What’s in name? 26 November 2021

Australian Antarctic Division

For the first time, those responsible for approving geographic place names in Antarctica, will have a comprehensive set of principles to assist them.

The principles, drafted by a core group of the Standing Committee on Antarctic Geographic Information (SCAGI), took more than 3 years to complete.

AAD Mapping and Spatial Data Manager Ursula Harris said SCAGI is made up of representatives from Antarctic Treaty nations including Australia.

“As there is no single Antarctic naming authority, nations operating in the region share the responsibility of place naming,” Ursula Harris said.

“These principles outline what are appropriate names, and promote the concept of ‘one feature, one name’, ensuring new geographic locations have the same name, no matter what country you are from.”

“More and more we see Antarctic nations collaborating in search and rescue and moving expeditioners around the continent, so having consistent names on maps is vital,” Ms Harris said.

Antarctic place names are published collectively in the Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

“In the past sometimes we’ve translated names between different languages, but this can lose the history or ‘personality’ of the name and it doesn’t necessarily mean that it works on a map.”

“If a country was referring to another country’s map, a translated name could look like a completely different place. For example, one of the Svenners Islands, located 65km south west of Davis, is called Skipsholmen. Skips and holmen are Norwegian words for ship and island respectively,” said Ms Harris.

“Following the new principles we would maintain the Norwegian Skips, but add the feature type in English, in this case Island, with the resulting name being Skips Island.”

This principles will allow the history and personality of the name to be preserved, but prevents the same feature being confused on maps.

The SCAGI contributors hope the principles, approved by SCAR Executive, will be adopted by all Treaty nations.

The SCAR Composite Gazetteer, featuring all Antarctic place names, can be found at its brand new web address placenames.aq

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.