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New Swabia (German: Neuschwabenland) is a section of the continent Antarctica between 20°E and 10°W (overlapping a portion of Norway's claim zone Queen Maud Land), which was claimed by Germany in January 1939.[1] It was named after the German region of Swabia. Norway disputed Germany's claim, which was never recognized by any other government.

Early expeditionsEdit

Like many other countries, Germany sent several expeditions to the Antarctic region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of them were scientific. The expeditions in the late 19th century were astronomical, meteorological and hydrological, and took place in the Southern Ocean and on South Georgia, the Kerguelen Islands and the Crozet Islands, mostly in close collaboration with scientific teams from other countries. However, at the end of the 19th century, the Germans started to focus on Antarctica itself.

The Gauss expedition, the first German Antarctic expedition, took place from 1901–1903. Led by Arctic veteran and geology professor Erich von Drygalski, it was the first expedition to use a hot-air balloon in Antarctica. It also discovered and named Kaiser Wilhelm II Land. The second German Antarctic expedition (1911–1912), led by Wilhelm Filchner, aimed to cross Antarctica in an attempt to determine if Antarctica was one piece of land. The crossing attempt failed before it even started but the expedition discovered and named the Luitpold Coast and the Filchner Ice Shelf. A German whaling fleet was put to sea in 1937, and when it successfully returned in the spring of 1938, plans for a third German Antarctic expedition were drawn up.

New Swabia expeditionEdit

The Third German Antarctic Expedition (1938–1939) was led by Capt. Alfred Ritscher (1879–1963). The main purpose was to secure an area in Antarctica for a German whaling station, as part of a plan to increase Germany’s production of fat. Whale oil was then the most important raw material for the production of margarine and soap in Germany and the country was the second largest purchaser of Norwegian whale oil, importing some 200,000 metric tonnes annually. Besides the disadvantage of being dependent on foreign sources, especially since it was considered that Germany would soon likely be at war, this put considerable pressure on Germany’s foreign currency reserves.


On 17 December 1938 the New Swabia Expedition left Hamburg for Antarctica aboard the Schwabenland, a freighter capable of carrying and catapulting aircraft. The expedition had 33 members plus the Schwabenland's crew of 24. In January 1939 the ship arrived in an area already claimed in 1938 by Norway as Dronning Maud Land and began charting the region. In the following weeks 15 flights were made by the ship’s two Dornier Wal aircraft named Passat and Boreas over an area reported as about 600,000 square kilometres (although others have claimed the area flown over was half this size). More than 16,000 aerial photographs were taken and some were published after the war by Ritscher.[1][2] To assert Germany’s claim to newly named Neu-Schwabenland three German flags were placed along the coast and 13 more were air-dropped further inland. Some accounts claim these were aluminium markers topped with swastikas dropped on the ice at intervals of about 30–40 kilometres (20–25 mi).[2][1] Teams also walked along the coast recording claim reservations on hills and other significant landmarks. The expedition also established a temporary base. Richardheinrich Schirmacher named the ice-free Schirmacher Oasis, which now hosts the Maitri and Novolazarevskaya research stations, after himself after spotting it from the air shortly before the Schwabenland returned to Germany in February 1939.

Two more expeditions were scheduled for 1939–1940 and 1940–1941. These were expected to both search for suitable whaling grounds and extend Germany’s territorial claims in the Antarctic. The second expedition would also investigate the feasibility of naval bases from which Germany could control the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean along with the Drake Passage. Both were cancelled with the outbreak of World War II.

The name Neuschwabenland (or New Schwabenland or New Swabia) is still used for the region on some maps, as are many of the German names given to its geographic features.[3] Germany's current Antarctic research facility Neumayer-Station III is located in the New Swabia area.

Legal outcome of claimEdit


No country ever recognized Germany's claim, which lapsed under the terms of the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers signed on 8 May 1945.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 McGonigal, David, Antarctica, frances lincoln ltd, 2009, ISBN 0711229805, 9780711229808, p 367
  2. 2.0 2.1 Boudewijn Büch. Eenzaam, Eilanden 2 ('Lonely, Islands 2'), Holland 1994
  3. e.g., National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition, 2005

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Template:Antarctic territorial claims Template:Former German colonies Template:Antarctica navbox

Template:Coordar:شوابيا الجديدة bar:Neuschwabenland de:Neuschwabenland es:Nueva Suabia fr:Nouvelle-Souabe id:Swabia Baru it:Nuova Svevia he:שווביה החדשה ka:ახალი შვაბია nl:Nieuw-Schwabenland uz:Yangi Shvabiya pl:Nowa Szwabia pt:Nova Suábia ru:Новая Швабия fi:Neuschwabenland sv:Neuschwabenland uk:Нова Швабія

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