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U.S. Policy on Private Expeditions to Antarctica

The objectives and level of activity of the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) are set forth in President Reagan’s directive of February 5, 1982. Achievement of USAP objectives, which center upon the conduct of a balanced program of scientific research and include cooperative activities with Antarctic programs of other governments, requires the full commitment of the operational and logistics capabilities available to the USAP. The U.S. Government is not able to offer support or other service to private expeditions, U.S. or foreign, in Antarctica.

In emergency situations, the U.S. is prepared to attempt, in accordance with international law and humanitarian principles, the rescue of private expeditions personnel provided that there are no unacceptable risks posed to U.S. personnel and the rescue can be accomplished within the means available to the United States. Such emergency assistance would be limited to the rescue of private expedition personnel and their evacuation would be undertaken in a manner which, in the judgment of the United States, offered the least risk to U.S. personnel, equipment, and scientific programs. Once such rescue has been effected, the U.S. would consider its assistance terminated and would under no circumstances provide support for the continuation of the expedition.

Private expeditions, therefore, should be self-sufficient and are encouraged to carry adequate insurance coverage against the risk of incurring financial charges or material losses in the Antarctic. The National Science Foundation, as manager of the USAP, reserves the right to seek, in accordance with international and domestic law, recovery of all direct and indirect costs of any such emergency search and rescue.

The NSF Representative in Antarctica may authorize such actions or activities, that in his judgment, best fit this policy guidance under circumstances and conditions prevailing at the time of application.