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The Berkner Land War was an irregular armed conflict between settlers from Argentina, Chile, British Antarctica and Russian Antarctica over control of the Berkner Bay region (now Santiago). The War was never "official", as none of these countries made formal Declarations of War, and little of the fighting was done by the regular military.
The United Kingdom arguably had the earliest claim on the region, dating to 1859, when the Bay was explored by James Berkner, and claimed as the "Colony of Berkner Bay and its Isles". Since that time, British colonists had been expanding their influence in Berkner Bay, and had established several small communities – primarily fishing villages on the bay's islands.
Leadership of the British Colony was the responsibility of the Berkner Family, the descendants of James Berkner. The Lyndon Marine Company, a fishing and shipping company owned by the Lyndon Family, was also very influential in the British settlements.
At roughly the same time as James Berkner's voyage, Russian explorers based in Russian East Antarctica were pushing westward, and reached the Berkner Bay region. They set up several small settlements on the mainland, primarily in the southeast, closer to the main Russian colonies. The Russian settlements were more dependent on logging; and had very little government, due to their frontier positions.
Since the end of its War of Independence, the Chilean government had been debating whether to fund an expedition to Antarctica; but did not want to face competition from Britain and Russia in regions such as Grahamland. When the colonization of Berkner Bay began in the late 1850s, the Chileans saw their opportunity, and began funding settlements in the early 1860s.
The number of Chilean colonists in the area increased greatly during the 1870s and 1880s, and they overtook the combined Russian and British populations in the 1890s. The Chilean communities were mostly located on the eastern islands and the northeastern part of the mainland.
While Argentina was the last nation to significantly colonize Berkner Bay (the first major Argentine presence was in the late 1860s), this was compensated for by the involvement of private companies which helped to fund and develop Argentina's settlements in the area.
Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, Argentina was considered a minor player in the War, but in the 1890s, it quickly became one of the largest powers in the Berkner Bay region. This was largely due to the actions of Augusto Hernandez, a businessman whose shipping company brought thousands of Argentine colonists to Antarctica during the 1890s. Hernandez permanently moved to Antarctica in 1895, and later became supportive of Santiagan independence.
Argentina's settlements were focussed on the western isles and the eastern mainland.
As war was never formally declared between the nations involved; most of the fighting was between civilians. Often, farmers and fishermen from one country would raid or skirmish a nearby foreign settlement; and the constant state of war was accepted as a part of frontier life.