is a large district of land in eastern Antarctica
, formally claimed by Australia
as part of the Australian Antarctic Territory
, though this claim is not legally recognised by the signatories of the Antarctic Treaty
, which includes Australia itself. It fronts on the southern Indian Ocean
between Queen Mary Coast
and Adelie Land
, extending from Cape Hordern
in 100°31' E to Pourquoi Pas Point
, in 136°11' E. The region extends as a sector
about 2600 km
towards the South Pole
, with an estimated land area of 2,600,000 km², mostly glaciated. It is further subdivided in the following coastal areas which can also be thought of as sectors extending to the South Pole:
- Knox Land: 100°31' E to 109°16' E
- Budd Land: 109°16' E to 115°33' E
- Sabrina Land: 115°33' E to 122°05' E
- Banzare Land: 122°05' E to 130°10' E
- Clarie Land: (Wilkes Coast) 130°10' E to 136°11' E
In a wider sense, Wilkes Land extends further East to Point Alden in 142°02' E, thereby including Adelie Land, which is claimed by France.
Wilkes Land is named after Lieutenant Charles Wilkes (later a Rear Admiral), the American explorer who commanded the 1838–42 United States Exploring Expedition. The naming is in recognition of Wilkes' discovery of the continental margin over a distance of 2,400 km (1,500 miles) of coast, thus providing substantial proof that Antarctica is a continent. This definition of extent excludes the area east of 142°02' E, George V Land, which was sighted by Wilkes but has been shown by later expeditions to be further south than the positions originally assigned by him.
In 2006 a team of researchers led by Ralph von Frese and Laramie Potts used gravity measurements by NASA's GRACE satellites to discover the 300-mile-wide Wilkes Land crater, which probably formed about 250 million years ago.
Wilkes Land in Popular Culture
- Wilkes Land is featured prominently in the 1998 film The X-Files. Fox Mulder journeys to Antarctica to save his partner Dana Scully, who is being held there against her will. In the process discovering a huge secret lab under the surface run by the Cigarette-Smoking Man.