Antarctica’s first flag aims to give the uninhabited continent a voice in the climate crisis - International Burch University
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Antarctica’s first flag aims to give the uninhabited continent a voice in the climate crisis

true south flag design dezeen col x

true south flag design dezeen col x

American journalist Evan Townsend has designed the True South flag for Antarctica to create a distinctive identity for the continent and encourage its protection by the rest of the Earth’s inhabitants.

Designed while working as a steward at a polar research station, the True South flag features an icy white peak mirrored by a south-facing compass arrow.

According to Townsend, it is the first Antarctic flag to be supported by any National Antarctic Program, with six backing it, and the first to be widely used across the continent.

The True South flag features a triangular white peak and a blue compass arrow

The hope is that the flag will help to create a greater sense of community among the researchers and support workers who call the continent home for parts of the year while helping other people all over the world to feel a greater sense of duty towards this remote territory.

“Antarctica doesn’t have a permanent population, but it is one of the places that is most susceptible to the global climate crisis,” Townsend told Dezeen.

“Most people don’t have an opportunity to go there and there are no cultural ambassadors, no diplomats who are representing Antarctica. So I think a flag is a really important tool to be able to create a sense of connection between the general public and this continent that they have some responsibility for.”

Antarctica is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth. Average temperatures have risen by three degrees Celcius over the past 50 years compared to the global average of 0.9 degrees, causing the rate of ice loss to triple since 2012.

Up to 10,000 scientists and support staff work here in summer. But in winter, this number goes down to around 1,000 as temperatures drop to -60 degrees Celcius and transport in and out of the continent becomes virtually impossible.

Townsend, who has been doing seasonal work on the continent for half a decade and has no formal design training, crafted a first iteration of the True South flag from scrap tents and field bags in the winter of 2018.

His primary consideration was to create a neutral, non-political symbol that the continent’s diverse, part-time population could take ownership of.

“Antarctica is a very complex place, it’s governed by an international treaty system that has 54 countries who are party to it,” he said.

“So I knew that this flag had to be something that could have universal appeal, that wouldn’t be alienating to any particular group.”


Department of Graphic Design and Multimedia