305. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, September 14, 19551


  • Antarctica


  • Mr. Richard G. Casey, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Sir Percy Spender, Australian Ambassador
  • Mr. John Quinn, Department of External Affairs
  • Mr. F. J. Blakeney, Counselor of Australian Embassy
  • Mr. Murphy, Deputy Under Secretary
  • Mr. Robertson, Assistant Secretary, FE
  • Mr. Horsey, Director, BNA

Mr. Casey opened by saying that Antarctica was particularly important to Australia because the climate of the southern half of their country was affected by the air masses from Antarctica. He said there were strong feelings in Australia in regard to Antarctica and that, from the long range defense point of view they could not afford to have a place which was within aircraft range of Australia in hostile hands. He said there were also certain mineral resources in the area which they had investigated. He referred also to its meteorological importance to Australia and New Zealand. He mentioned that they were on the track of some automatic meteorological recording and transmitting equipment which was being manufactured by a small firm near Paris. If this worked they intended to put a string of stations in along the coast of the sector which they claimed. Later in the conversation he said he had made inquiries in Washington and had been told that we did not have any such equipment ourselves. He asked that we renew our inquiry and let the Australians know if in fact we had any such equipment and with whom the Australians could talk about it. Mr. Murphy said we would undertake to do this.

Mr. Casey also said that they were in the course of preparing the most detailed map yet made of Antarctica particularly of the area of the Australian claim which he showed Mr. Murphy on the attached map. He said that Australia had proclaimed a system of law for “our area” and the islands which they claimed. He said they are working very closely with the French. He expressed appreciation for the photographs which we had given them, which had been taken [Page 625] on the Byrd Expedition.2 He referred to their permanent station at Mawson and said they had had another one at Heard Island which they had abandoned because of the lack of resources, but it could be reoccupied at any time. He said they were considering the establishment of another mainland station in the area at Vestfold Hills. He said they were renting a Danish ship and sending an aircraft down to be stationed there.

. . . . . . .

Mr. Casey said they had heard rumors that we were reappraising our policy on Antarctica and asked what Mr. Murphy could tell him in that connection.

Mr. Murphy said that we did not recognize the validity of any of the claims so far advanced and noted that many of them involved areas in which we also had an interest based on a long history of exploration. He referred to the friction resulting from the conflicting claims of the United Kingdom, Chile and Argentina. He referred also to the 1948 proposal for some form of common sovereignty and to the Soviet injection of its interest at that time.3 He said that at some suitable time we favored negotiation among the seven claiming countries, excluding the USSR, so that conflicting claims could be reconciled.

Mr. Casey said that Mr. Pearson4 had mentioned the same idea of internationalization during his recent visit to Ottawa and that Mr. Casey had opposed it strongly. So far as Australia was concerned, they wanted the status quo. For their part they were progressing with useful scientific work and saw no reason for international action. He did not think there was now much friction.

In response to a question Mr. Murphy said that there was nothing imminent so far as our ideas of negotiation were concerned, and, in response to Mr. Casey’s request for consultation, said that we would, of course, consult with them in due course when we had anything specific in mind.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 702.022/9–1455. Secret. Drafted by Horsey.
  2. Reference is presumably to the Antarctic development project code-named “Operation Highjump”, headed by Richard E. Byrd, in which American ships, aircraft, and men extensively explored and photographed various portions of Antarctica between December 1946 and February 1947.
  3. For documentation regarding suggestions by the United States for creation of a condominium arrangement for Antarctica, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. I, Part 2, pp. 969 ff.
  4. Presumably the exchange between Casey and Pearson occurred sometime during Casey’s early September 1955 visit to Canada.