Who Actually Owns Antarctica?

There are seven continents on our planet, but Antarctica is by far the coolest, at least in terms of temperature.

Despite how cool of a place it is, the CIA World Factbook notes that there are no indigenous residents on the continent, with only around 4,400 people staying in the summer, and only 1,100 in the winter, almost all of whom are somehow affiliated with scientific research, and who may or may not be a shapeshifting alien hell-bent on eating Kurt Russell alive

No one, single country can claim ownership over Antarctica. Instead, we have the Antarctic Treaty system, made effective in 1959 by the 12 countries that were actively working in the area at the time. In essence, the treaty aims to keep the continent open to peaceful scientific research and minimize territorial and economic squabbles. 

While the treaty recognizes that seven countries have made claims to the land, and that the US and Russia have "the right to make a claim," it does not allow for any country to claim sovereignty, effectively preserving the demilitarized status quo.

The ATS lists 42 other countries that have acceded, or agreed to the treaty since it was put in place. Of these 42, 17 have been recognized as active, substantial participants in research.

So, while no specific country owns Antarctica, there are 29 countries with an active presence there, and another 25 that agree to the terms of the treaty. 

While it likely won't be colonized anytime soon, it could be argued that Antarctica is one of the most peaceful and idealistic places on Earth, with minimal crime beyond the occasional stabbing or hammer fight. As Jane Francis, head of the British Antarctic Survey said in this Financial Times article, "One of the amazing things is that Antarctica is the only continent where people work together for peace and science." 

Whether or not a Cold War-era treaty will hold up in the midst of rapid climate and technological change remains to be seen, but hopefully everyone keeps their arctic chill.