History of Antarctic naming

Initial Trends in Naming

The naming of places in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic goes back to 1775 when Capt. James Cook, RN, discovered South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. In 1819 William Smith, Master of the brig Williams from England, sighted land south of 60°S. Later on in the same year he returned to the same area and on 16 October 1819 landed, claiming the new land for King George IV and calling it New South Britain. It later became known as King George Island, part of the South Shetland Islands. Today it is the most studied and populated area within the Antarctic.

When news of Smith’s claim reached the British Naval authorities Smith’s ship was then charted by the Royal Navy and sent to chart the area under the command of Edward Bransfield, Master, RN. After charting the northern coasts of what became known as Livingston Island and King George Island, Bransfield headed southwards. On 30 January 1820 he made the first definite charting of the Antarctic mainland. He had charted an area of Trinity Peninsula in the vicinity of what is now called Mount Bransfield.


Formal Management and Recognition of New Place-Names

Formal concern over the application of place-names by a range of Antarctic expeditions to the Falkland Island Dependencies caused the Colonial Office to establish the Sub-Committee of Interdepartmental Polar Committee on Names in the Antarctic in 1932. This went into abeyance in 1939 as the demands of war took precedence.

In 1945 the work of the Falkland Islands Dependency Survey began to generate large numbers of names. The need for a method to register and approve the new names lead to the establishment of the Antarctic Place-Names Committee. The APC works under the Polar Regions Department, Overseas Territories Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.