Antarctica, the Earth’s southernmost continent, situated in the Antarctic region south of 60° S, is regulated by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and other related agreements, collectively called the Antarctic Treaty System.
The Antarctic Treaty provides that “Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only” (Art. I). To this end it prohibits “any measures of a military nature”  but does “not prevent the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific research or for any other peaceful purpose”.

Italy joined the Treaty on March 18, 1981 and has been carrying out the Programma Nazionale di Ricerche (PNRA) in Antarctica since 1985, focused mainly on environmental research. Originally coordinated by ENEA, the PNRA now involves CNR, OGS and INGV, too. The first Italian base, IT 35, was built in Terra Nova Bay — Ross sea region; the second base, Concordia, a joint French and Italian research station, is in the East Antarctic Plateau and hosts numerous research activities, including seismology.

I.I.M. has supported the PNRA collecting bathymetric data, carrying out geodetic and topographic surveys and mapping out the coastline in the areas studied and used for their research by the Italian research teams.


The collected data were used to compile three nautical charts. The first one, published in 1987, was one of the first charts in which hydrographic survey data were used together with satellite images.

In time, nautical charts covering Antarctic waters have proved necessary not only for the research teams, but also because of the ever increasing number of cruises to Antarctica. Charts are important for safe navigation, but also to protect the delicate ecosystem south of 60° S. Should a vessel get grounded or sink in the waters around Antarctica, it would be  a disaster for an environmental point of view, as well as a tragedy for the people on board.