Crime in Antarctica
While crime in Antarctica is relatively rare, isolation and boredom affect certain people there negatively and may lead to crime. Alcoholism is a known problem on the continent, and has led to fights and indecent exposure. Other types of crimes that have occurred in Antarctica include illicit drug use, torturing and killing wildlife, racing motorbikes through environmentally sensitive areas, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, and arson. Sexual harassment also has been reported.
National laws applying to crimes in Antarctica
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.
Section 5 of the Antarctic Treaty Act 1967 extends the laws of every part of the United Kingdom to members and observers of British Antarctic expeditions. Law applying certain wildlife crimes is extended to all British citizens by section 1.
The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 (enacted October 12, 1984) covers crimes committed by Americans or crimes committed against Americans. Any American who is outside of the United States, but not in another country, is still subject to certain U.S. laws. 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. This includes international waters and Antarctica. Although nations claim territory in Antarctica, the United States does not recognize these claims.
Examples of crimes covered by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 include murder, maiming, rape, arson, treason, and bribing a federal official.
List of crimes in Antarctica
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. When one of them lost the game, he became so enraged that he attacked the other with an ice axe. According to some sources, it was a murder, though other sources say that the attack was not fatal. Afterwards, chess games were banned at Soviet/Russian Antarctic stations.
October 1981 – Arson was attempted at the Chapel of the Snows at McMurdo Station, 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. Someone noticed smoke coming from the chapel and reported it to the fire house. The person who reported it went inside and pulled some of the pews away from the fire. Shortly thereafter, a friend arrived, and they both pulled the burning carpet out the door before the firefighters arrived. Because quick action was taken, damage was not significant and was repaired that coming summer.
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. The station personnel were rescued by the ship Hero and taken to Palmer Station, an American research station on Anvers Island. 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. One worker attacked the other with a hammer. Another cook tried to break up the fight and was also injured. The two victims were Tony Beyer and Joe Stermer. Both of them required stitches. FBI agents from the United States were sent to McMurdo Station to investigate and make an arrest. The suspect was flown to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he faced charges of four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon. He pleaded not guilty. 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. On May 12, he died. It was believed at the time that Marks died of natural causes. It was the onset of winter, so his body could not be transported for six months. His body was put into a freezer at the observatory. After the six months were over, Marks' body was flown to Christchurch, New Zealand, for an autopsy. The autopsy concluded that he had died from methanol poisoning. How the poisoning occurred remains a mystery.
9 October 2018 – On 9 October 2018, a stabbing occurred at the Bellingshausen Station (станция Беллинсгаузен), a Russian research station on King George Island. The perpetrator was Sergey Savitsky (Сергей Савицкий), a 54-year-old electrical engineer. He stabbed Oleg Beloguzov (Олег Белогузов), a 52-year old welder, in the chest multiple times. 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. 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. Both accounts say that Savitsky was believed to be intoxicated at the time of the attack. They had worked together at the station for about six months, and Savitsky was apparently having an emotional breakdown. Being in a confined space may have been a major cause for this. Both Beloguzov and Savitsky had had problems with each other for several months. Beloguzov was sent to a hospital in Chile. Savitsky surrendered to the manager of the station, and 11 days later was placed on a flight back to Russia, where he was placed on house arrest until December 8 or 9.
On 8 February 2019, Savitsky was at a preliminary hearing at the Vasileostrov District Court of Saint Petersburg. Savitsky was remorseful and was willing to accept a criminal punishment rather than rehabilitation. Beloguzov was forgiving of Savitsky and proposed dropping the case. The public prosecutor was supportive of Beloguzov's proposal, and noted that Savitsky was remorseful and had no prior criminal record. Judge Anatoly Kovin decided to drop the case.
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