The Ambassador in Chile ( Bowers ) to the Secretary of State 1


No. 1258

Ref: Embassy’s Despatches No. 1043, April 5, and 925, March 12, 19512

Subject: Chilean Rejection of British Protest Over New Antarctic Base

The Chilean Government has finally replied to the British protest of April 3 over establishment in the Antarctic of the González Videla Base, Chile’s third in the region.

As expected, the Chilean answering note characterized both the British Embassy protest and that presented earlier by the commander of the British warship “John Biscoe” as “completely groundless”. The fundamental Chilean thesis is that installation of the new base is nothing more than an act of the Chilean Government in the exercise of its sovereignty within the jurisdictional limits of the Republic of Chile. The note declares specifically that the site of the base—Isla Pingüino, Puerto Paraíso, en la Costa de Danco, en la Tierra de O’Higgins—lies in what it calls the “Chilean Antarctic”.

With regard to the British suggestion that the problem be referred to the International Court of Justice, the Chileans state that they could not participate in such action because it would signify a surrender of sovereignty on Chile’s part, since the disputed act (i.e., establishment of the base) occurred within the borders of the Republic. Furthermore, the Chileans continue, such a procedure could not lead to a satisfactory resolution of the Antarctic “pretensions” of other countries, however much merit they might contain.

Ending in a conciliatory way, the reply expressed Chile’s appreciation of the friendship long existent between the two nations. Calling attention to the understanding and cooperation which have marked this friendship, the note stressed the disposition of the Chilean Government [Page 1721] to cooperate fully with any missions of a scientific or exploratory nature that Great Britain might wish to send into the “Chilean Antarctic”.

The tone of the Chilean reply is consistent with established Chilean policy—friendly insistence, but insistence nevertheless, on the absolute validity and exclusiveness of Chile’s claim to a certain portion of the Antarctic continent. Why the answering note was delayed so long is not known, inasmuch as it contained the arguments anticipated. At no time between April 3 and May 18, when the nature of the note was made public, was there any indication that the Chilean attitude would be otherwise than it has always been. Construction of the González Videla base was completed before the end of March and the Antarctic fleet returned to Valparaíso by the first week in April.

Information in this despatch on the Chilean reply to Great Britain was obtained primarily from press accounts. The Embassy is informed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs that a copy of the note itself was sent to the Chilean Embassy in Washington for transmittal to the Department of State.3 Therefore, no attempt has been made to secure a copy to enclose with the present report.

For the Ambassador:
Carlos C. Hall
Counselor of Embassy
  1. A copy of the despatch was sent to London.
  2. Despatch 1043, April 5, not printed, reported that the British Ambassador had delivered a protest to the Chilean Government on April 3 concerning Chile’s establishment of a new air force base, the Gabriel Gonzalez Videla Base, at Paradise Bay in the Palmer Peninsula, an area claimed by Chile, the United Kingdom, and Argentina (725.00 (W)/4–551). Despatch 925, March 12, not printed, reported that the commander of a British patrol ship, the John Biscoe, had delivered a note of protest to the commander of the Chilean ship Lientur, who had replied with a note rejecting the British protest (702.022/3–1251).
  3. No copy of the note has been found in the Department of State files.