800.014 Antarctic/217

The Acting Secretary of State to Diplomatic Officers in the American Republics

Sirs: As the plans of The United States Antarctic Service for the despatch of an expedition to Antarctica during the autumn of 1939 near completion, this Government desires that the Governments of the other American Republics be fully informed of the scope and objectives of the Expedition.

You are accordingly instructed to deliver to the Foreign Office of the Government to which you are accredited a confidential memorandum embodying the following statements:

On the recommendation of the President of the United States the Congress has made funds available for an investigation and survey of the natural resources of the land and sea areas of the Antarctic regions. This investigation is to be conducted by an expedition of The United States Antarctic Service commanded by Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, U. S. N., Retired, which will be conveyed to the Antarctic Continent by the United States Coast Guard cutter Northland, the Department of the Interior vessel North Star, and the barkentine The Bear.

The Expedition will establish one base at or near Little America (164° west longitude–78° 35 minutes south latitude), and another a thousand miles or more to the eastward of Little America at some yet to be determined point on the Antarctic coast east of the 90th meridian of west longitude. It is proposed to carry out an extensive program of scientific research at these bases, which will also serve as points of departure for further explorations by airplane, sledge and tractor parties.

During the past 30 years or more the Antarctic regions have been the scene of increasing activity on the part of many non-American nations. Sovereignty claims on the Antarctic Continent have been made by Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France and Norway. [Page 10] In the past few months Germany has been actively concerned with the possible resources of the Antarctic, and has already sent one expedition to that region. Japanese interest has also been manifested.

The Government of the United States has in the past asserted no claim of its own to sovereignty over areas in the Antarctic regions, although the activities and explorations of its citizens date back considerably more than a century. On the other hand, the United States Government has not recognized the Antarctic sovereignty claims of any other nation and has made formal reservation of such rights as it or its citizens may possess in that region.

It will be the mission of the forthcoming United States Expedition to add to the existing scientific data concerning the Antarctic and to determine and make recommendations regarding the practicability of making permanent or semi-permanent establishments in Antarctica. The action of the United States in this connection is not intended to prejudice in any way the rights or interests which any American Republic may have in the Antarctic regions.

In leaving with the Minister for Foreign Affairs a memorandum on the foregoing lines, you should take the opportunity to state orally that this Government has entire confidence that any question of sovereignty claims in the Antarctic arising between members of the American family of nations will be solved along mutually satisfactory lines, in keeping with the spirit of trust and friendship which characterizes the relations prevailing between the twenty-one American Republics. The Government of the United States will of course continue to keep the Governments of the other American Republics informed of developments in the plans of The United States Antarctic Service.

Very truly yours,

Sumner Welles