UK names slice of Antarctica 'Queen Elizabeth Land'

LONDON, Dec 18 (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 recognise the UK's commitment to Antarctica

with a permanent association with Her Majesty is a great

honour," 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 recognise 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.