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Operación 90 (Operation NINETY) was the first Argentine ground expedition to the South Pole, conducted in 1965, by ten soldiers of the Argentine Army under then-Colonel Jorge Edgard Leal. It was performed to attempt to cement Argentina's claims to a portion of Antarctica, as well as for scientific reasons and to perfect polar exploration techniques. The operation was named for the target 90 degree South latitude point (the geographic South Pole).
Leal's team departed on six snowcat vehicles from General Belgrano Army Base on October 26, 1965. The main group was preceded by a scouting four-men patrol on a sled drawn by 18 dogs. While the scouts remained at 83º 2" S, Leal and his men reached the geographic South Pole on December 10. They then returned to Base Belgrano, which they reached on December 31. Overall, the mission lasted 66 days.
The operation was performed in secret so as not to upset the superpowers of the time, the United States and Soviet Union. The main purpose of the expedition was to exercise the claimed rights of Argentina to the continuation of its landmass which (along with almost the entire Western Hemisphere including the US and Canada) had been proclaimed as a Spanish entitlement by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 through the Treaty of Tordesillas.
The only interesting occurrence of the operation, according to General Leal, took place shortly after arriving to the South Pole, when the group was met by a radar operator from the US Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, who asked them who they were and what they were doing there. The group, after Leal explained that they were not Soviets, was invited to take a meal at the American sub-snow base—the first decent food, said Leal, that the group had had in some weeks.
- "Antarctic Treaty". Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Retrieved 9 February 2006.
- "Operación 90: La llegada al Polo Sur por vía terrestre" by Jorge Edgard Leal (Spanish)
(Click on Llegada al Polo (terrestre) on the column at the left)
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