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Antarctica Argentina: the White Homeland

Brief historical panorama of the national presence in a land made by heroes who planted the celestial and white at the South Pole forever. Forbidden to forget.


The sixth continent was the object of dreams and businesses since the conquest of America. And it still is, Antarctica.  Almost 10 percent have of the land mass, of a planet depleted in ecosystems, and with the largest reserves of hydrocarbons and freshwater, gold of the century.  Its uncontaminated environment allows essential scientific tasks in vast fields such as geology, meteorology, astrophysics and telecommunications. Moreover, several predictions about climate change come from its ice, real sources of knowledge and life. And it  was the Argentines who, absolute pioneers, in the heroic years of the first Swedish and British expeditions, established the first permanent human settlement on February 22, 1904 . For almost forty years only Argentines lived in an environment where the temperature is around 50 degrees below zero, with white winds of 300 kilometers per hour, and six months practically dark. The last frontier of Humanity is guarded by 230 compatriots, the greatest presence at present in the confines, and continue to fulfill the task of some of the great ones in our white lands, General Jorge Leal: “ To affirm the Argentine capacity to reach every corner of what he considers his sovereign territory, seeking to affirm the rights of territorial sovereignty carried out by the country in Antarctica Argentina” , in words that uphold the ideals of its master, and the maximum figure that Argentines should never forget when talking about the current department Ant& aacute; rtida Argentina, General Hernan Pujato.

 This history of national sovereignty dates back to the beginning of the arrival of the Spaniards, who at the beginning of the seventeenth century saw the shores of the South Shetland Islands, more than a century before James Cook failed in the search for Terra Australis Incognita and anticipated the William Smith, who mapped this archipelago near Drake's Passage and claimed it for the Crown, a conflict that continues between England, Argentina and Chile, the base of viceroyalty operations.  However, in 1818, before Smith's arrival, the Buenos Aires Juan Pedro Aguirre had requested permission to fish in the United Provinces of the South, the first document in favor of the national position, and the following year an Argentine ship, San Juan Nepomuceno, returned with a precious shipment of 14,000 thousand. Seal hides from Deception Island.  In 1815 there are conjectures that  Admiral Brown , chasing the Spaniards around Cape Horn, may have been the first Argentine to see the white continent. There is even archaeological evidence that future Argentine fishermen were based for several decades ago, but they hid the information out of fear of English competition.  

The fact of a proven successful commercial exploitation, coupled with the Russian expedition led by German Von Bellingshausen, the first man to see the firm Antarctic continent, triggered the well-known “Heroic Age”, wrapped in scientific and geopolitical interests of the powers. The Englishman Robert Falcon Scott, German Erich Von Drygaski and Swedish Otto Nordenskjöld were the leading ones in white fever. Under the Swedish expedition,  the first Argentine, the entrerriano ensign José María Sobral, came to step on Antarctica, on February 14, 1902, part of the scientific mission on the island Cerro Nevado, and at the behest of Horacio Ballvé  , a Navy lieutenant who was among the first to boost the national occupation. In the house that is still standing, they resisted almost two years until  ARA Uruguay — today a ship-museum that can be visited in Puerto Madero — was able to make its way, an old sailboat that was refurbished under the command of Captain Julio Irizar.  That successful rescue was a real feat unthinkable in his time for the whole world, President Roca urged a national chain of prayer for the expeditioners and rescuers, and on December 2, 1903 the corvette with the masts and hull enters the port of Buenos Aires destroyed but with the men safe, including Sobral “ As no one Sobral was clearly aware of the need it was to continue actively and permanently intervening in Antarctica Argentina,” says his biographer Laurio Deséfani.  

 Immediately on January 2, 1904,  President Roca  due to the “high scientific and practical convenience of extending to these regions the observations made on the island of A& ntilde; or New and in the South of the Republic” by decree “Authorize the Head of the Argentine Meteorological Office to receive the installation offered by Mr.William S. Bruce in the South Orkney Islands, and to establish a new meteorological and magnetic observatory therein”,  and confirms an alleged donation from the Scottish scientist — he actually received five thousand pesos for the teams.  Hugo Acuña, an 18-year-old employee of the Livestock Division of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Nation, enters the scene, and was sent by the Correo Argentino to the South Orkney Islands to enable the first postal con. It raises the flag on February 22, 1904, the date commemorating Argentine Antarctica Day.  And it inaugurates the Argentine stations that exceed twenty today, although some only work in summer “The anthem resonates in a mandolin that will also play the march of Ituzaingó. This is the first time that the homeland date of May 25 was commemorated below the 60º of latitude S.” Acuña would write down in his diary in 1904, ignoring that Sobral had already remembered the homeland dates in the company of the Swedes.

Until the  mid-forties  of the last century its slow progress, with relevant events such as the installation of the first company in the region, the Argentine Fishing Company, the foundationals radio broadcasts in 1927 by José Manuel Moneta, and diplomatic friction on the rise with England and Chile for sovereignty, with the destruction of national possessions taking into territory by the British.  It is time for the visionary Plan Pujato to emerge, which remains more than seventy years later .

 San Martín de los Antarcticos Argentinos, General Pujato 

 “ 1. The creation of a specific scientific institute; 2. Conducting a polar expedition to Continental Antarctica and the establishment of a base south of the Polar Circle; 3. The purchase of an icebreaker vessel enabling the penetration of the Weddell Sea and the installation of a base at its southern end; 4. The conquest of the South Pole; 5. The installation of a population with families”. Such were the objectives of Colonel Hernan Pujato presented to President Perón in 1949.  The military man had to overcome the reluctance of his comrades in arms, and Perón himself, until a providential approach to Eva Perón in the Argentine consulate in Bolivia clears the way.  Argentina had for the first time a national strategy on Antarctica.    In just over a decade the Nation would spend counting from one to eight bases, Melchior (1947), Deception (1948), Alte. Brown (1951), Esperanza (1952), Bahía Luna (1953), today called Chamber, San Martin (1951), Esperanza (1952) and Belgrano (1955), twenty-eight shelters, an Argentine Antarctic Institute, today “General Hernán Pujato”, and the ICEbreaker ARA Gen. San Martín (1953),  which until the operational entry of the ARA Alte. Irízar (1979) was the main vessel in the Argentine Antarctic campaigns, carrying out logistics, research and assistance tasks.  And all this because of the unwavering tenacity of Pujato, a patriot at the height of the heroes of Independence.  

Colonel Hernán Pujato was born in Diamante, Entre Ríos, in 1904, the son of a local warlord, who never fit into his village, and made his military career in Buenos Aires and Mendoza.  There he discovered his passion for mountaineering and attempted a frustrated ascent to Aconcagua in 1929 — he lost several fingers but went down with a partner in tow . In the thirties he became friends with Leopoldo Lugones, both men of great culture, and he became obsessed in Comodoro Rivadavia with  Antarctica, “there I discovered that the Army is not Buenos Aires but the immense soledades of the Fatherland”, admitted Pujato  according to Agustina collected Larrea and Tomas Balmaceda. Against wind and tide formed a heterogeneous group that set sail in February 1951 on the refurbished Santa Micaela freighter, a donation from the Perez Companc brothers.  Finally on Margarita Bay they landed on March 8, 1951 at the southernmost base in the world of the moment. Pujato buried Yapeyú land there in homage to San Martín “He was talking about Patria and one began to tear” admitted his subordinates about General Pujato who was “retired” by the self-called Libertadora Revolution .

“I was proud to fly the flag of the homeland at the San Martín Base. Two years later I was able to return and found the Belgrano Base, the maker of heroes who dream and, in absolute solitude, they give an example to all Argentines,” said Pujato, who died in 2003 with the “joy in my soul to fulfill the duty of an Argentine soldier... alien to the politics”. The 1955 coup experts delayed the Argentine strategy of full Argentine occupation where only the signing of the Antarctic Treaty (1961), consolidated in subsequent decades as the most appropriate legal framework to protect the vast Antarctic continent, based on the principles of peace, freedom of scientific research and international cooperation. The Argentine Republic belongs to the group of the twelve original signatories, including the seven claimant countries of the territory, being an advisory party thereto. The Treaty office has been operating in Buenos Aires since 2004 despite British complaints.

Argentina claims sovereignty over the so-called “Argentine Antarctic Sector”, defined by the 60th parallel South and the South Pole, and the 25th and 74º meridians west longitude. The latter two correspond to the longitudinal extreme boundaries of Argentina: 74º West marks the westernmost point of the border with Chile (Cerro Bertrand, Santa Cruz Province) and the 25º West meridian corresponds to the South Sandwich Islands (Tierra del Fuego Province, Antarctica e South Atlantic Islands).  The area of the Argentine Antarctic Sector is approximately 1,461,597 km², of which 965,314 km² correspond to mainland.  

 Leal's gesture and a celestial and white horizon 

Operation 90 was the mysterious name of the Argentine epic that reached the geographical South Pole, traveling three thousand kilometers entirely within the Argentine Antarctic Sector in SnowCat (one of them is exhibited at the Museum of the Antarctic Army Directorate in the city of Buenos Aires Aires)  Who led the feat, which had been anticipated by naval aviation in 1962, was Salteño General Jorge Leal, a dilect disciple of Pujato, who had been working since 1953 in Antarctica, founder of Base Esperanza, the most outstanding Argentine post today with thirteen houses and a headquarters of Radio Nacional.   He was also an important adviser to the Antarctic Treaty.  He planned the operation in 1960 but political swings only made it possible to start the operation in mid-1964 and the first objective was met with the installation of the Sobral Base (now inactive) in April 1965 by Lieutenant Adolfo Goetz's Patrol 82,   a kind of avant-garde that was sled the road for snowCat snow mobiles—on these sleds was the famous dog Poncho, who was also an efficient rescuer for a decade. Cracks that almost swallow the Salta, one of the vehicles, loss of sleds, and a temperature that fell to 50 degrees below zero, made it take 38 hours to advance 50 kilometers . With numb hands and spirits scorched by cold, the nine men who had departed on October 26 from Belgrano Base, hoisted on December 10, 1965 the homeland school on the southern vertex of the continent  and “It was not an athletic whim, but a requirement to claim sovereignty over our territory. On the international astrums they told us that we could not claim the ground we had neverstepped on,”said one of those national heroes, chief non-commissioned officer Ricardo Ceppi, in a tribute to the 50 years of the feat . Leal then spent several years at the head of the National Directorate of Antarctic, supporting scientific research, more peaceful presence of villagers and new sovereign claims, but was harassed by the last military dictatorship, suffering three times from arrests. “I am a military seriously but I never intervened in any revolution,” said two years ago in one of his latest reports, “For me, military governments were useless,” said Leal, founder in 1984 of the Military Center for Argentine Democracy, and who died in 2017 with the satisfaction of the implementation of the Pujato plan.

On October 29, 1969, with the inauguration of the first track area in Antarctica, at the Marambio Base, Argentina consolidated its territorial presence, at a time that also established ecological tourism in the sixth continent from Ushuaia. An uninterrupted sovereign constancy reinforced by the first birth in continental Antarctica, Emilio Marcos Palma, in January 1978 — with a very debatable geopolitical sense driven by the dictatorship. In the twenty-first century, the Argentine Antarctic Institute (IAA), under the National System of Science and Technology, renews “its firm commitment to international scientific cooperation, environmental protection and peacekeeping on the continent - fundamental pillars of the Antá Treaty ; rtico- and is at the service of the interests of the Argentine Nation,” according to the government site .

It has been more than a hundred years since Sobral took our country to Antarctica, seventy that Pujato devised a joint action, and half a century that Leal planted flag at the South Pole, “on the lands that belong to us by all the titles we have, we will defend our rights” , said  General Pujato in 1952, “we must launch the  generations of Argentines  in the direction of our Antarctic belonging with all tenacity, with all determination and with all energy”,  the First Antarctic Commander closed a national destiny unavoidably rooted in the white immensities, lands of the future.

Sources: Larrea, A. Balmaceda, T.  Antarctica. Unknown and incredible stories of the White Continent . Buenos Aires: Editions B. 2021;  Nordenskjöld  in Antarctica magazine. No. 9 July 1979. Buenos Aires; Quevedo Paiva, A.  History of Antarctica . Buenos Aires: Argentina. 2012; ; 

Publication Date: 22/02/2021

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Evguenia-Alechine An Argentinian in Antarctica
Antártida Fulfilling a lifelong dream, visit Antarctica



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