LONDON (Reuters) - Britain named a vast swathe of its Antarctic territory after Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday, capping a year of Diamond Jubilee celebrations marking the queen’s 60th year on the throne.
Newly christened “Queen Elizabeth Land,” the 169,000 square mile (437,000 sq km) slice of Antarctica is almost twice the size of Britain and populated almost exclusively by penguins, seals and various bird species.
British presence is maintained via three research stations operated by the British Antarctic Survey.
“To be able to recognize the UK’s commitment to Antarctica with a permanent association with Her Majesty is a great honor,” Foreign Minister William Hague said in a statement.
In 1908, Britain became the first country to claim Antarctic territory and since then New Zealand, France, Norway, Australia, Chile and Argentina have also lodged official claims although most countries do not recognize them.
Hague made the announcement as the queen toured London’s Foreign Office in the last official engagement of her Diamond Jubilee, a year marked by nationwide street parties, a spectacular flotilla on the River Thames and a star-studded concert outside Buckingham Palace.
Reporting By Alessandra Prentice, editing by Paul Casciato