Australia's Davis research station in Antarctica
Australia's Davis research station is one of many bases used for scientific study in Antarctica.

Chilly reception for Antarctic military base claim

AAP FactCheck December 6, 2021

A photo on social media shows a military base in Antarctica.


Mostly False. The image is an Antarctic research centre run by South Africa.

A widely shared photo on Facebook claims to show a military base in Antarctica but it’s actually a South African research centre and military activity is prohibited on the frozen continent.

The image, shared by a Australian account, is simply captioned: “Military base in Antarctica”.

A screenshot of the Facebook post
 A Facebook post claims to show an image of a military base in Antarctica. 

The photo shows the South African National Antarctica Expedition station SANAE IV. The South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP) built the station atop a nunatak – a mountain peak that rises above an ice sheet – about 220km from the coast.

South Africa took over the station from Norway in 1959 after signing the Antarctic Treaty. A new station opened at the site in 1997, designed on stilts to prevent snow accumulating at its base. It is one of three stations run by SANAP and is used for scientific research, including weather, climate change and solar flares.

AAP FactCheck found no evidence the research station operates as a military base or is used for any military purpose.

Military bases are prohibited in Antarctica under the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959 by 12 nations, including South Africa, which conduct scientific research on the continent.

Article one of the treaty states: “​​Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only. There shall be prohibited, interalia, any measures of a military nature, such as the establishment of military bases and fortifications, the carrying out of military maneuvers, as well as the testing of any type of weapons” (see documents).

However, the treaty does allow for “the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific research or for any other peaceful purpose”. Previous fact checks of the photo also found no evidence the station is a military base – see here and here.

The post’s original photo is credited to South African photographer Thomas Mulcaire, who worked on a project in Antarctica in 2007 and exhibited the work in 2008 and 2009.

The image has been shared on social media multiple times and has been erroneously captioned as showing a giant frozen tree stump, including here and here.

The Verdict

While the location of the photo is Antarctica, the post’s claim that it shows a military base is false. The photo is of a South African research station, SANAE IV, which is used for scientific studies including on climate change and solar flares. Military bases on the continent are prohibited under the Antarctic Treaty.

Mostly False – The claim is mostly inaccurate but includes minor elements of truth.

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