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The Big Picture: Antarctica’s underground research base

US Navy personnel brush loose snow from the walls of a tunnel leading to a new underground research base in Antarctica in 1960.

US Navy personnel brush loose snow from the walls of a tunnel leading to a new underground research base in Antarctica in 1960. Photo: Pictorial Parade/Archive.

The continent’s remarkable history of international co-operation took a major step forward 30 years ago next week, with the signing of the snappily-titled Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.

This agreement, signed or ratified by 45 nations since coming into force in October 1991, effectively bans all commercial mining operations on the continent and guarantees its future as a “wilderness with aesthetic and scientific value”.

On a planet where wars are fought for territorial advantage measured in mere metres, Antarctica’s sustained status as a uniquely protected territory is, perhaps, cause for optimism.

See inside the 16 September: Germany after Merkel edition

Tory MPs in the House of Commons on Budget Day - Credit: Jessica Taylor

Letters to the editor: The real dream Tory cabinet would include party’s exiles

Readers have their say on Alastair Campbell's suggestion for a 'dream' Tory cabinet.

A man walks past a dual Irish-English language street sign in Belfast. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

Northern Ireland: Where the streets have two names

A century since partition, Northern Ireland is torn on the effects of language on the process of peace. It’s a cultural battle that signals both fear and optimism for the future of a troubled land.