Crime in Antarctica

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While crime in Antarctica is relatively rare,[1] isolation and boredom affect certain people there negatively and may lead to crime.[2] Alcoholism is a known problem on the continent,[2] and has led to fights and indecent exposure.[3] Other types of crimes that have occurred in Antarctica include illicit drug use,[2] torturing and killing wildlife,[2] racing motorbikes through environmentally sensitive areas,[2] assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, and arson. There have also been reports of sexual harassment.[4]

Robberies are highly unusual in Antarctica because the people can't bring very much onto the continent.[3] There is also very little use for money in Antarctica.[3]

Under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, ratified by 53 nations, persons accused of a crime in Antarctica are subject to punishment by their own country.[3]

National laws applying to crimes in Antarctica[edit]

South Africa[edit]

South African citizens in Antarctica are subject to South African law under the South African Citizens in Antarctica Act, 1962. Under the act, Antarctica is deemed to be within the jurisdiction of the magistrate's court at Cape Town.[5]

United States[edit]

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 (enacted October 12, 1984) covers crimes committed by Americans or crimes committed against Americans.[6] Any American who is outside of the United States, but not in another country is still subject to certain U.S. laws.[6] All Americans committing a crime, and any foreigner committing a crime against an American outside of a sovereign state are subject to prosecution in a U.S. federal court.[6] This includes international waters and Antarctica.[6] Although nations claim territory in Antarctica, the United States does not recognize these claims.[6]

Examples of crimes covered by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 include murder, maiming, rape, arson, treason, and bribing a federal official.[1]

List of crimes in Antarctica[edit]

1959 - The Vostok Station (станция Восток), then a Soviet research station in Princess Elizabeth Land, was the scene of a fight between two scientists over a game of chess.[7][2][8] When one of them lost the game, he became so enraged that he attacked the other with an ice axe.[8][7][2] According to some sources, it was a murder,[8][7][2] though other sources say that the attack was not fatal.[9] Afterwards, chess games were banned at Soviet/Russian Antarctic stations.[7][8]

October 1981 - There was an attempted arson at a chapel in the McMurdo Station vicinity.[10] The McMurdo Station is an American research station at the McMurdo Sound. A winter-over crew person who was intoxicated set fire to the chapel late one night in order to be sent home early.[10] Someone noticed smoke coming from the chapel and reported it to the fire house.[10] The person who reported it went inside and pulled some of the pews away from the fire.[10] Shorly later, a friend arrived, and they both pulled the burning carpet out the door before the firefighters arrived.[10] Because quick action was taken, damage was not significant, and was repaired that coming summer.[10]

12 April 1984 - The Almirante Brown Station is an Argentine research station located on the Coughtrey Peninsula by Paradise Harbor. The station's original facilities were burned down by the station's leader and doctor on 12 April 1984 after he was ordered to stay for the winter.[11] The station personnel were rescued by the ship Hero and taken to Palmer Station, an American research station on Anvers Island.[12] The stations are about 58 kilometers (36 miles) apart by air.

9 October 1996 - At McMurdo Station, a fight occurred between two workers in the kitchen.[13] One worker attacked the other with the claw end of a hammer.[13] Another cook tried to break up the fight and was also injured.[13] The two victims were Tony Beyer and Joe Stermer.[13] Both of them required stitches.[13] FBI agents from the United States were sent to McMurdo Station to investigate and make an arrest.[3] The suspect was flown to Honolulu, Hawaii where he faced charges of four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.[14] He pleaded not guilty.[15] No further information was publicly available.

May 2000 - The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is an American research station located at the South Pole. On May 11, 2000 at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Australian astrophysicist Rodney Marks had a fever, stomach pains, and nausea.[16] On May 12, he died.[17] It was believed at the time that Marks died of natural causes.[16] It was the onset of winter, so his body couldn't be transported for six months.[16] His body was put into a freezer at the observatory.[16] After the six months was over, Marks' body was flown to Christchurch, New Zealand for an autopsy.[16] The autopsy concluded that he had died from methanol poisoning.[16] How the poisoning occurred still remains a mystery.[16]

9 October 2018 - A stabbing occurred at the Bellingshausen Station (станция Беллинсгаузен), a Russian research station on King George Island.[18] The alleged perpetrator was Sergey Savitsky (Сергей Савицкий), a 54 year old electrical engineer.[19] He allegedly stabbed Oleg Beloguzov (Олег Белогузов), a 52-year old welder, in the chest[19] multiple times.[20] According to some sources, the attack occurred because Beloguzov was giving away the endings of books that Savitsky checked out at the station's library.[21] Other sources say that the attack occurred in the dining room when Beloguzov teased Savitsky by telling him that he should dance on top of the table to make money.[20] Both accounts say that Savitsky was believed to be intoxicated at the time of the attack.[20][21]

They had worked together at the station for about six months,[18] and Savitsky was apparently having an emotional breakdown.[22] Being in a confined space may have been a major cause for this.[22] Both Beloguzov and Savitsky had had problems with each other for several months.[20] Beloguzov was sent to a hospital in Chile.[18] Savitsky surrendered to the manager of the station,[19] and eleven days later was placed on a flight back to Russia,[19] where he was placed on house arrest until December 8 or 9.[18][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Science Foundation - Office of Inspector General - Audit of NSF’s Law Enforcement Program in the Antarctic
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h The Antarctic Legal Regime, Page 67
  3. ^ a b c d e The New York Times - Cold Cases: Crime and Punishment in Antarctica
  4. ^ The New York Times - Sexual Harassment Allegations Wipe a Name Off the Map
  5. ^ Joubert, JJ, ed. (2014). Criminal Procedure Handbook (11th ed.). Cape Town: Juta. p. 42. ISBN 9781485100614.
  6. ^ a b c d e United States Antarctic Program - Participant Guide, Chapter 6: Living and Working at USAP Facilities, Page 55
  7. ^ a b c d How Antarctic isolation affects the mind
  8. ^ a b c d Extreme: Why some people thrive at the limits, Page 88
  9. ^ United States Antarctic Program - The Antarctic Sun, 2002 February 3 - Weathering the Winter
  10. ^ a b c d e f Cool Antarctica - Antarctica Fire History
  11. ^ Almirante Brown Station, Antarctic Peninsula - Antarctic Points of Interest on
  12. ^ United States Antarctic Program - The Antarctic Sun - Passing of a Legend
  13. ^ a b c d e The Spokesman Review - Fbi Agents To Visit Antarctica In Rare Investigation Of Assault
  14. ^ "Antarctica Assault Defendant Released to Halfway House". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 22 October 1986. p. A-5.
  15. ^ "Assault subject pleads not guilty to charges". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 26 October 1996.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g The Mystery Of The South Pole’s Only Murder
  17. ^ - Case 4 - The Death of Rodney Marks!ac1a3
  18. ^ a b c d "Man faces attempted murder charge after stabbing at Russia's Antarctic outpost". The Guardian.
  19. ^ a b c d "A Remote Antarctic Research Station Is Now The Scene Of A Brutal Attempted Murder". IFL Science.
  20. ^ a b c d An Attempted Murder at a Research Station Shows How Crimes Are Prosecuted in Antarctica
  21. ^ a b CBS Los Angeles - Cold-Blooded: Scientist In Antarctica Accused Of Stabbing Colleague For Spoiling The Endings Of Books
  22. ^ a b c "Report: Russian Researcher Charged With Attempted Murder in Stabbing of Colleague in Antarctica". Gizmodo.