Skip to main content

New Zealand makes claim to Ross Dependency

16 August 1923

Aerial view of Scott Base, 2004
Aerial view of Scott Base, 2004 (Dominion Post/Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand)

A notice in the New Zealand Government Gazette gave effect to a British Order in Council dated 30 July, which stated that ‘the coasts of the Ross Sea, with the adjacent islands and territories, are a British settlement, within the meaning of the British Settlement Act, 1837’, and would in future be administered by New Zealand.

At 450,000 sq km, the Antarctic territory was considerably larger than the land area of New Zealand proper. It took in ‘all the islands and territories’ south of latitude 60°S and between longitudes 150°W and 160°E. It was named for James Clark Ross, the naval officer who had claimed the area for Britain in 1841.

On 14 November 1923, the governor-general issued regulations extending New Zealand law to the Ross Dependency on behalf of the British monarch. In 1926 New Zealand promulgated regulations to manage whaling in the dependency, but no licences were issued.

New Zealand interest in Antarctica was encouraged by the International Geophysical Year (1957–58), during which Scott Base was established to facilitate scientific research and support the British Trans-Antarctic Expedition – and Sir Edmund Hillary’s ‘dash to the Pole’. In 1959, New Zealand was one of 12 original signatories to the Antarctic Treaty.

Mt Erebus, on the lower slopes of which an Air New Zealand sightseeing flight crashed on 28 November 1979, with the loss of 257 lives, is the highest peak in the Ross Dependency.

In 2017 the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area was established. The world’s largest such area, it covers 1.55 million sq km, balancing environmental protection with sustainable fishing and scientific research.

How to cite this page

New Zealand makes claim to Ross Dependency, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated