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Security Council Suspects U.S. Behind
'Seismic Event' in Antarctica

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UNITED NATIONS (AMP) — The U.N. Security Council said Friday that Russia detected a "seismic event" eight weeks ago in the vicinity of an alleged American military base in Antarctica just hours before a huge chunk of ice twice the size of Delaware broke off from the Ross Ice Shelf. (Seismic Event Map)

The U.N. is trying to determine whether the U.S. carried out a nuclear test in violation of the international Antarctic Treaty. The treaty, which entered into force in 1961, establishes Antarctica as a zone of peace and bans all military activities, including the testing of weapons.

"The March 23 'event' had explosive characteristics," said a spokesman for the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry. "It was not a natural event, but we as yet cannot determine whether it was a nuclear test. We are still analyzing the data."

The U.S. has steadfastly denied the existence of a secret military base or weapons testing on the "peace continent" despite persistent accusations from the Russians and some environmental organizations. Nevertheless, Russian observers believe the American base to be located 300 miles east of their remote base at Vostok Station and 300 miles northwest of Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole. That would put the site inside the heart of the ancient continent's interior snow deserts — charted by air but never by foot.

"Like everybody else we're certainly concerned about global warming and the possible breakup of the ice pack at the South Pole," said a spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department's Joint Chiefs of Staff. "But unlike our Russian counterparts we have detected no seismic activity beneath the ice in Antarctica. And the idea that the U.S. or any country would intentionally generate seismic activity in the world's most fragile epicenter is quite frankly ludicrous."

The spokesman went on to suggest the Russian accusation was nothing more than diplomatic tit-for-tat. In 1997 Washington accused Moscow of carrying out its own nuclear test blast near its top-of-the-world base at Novaya Zemlya, located above the Arctic Circle. Moscow denied the charges.

The "seismic event" in Antarctica occurred on March 23. Hours later one of the largest chunks of ice on record — 183 miles by 22 miles — broke off the Ross Ice Shelf. According to the National Science Foundation, which coordinates American research at the South Pole, the iceberg has a surface area of about 4,247 square miles and is among the largest ever observed.

The iceberg could pose some danger if it eventually drifts into shipping lanes around the South Polar Region. But more alarming to scientists and environmentalists is what the recent breakup portends for the greater West Antarctica ice sheet. A collapse or meltdown could raise ocean levels by a cataclysmic 20 feet globally, putting most of Florida and Manhattan underwater and wiping out many of the world's coastal cities.

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