Norwegian Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen was the first person to set foot in the territory in 1930. On 14 January 1939, the territory was claimed by Norway. From 1939 until 1945, Germany claimed New Swabia, which consisted of part of Queen Maud Land. On 23 June 1961, Queen Maud Land became part of the Antarctic Treaty System, making it a demilitarised zone. It is one of two Antarctic claims made by Norway, the other being Peter I Island. They are administrated by the Polar Affairs Department of the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and the Police in Oslo.
Most of the territory is covered by the Antarctic ice sheet, and a tall ice wall stretches throughout its coast. In some areas further within the ice sheet, mountain ranges breach through the ice, allowing for birds to breed and the growth of a limited flora. The region is divided into the Princess Martha Coast, Princess Astrid Coast, Princess Ragnhild Coast, Prince Harald Coast and Prince Olav Coast. The waters off the coast are called the King Haakon VII Sea.
There is no permanent population, although there are twelve active research stations housing a maximum average of 40 scientists, the numbers fluctuating depending on the season. Six are occupied year-round, while the remainder are seasonal summer stations. The main aerodromes for intercontinental flights, corresponding with Cape Town, South Africa, are Troll Airfield, near the Norwegian Troll research station, and a runway at the Russian Novolazarevskaya Station.