parliament of New Zealand the same powers as were vested by the Constitution Act in respect of the Dominion itself. It might be assumed that in the administration of the Ross Dependency that he would invite advice from his New Zealand ministers and it was certain that details would be entrusted to the New Zealand Government. But his excellency was required in all matters of legislation and regulation for the Ross Territory to comply with instructions from the colonial secretary. There was no reason to believe that the Colonial Office would give such instructions without prior consultation with the Government of the Dominion, but the part which the New Zealand Government had agreed to take in enabling His Majesty to exercise jurisdiction in and over the Ross Territory must be taken on behalf of the Empire as a whole and not specially in the interests of New Zealand.
It has been said that the Order in Council contained no suggestion of a transfer to New Zealand of the United Kingdom's claim, but the fact remains that the territory is administered by the Government of New Zealand. Technically, the claim is that of the Queen and she can exercise it through any of her governments.
At an Imperial conference in 1930, it was agreed that the Governors-General of the Dominions would be appointed by the King on the advice of the Dominion in question. And following the passing of the Statute of Westminster in 1931 (which was adopted in full by New Zealand in 1947), the Government of the United Kingdom relinquished all control over government of New Zealand. This however had no bearing on the obligations of the Governor-General of New Zealand in his capacity as Governor of the Ross Dependency on the appointment of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. Then in the year 1959, the Antarctic Treaty was signed by twelve nations which included both the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Geography and habitation
The actual amount of land mass claimed is not large; most of the area defined as being in the Ross Dependency is either in the Ross Sea or the Antarctic Ocean. It is the second-smallest of the claims which were made prior to the implementation of the Antarctic Treaty System and the suspension of all territorial claims to Antarctica proper. Officers of the Government of the Ross Dependency are annually appointed to run the Dependency. The New Zealand Geographic Board has named many features within the Dependency.
The scientific bases of Scott Base (New Zealand), McMurdo Station (US) and Mario Zucchelli Station (Italy) are the only permanently occupied human habitations in the area, though Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station (US) is partially within the territory and dependent on logistics operations based in New Zealand. The Dependency has access to a U.S. Antarctic Program maintained snow runway at Williams Field, and depending on conditions and time of year, two ice runways. This guarantees accessibility by wheeled and ski equipped aircraft year round.
Greenpeace maintained its own Antarctic station in the Ross Dependency called World Park Base from 1987 to 1992, which was on Ross Island. As this base was a non-governmental entity, the official policy of the signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty was not to give any support or assistance to it.
In the summer of 1985, when the British non-governmental exploratory vessel Southern Quest sank in the Ross Sea, United States Coast Guard helicopters rescued the crew, who were taken to McMurdo Station. The expedition was criticised by scientists in the Antarctic because the rescue and return of the crew disrupted their work.
In 2006, the New Zealand police reported that jurisdictional issues prevented them issuing warrants for potential American witnesses who were reluctant to testify during the Christchurch Coroner's investigation into the poisoning death of Rodney Marks at the South Pole base.
- Order in Council Under the British Settlements Act, 1887 (50 & 51 Vict c 54), Providing for the Government of the Ross Dependency.
- See Richardson, Ivor L. M. (1957). "New Zealand's Claims in the Antarctic". New Zealand Law Journal. 33 (9): 38–42. SSRN 2257655.
- Commonwealth and Colonial Law by Sir Kenneth Roberts-Wray, London, Stevens, 1966. P. 137 (word for word quote as at 2 May 2015)
- "Imperial Conferences". www.statusquo.org.
- "Antarctic Treaty". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
- "Southern Ocean and Ross Dependency". Land Information New Zealand (LINZ). Retrieved 2 May 2020.
- "Vanda Station". Antarctica NZ. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
- "Robert Swan Expedition 1984-85". Glasgow Digital Library. Retrieved 2007-03-25.
- Hotere, Andrea. "South Pole death file still open". Sunday Star Times, December 17, 2006. Retrieved on December 19, 2006.
- Deutsche Presse-Agentur. "Death of Australian astrophysicist an Antarctic whodunnit". Monstersandcritics.com, December 14, 2006. Retrieved on December 19, 2006.