Sixth Report of Session 2021-22 Contents

Appendix 2

S.I. 2021/509

Antarctic (Amendment) Regulations 2021

1.On 9 June 2021, the Committee requested that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (“FCDO”) submit a memorandum on the following point:

Given the lack of coordinates in respect of the wreck of the Endurance and the breadth of the designation including fixtures and fittings, is it intended that there should be an exception or defence (in relation to the offence in section 10(1) of the Antarctic Act 1994) of reasonable excuse or ignorance of the nature of the wreck or the provenance of fixtures and fittings and, if so, how effect is given to that intention.

2.The FCDO is grateful for the Committee’s consideration of this instrument and we respond as follows. To note, we refer below to ‘disturbance’ as encompassing the full range of acts that may amount to an offence under section 10 of the Antarctic Act 1994 (“the Act”).

3.We note that the wreck of the Endurance is not unique amongst designated Antarctic Historic Sites and Monuments in lacking detailed information as to its location. The location for ‘Amundsen’s Tent’ is given as “In the vicinity of 90˚S” and described as being “buried beneath the snow and ice in the vicinity of the South Pole.” However, we acknowledge the absence of any positional information in the designation of the Endurance in the Regulations. There is an accurate positioning of the location of the sinking of the vessel, but its final resting place on the seafloor has yet to be located.

4.Given that the wreck of the Endurance is in an area usually beset with sea ice and potentially in quite deep water, we consider there to be very little risk that it would be disturbed inadvertently or as a result of activity other than a deliberate attempt to locate it. Indeed, its designation as a Historic Site or Monument under the Antarctic Treaty System was motivated by specific expeditions planned with that purpose. FCDO would bring the designation of the wreck to the attention of those seeking authorisation for any British expedition to Antarctica with potential to encounter it.

5.We note that under section 28 of the Act, proceedings for offences under section 10 may only be instituted by the Secretary of State or a person authorised by him for that purpose; by the Director of Public Prosecutions; or by the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland. In the unlikely event of disturbance arising from a genuine and reasonable lack of knowledge as to the wreck’s location, or as to an object’s provenance, particular attention would no doubt be given to the public interest in prosecuting in such circumstances.

6.Therefore, while we share the Committee’s concerns about the prospect of prosecution in the event of genuinely inadvertent disturbance, we believe that there is adequate mitigation without introducing a specific statutory defence.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

15 June 2021

Published: 25 June 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement