(CNN) ā€” As lengthy as people have recognized of its existence, they’ve wished to go to Antarctica.

It is the world’s least visited, least populated continent. On the greatest day, this can be very exhausting to get to. And but, the enchantment of the unknown and the need to set foot on each continent have inspired vacationers to attempt to make their approach to the South Pole.

Still, for the obsessive catalogers of the world, Antarctica is tough to categorise. It’s not a nation, so are you able to cross it off a bucket listing? Who controls it? If it had a capital metropolis, the place would it not be? What can be the native language?

A nationwide flag for a nation-less place

These have been amongst the questions that Evan Townsend posed to himself when he signed up for the first of two stints working at McMurdo Station, the US-run base in Antarctica.

Townsend, an elementary faculty trainer in Boston, knew he had a strict baggage restrict when going to Antarctica to work as a help staffer — everybody is restricted to 85 kilos, he says, which has to incorporate garments, toiletries, medication, electronics and the rest they may need or want throughout their keep.

As one of his duties can be managing the arts and crafts room on base, he wished to convey some decorations with him, however knew he wanted to maintain it mild. Townsend selected the Pride flag — it weighed nearly nothing, however its significance was heavy.

One day, Townsend and a few colleagues took the Pride flag exterior and snapped images of themselves to publish on social media. The images ended up changing into a world story, with many information shops saying the outing was Antarctica’s first-ever Pride parade.

“That was when I realized the power of flags,” Townsend says. “On one hand, I’m completely isolated at the end of the Earth. And on the other hand, I’m part of this global community.”

True South flag

The “True South” flag Townsend designed to signify Antarctica

Courtesy Evan Townsend/True South

Despite not having a background in design, Townsend identifies as a longtime “flag nerd” and started to toy with the thought of creating a flag to signify Antarctica.

He went with darkish blue for the Southern Ocean waters and white for the panorama, with an isosceles triangle in the heart to signify Antarctica’s icy peaks.

“I wanted it to be a neutral flag, for sure,” Townsend says. “It’s a distinct design, it’s a distinct color, to make sure that it’s not affiliated with any particular group or nationality. I wanted it to be something that had a lot of symbolism, but that was simple enough that people could apply their own perception of Antarctic and their own understanding of the continent to the flag.”

Swedish nurse Johanna Davidsson did not set out for the South Pole aiming for a world file — however she walked away with one anyway.

The title of the flag mission, True South, additionally has its personal significance.

“‘True south’ literally means the direction toward the geographic south pole, as opposed to magnetic south which would lead to the magnetic south pole,” Townsend explains. “it’s meant to represent the shared goals and values by which the Antarctic community can orient itself.”

And Townsend has no plans to trademark or copyright the flag’s design, as he believes it ought to belong to the entire world.

“The best flags are flags that get their meaning and their power from the people that fly them,” he provides.

Who’s in cost right here, anyway?

Townsend is only one of the many individuals round the globe who’re transfixed by Antarctica, even when they’re by no means in a position to go to and see the place for themselves.

So, what’s it about the southernmost continent that continues to entrance individuals?

In a world that is extra interconnected than ever, Antarctica stays one of the few locations that most individuals do not know something about.

There is not any indigenous inhabitants in Antarctica, and human exercise there may be nonetheless comparatively current.

The solely everlasting installations are a handful of scientific stations, which solely make use of scientists and their help employees — a time period comprising anybody from cooks and upkeep employees to electricians and airport managers.

It’s widespread for individuals to multitask. Townsend labored in meals service, as a bartender and as a craft room supervisor throughout his tenure. At its peak, the quantity of human Antarctic residents is roughly 10,000.

In 1959, 12 nations — together with Japan, South Africa, France, the United Kingdom, Argentina and what was then the USSR — signed the Antarctic Treaty in Washington, DC.

Among the objects they agreed on was that that Antarctica ought to “be used for peaceful purposes only” and that science can be at the forefront of any growth or settlement there. Members of the navy are allowed to be there, however solely in help roles.

Although few individuals stay there, Antarctica’s scope of affect is very large. Climate change has prompted the continent to shrink. And regardless of the treaty’s existence, world politics have modified and new energy gamers — particularly China — have emerged in Antarctica.

Ceremonial South Pole

The True South flag flies alongside the flags of the authentic 12 Antarctic Treaty Signatories at the ceremonial South Pole.

Courtesy Lisa Minelli/True South

Klaus Dodds, professor of Geopolitics at the University of London, is the writer of a number of books about the polar areas, most just lately “The Arctic: A Very Short Introduction,” co-authored with Jamie Woodward.

“Stuff just keeps being taken from Antarctica. Information, ice, resources like seals and whales and fish,” he says. “Antarctica’s fragility, I think, represents the fragility of the wider world.”

While local weather change is the largest affect on Antarctica, there’s one other main issue that can solely develop extra vital as the pandemic ebbs — tourism.

The future of the seventh continent

About 90% of vacationers to Antarctica come by boat. These journeys are costly, and most vacationers spend solely a few hours truly on the land earlier than getting again on the ships and turning round.

Currently, the United States is the single largest supply of Antarctic tourism, however China is rapidly rising into second place, and Dodds believes inside in a decade it should high the listing.

Some locations, like Argentina resort city Ushuaia and Australia’s Hobart, make cash from these vacationers resulting from their location as closing pre-Antarctic ports of name. Dodds predicts that the subsequent decade will see a number of cruise ship firms open up Antarctica itineraries and extra journey firms put money into the continent’s infrastructure.

Just as nations jockey for energy with navy bases and political maneuvers, Antarctica has turn into one other web site for his or her rivalries — and fears — to play out.

“Nobody can answer the question (of) who owns Antarctica,” Dodds says.

“I think the Antarctic represents, in essence, not just the idealism that the treaty represents, but it also represents the supreme contradictory nature of humanity more generally. So for all the things we wish to celebrate in Antarctica, there’s also the ugliness of humanity.”

He factors to a few main successes: Antarctica was the first continent to be fully free of nuclear weapons. It can also be demilitarized.

Another instance of the continent’s potential for magnificence and unity? The True South flag, which Dodds admires.

“(It) is a well-intentioned reminder that Antarctica is a marvel. Antarctica should represent the very best in all of us.”

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