570 Hood to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 104 LONDON, 12 March 1947

IMPORTANT TOP SECRET

Antarctic.

Unofficial but expert assessment of the probable United States plans now that the Task Force [1] is returning has been obtained here.

All evidence indicates that the Task Force had instructions to avoid the Falkland Islands Dependencies but to build up grounds for official claim in other areas arranged in following priority:

(A) Pacific Sector (B) Eastern Ross Dependency (C) Western Ross Dependency (D) Eastern Sector of Australian Antarctic Territory (E) Wilkes Land and 'American Highland'- (Hinterland of Princess Elizabeth Land) in Western sector of Australian Antarctic Territory (F) Any other areas within flying distance of aircraft carriers.

2. Of these areas it is thought that Americans can be confident of getting (A) without much argument and they have a strong case for (B) and a comparatively weak one for the other areas, but all would be useful bargaining count[ers].

It is thought that they may have in mind a formal claim covering the whole sector from Western boundary of Falkland Islands Dependencies (longitude 80 degrees W) westwards to Adelie Land (longitude 142 degrees E).

3. Above is being passed to you although it is largely guesswork because- (i) It is most expert assessment available in United Kingdom.

(ii) The urgency of the situation necessitates working hypothesis on which to base action in immediate future.

You will recall Beckett's advice that no time should be lost in formulating tentative plans to anticipate light turning red. [2]

4. There is abundant evidence that when American Task Forces have returned to the United States official claims will be put forward as a result of the discoveries made.

This means that official American pronouncement might well be made within the next month or two.

5. The Times, of 1st March, reports Argentine Foreign Minister as saying that Argentina and Chile propose the issue of a joint invitation to an international conference in Buenos Aires to decide legal claims of various nations to lands in Antarctic.

This suggestion is not new but it may precipitate matters and hasten an American announcement.

6. Some officials here feel that if a conference is to be held it might be advisable for the United Kingdom, in conjunction with Australia and New Zealand, to take the initiative in convening such a conference.

This would provide an opportunity of finding out exactly what the foreign claims amount to and 'would leave us (United Kingdom) still free to decide whether we wish to settle by negotiation, refer to U.N.O., or the International Court'.

These officials have Falkland Island Dependencies chiefly in mind and realise that such a move would probably not commend itself to Australia or New Zealand who would be more interested in stalling such a conference while we established permanent bases in our own sections.

These are merely reported for your information.

It is doubtful whether they will secure general approval here even at official level.

1 A US naval task force (US Naval Antarctic Development Projects 1947), led by Rear-Admiral Richard E. Byrd, had arrived in Antarctic waters in December 1946.

2 W.E. Beckett, Legal Adviser to the UK Foreign Office, had argued at a meeting of the Polar Committee in London on 1 November 1946 that continuity of effective occupation was necessary to found a valid claim of title to Antarctic territory. In relation to that portion of Australian Antarctic Territory to which the United States had unofficially laid claim, he commented that the lights were 'amber, but in danger of abruptly turning red'.

[AA : A1068, A46/26/1A]