• Unit 13: The Pacific and Antarctica

    Almost all of Antarctica rests south of the Antarctic Circle. The closest continent to Antarctica is South America. Many countries have laid claim to sections of Antarctica, but the continent lacks industrial development. In the early 20th century, Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Norway claimed parts of Antarctica. In 1961, these nations and others signed the Antarctic Treaty, which put aside territorial claims in the interests of international cooperation in scientific research. In 1991, 24 nations approved an addition to the treaty that banned oil and other mineral exploration for 50 years.

    Hundreds of islands are surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and make up the largest geographic area in the world. There has been little industrial development in the South Pacific. Most of the islands in the South Pacific were claimed or colonized by the imperial powers of Europe, Japan, or the United States. Both areas are considered peripheral to the overall global economy. Tourism is the major activity in the South Pacific, and research is the major activity in Antarctica. Both areas have opportunities for greater economic development in the future. Both the Pacific realm and Antarctica are impacted by climate change. Rising temperatures melt the polar caps, which in turn raise sea levels. Changes in precipitation patterns seriously affect the biodiversity of tropical islands in the Pacific, and changes in temperature affect agricultural activity and tourism.

    We begin this unit by exploring the physical and cultural characteristics of the three groups of islands of the South Pacific: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Then, we will analyze the geographic characteristics (physical, cultural, and political) of specific islands within these three groups. Then, we will take a look at the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, paying special attention to environmental concerns such as climate change and ozone depletion.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.