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. Sexual harassment also has been reported.[4]

Robberies are rare and unlikely in Antarctica because people entering cannot bring many belongings onto the continent,[3] and because very little use for money exists 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. Violations of the Antarctic Treaty System are criminal offences under the Antarctic Treaties Act, 1996. Under these two acts, Antarctica is deemed to be within the jurisdiction of the magistrate's court at Cape Town.[5] Apartheid was practiced at the station until the early 1990s.[citation needed]

United Kingdom[edit]

The Antarctic Act 1994 extends the laws of every part of the United Kingdom to UK nationals in Antarctica.[6] Additionally, the Commissioner of the British Antarctic Territory may enact laws for the territory.[7]

United States[edit]

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 (enacted October 12, 1984) covers crimes committed by Americans or crimes committed against Americans.[8] Any American who is outside of the United States, but not in another country, is still subject to certain U.S. laws.[8] 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.[8] This includes international waters and Antarctica.[8] Although nations claim territory in Antarctica, the United States does not recognize these claims.[8]

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.[9][2][10] When one of them lost the game, he became so enraged that he attacked the other with an ice axe.[10][9][2] According to some sources, it was a murder,[10][9][2] though other sources say that the attack was not fatal.[11] After a KGB investigation, chess games were banned at Soviet/Russian Antarctic stations by the Antarctic Soviet. [9][10]
  • 12 April 1984 – The Almirante Brown Station (Estación Científica Almirante Brown) 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.[12] The station personnel were rescued by the ship Hero and taken to Palmer Station, an American research station on Anvers Island.[13] The stations are about 58 km (36 mi) apart by air.
  • 9 October 1996 – At McMurdo Station, a fight occurred between two workers in the kitchen.[14] One worker attacked the other with a hammer.[14] Another cook tried to break up the fight and was also injured.[14] The two victims were Tony Beyer and Joe Stermer.[14] Both of them required stitches.[14] 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.[15] He pleaded not guilty.[16] No further information was publicly available.
  • 11 May 2000 – On 11 May 2000, at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, an American research station located at the South Pole, Australian astrophysicist Rodney Marks had a fever, stomach pains, and nausea.[17] On May 12, he died.[18] It was believed at the time that Marks died of natural causes.[17] It was the onset of winter, so his body could not be transported for six months.[17] His body was put into a freezer at the observatory.[17] After the six months were over, Marks' body was flown to Christchurch, New Zealand, for an autopsy.[17] The autopsy concluded that he had died from methanol poisoning.[17] How the poisoning occurred remains a mystery.[17]
  • 9 October 2018 – On 9 October 2018, a stabbing occurred at the Bellingshausen Station (Russian: станция Беллинсгаузен, romanizedstantsiya Bellinsgauzen), a Russian research station on King George Island.[19] The perpetrator was Sergey Savitsky (Сергей Савицкий), a 54-year-old electrical engineer.[20] He stabbed Oleg Beloguzov (Олег Белогузов), a 52-year old welder, in the chest[20] multiple times.[21] 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.[22] 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.[21] Both accounts say that Savitsky was believed to be intoxicated at the time of the attack.[21][22] They had worked together at the station for about six months,[19] and Savitsky was apparently having an emotional breakdown.[23] Being in a confined space may have been a major cause for this.[23] Both Beloguzov and Savitsky had had problems with each other for several months.[21] Beloguzov was sent to a hospital in Chile.[19] Savitsky surrendered to the manager of the station,[20] and 11 days later was placed on a flight back to Russia,[20] where he was placed on house arrest until December 8 or 9.[19][23] On 8 February 2019, Savitsky was at a preliminary hearing at the Vasileostrov District Court of Saint Petersburg.[24] Savitsky was remorseful and was willing to accept a criminal punishment rather than rehabilitation.[24] Beloguzov was forgiving of Savitsky and proposed dropping the case.[24] The public prosecutor was supportive of Beloguzov's proposal, and noted that Savitsky was remorseful and had no prior criminal record.[24] Judge Anatoly Kovin decided to drop the case.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Audit of NSF's Law Enforcement Program in the Antarctic" (PDF). National Science Foundation Office of the Inspector General. 30 August 2005. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Joyner, Christopher Clayton; Chopra, Sudhir K. (28 July 1988). The Antarctic Legal Regime. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 67. ISBN 90-247-3618-8.
  3. ^ a b c d e Rousseau, Bryant (28 September 2016). "Cold Cases: Crime and Punishment in Antarctica". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  4. ^ Medina, Jennifer (24 September 2018). "Sexual Harassment Allegations Wipe a Name Off the Map". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  5. ^ Joubert, J. J., ed. (2014). Criminal Procedure Handbook (11th ed.). Cape Town: Juta. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-48510-061-4.
  6. ^ "Part III of the Antarctica Act 1994". The National Archives. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  7. ^ "Legislation". Website of the Government of the British Antarctic Territory. Government of the British Antarctic Territory. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Chapter 6: Living and Working at USAP Facilities : U.S. Criminal Jurisdiction" (PDF). 2018-2020 USAP Participant Guide. United States Antarctic Program. 2018. p. 55. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d Bennett, John (15 September 2016). "How Antarctic isolation affects the mind". Canadian Geographic. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d Barrett, Emma; Martin, Paul (23 October 2014). Extreme: Why some people thrive at the limits. OUP Oxford. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-19-164565-5.
  11. ^ Hutchison, Kristan (3 February 2002). "Weathering the Winter" (PDF). The Antarctic Sun. pp. 9–10. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Almirante Brown Station, Antarctic Peninsula". Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  13. ^ Rejcek, Peter (20 April 2015). "Passing of a Legend: Death of Capt. Pieter J. Lenie at age 91 marks the end of an era in Antarctica". The Antarctic Sun. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  14. ^ a b c d e Spielmann, Peter James (14 October 1996). "FBI Agents To Visit Antarctica In Rare Investigation of Assault". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Antarctica Assault Defendant Released to Halfway House". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 22 October 1986. p. A-5.
  16. ^ "Assault subject pleads not guilty to charges". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 26 October 1996.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Serena, Katie (17 November 2017). "The Mystery Of The South Pole's Only Murder". All That's Interesting. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  18. ^ Case 4 - The Death of Rodney Marks (Podcast). Mysterious Circumstances. 1 May 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  19. ^ a b c d "Man faces attempted murder charge after stabbing at Russia's Antarctic outpost". The Guardian. 24 October 2018. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  20. ^ a b c d Hale, Tom (26 October 2018). "A Remote Antarctic Research Station Is Now The Scene Of A Brutal Attempted Murder". IFL Science. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  21. ^ a b c d Haskins, Caroline (25 October 2018). "An Attempted Murder at a Research Station Shows How Crimes Are Prosecuted in Antarctica". Motherboard. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  22. ^ a b "Cold-Blooded: Scientist In Antarctica Accused Of Stabbing Colleague For Spoiling The Endings Of Books". CBS Los Angeles. 30 October 2018. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  23. ^ a b c Mandelbaum, Ryan F. (24 October 2018). "Report: Russian Researcher Charged With Attempted Murder in Stabbing of Colleague in Antarctica". Gizmodo. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  24. ^ a b c d e "Суд в Петербурге прекратил дело полярника, ударившего коллегу ножом" [A court in St. Petersburg dismissed the case of a polar explorer who stabbed a colleague]. MIA Russia Today. 8 February 2018.