The continent of Antarctica is in the Antarctic circle (region) which is in the southern hemisphere. This continent is the world’s Southernmost continent. Surrounded by the Southern Ocean, this fifth largest continent measuring 5,400,000 square miles has no permanent human settlement due to its extreme desert conditions, however, several governments maintain full-time research centers with rotational personnel that range between 1,000 and 5,000 people at a particular time. Over the years, there have been different proposals to have an official flag for the continent in addition to the ones that each country keeps at their research facilities. The condominium agreed on a single flag in 2002.
To understand the flag topic better, it is good to understand the status of Antarctica in international law. This continent is a condominium and therefore governed by different sovereign powers who agreed as per the Antarctica Treaty System to share the area and together utilize it without any border demarcation that form national zones. States party to this treaty share facilities and put up their flags next to each other’s. The treaty prohibits mining and military activities.
Official Flag of Antarctica
The official flag of Antarctica has a white map of the continent at the center of a blue background. The flag has is in the ratio of 2:3 and is the official symbol of the continent. Graham Bartram designed this flag after the UN flag inspired him. The simplicity of the white and blue colors represents the continent and its surrounding and also symbolize Antarctica’s international neutrality. In 2002, most bases on the continent started flying this flag alongside that of their own countries.
Other Flag Proposals
Whitney Smith designed a rectangular orange flag that had three emblems arranged from top to bottom in a linear manner. On top is letter “A” for Antarctica, a semi-circle (bowl) to represent the continent’s position in the southern hemisphere and at the bottom are two hands holding the semi-circle. The two hands mean a peaceful human use of the continent, the contrasting orange color was supposed to distinguish it from all other national flags and the white used on the emblems represent the snow. The emblems are offset towards the hoist of the flag and not at the center.
Dave Hamilton designed a rectangular flag with a thick dark blue strip on the top, a thin yellow strip in the middle, a thick light blue strip and the bottom, and five five-point stars organized like the Southern Cross stellar constellation. The stars are on the fly side of the thick dark-blue strip. According to Hamilton, the light-blue color represents pack ice, the yellow represents the aurora australis and the dark-blue represents the night sky.
Countries with research bases on the continent also have their own flags which constitute modified versions of their national flags. The British Antarctic Territory flag consists of the St George's Ensign (White Ensign) background with the Union Jack on the upper half of hoist-side and the Coat of Arms of the Territory on the lower half of the fly-side. The Adélie Land/French Southern and Antarctic Territories have a rectangular blue flag on the background with the French tricolor flag on the upper hoist-side and a white court of arms which consist of letters “TAAF” with five stars. TAAF means Terres australes et antarctiques françaises which is the French name of the territory. Other flags include the Argentine Antarctica (Tierra del Fuego) flag, the Chilean Antarctic Territory (Magallanes Region) flag, the proposed Ross Dependency flag, the Australian Antarctic Territory flag (Australian Flag), the Norwegian Flag, and the New Zealand Flag among others.