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Russian Revolution Centenary 30 January 2017

2017 is the centenary of the Russian Revolutions; the first of which took place in March 1917. The “February Revolution” actually began on March 8th and culminated in the abdication of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II on March 15th, ending over 300 years’ rule by the Romanov dynasty.

Key figures of Russian history are represented in Antarctica, many of whom are associated with Alexander Island, named after Tsar Alexander I who despatched the Russian Antarctic Expedition in 1819. Mount Nicholas (69° 21′ 56″ S, 69° 51′ 10″ W, Alexander Island), is named after the ill-fated Nicholas II. It was first seen by the French Antarctic Expedition in 1909 and surveyed by FIDS in 1948.

Other names associated with Russian history highlight its rich culture, including composers Tchaikovsky (Mount Tchaikovsky, 71° 22′ 27″ S, 73° 14′ 36″ W), Shostakovich (Shostakovich Peninsula, 72° 10′ 59″ S, 71° 19′ 59″ W) and Borodin (Mount Borodin, 71° 36′ 11″ S, 72° 37′ 38″ W). These are located alongside the names of other notable composers in this area.

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Place-names around Alexander Island

Rothera Day 30 March 2017

May 3rd was Rothera Day, where Rothera’s role as the logistics hub in Antarctica and the exciting plans for future development were celebrated here at BAS. Rothera Research Station is located on Rothera Point (67° 34′ 10″ S, 68° 07′ 37″ W), Adelaide Island, named after John Rothera, FIDS surveyor for Horseshoe Island (1957-58) and Detaille Island (1958-59). It was first photographed by FIDASE and surveyed by John Rothera and Peter Gibbs in 1957-58 and its northern part was designated a SSSI (now ASPA) in 1986. The point forms the southern extent of Wright Peninsula (67° 27′ 47″ S, 68° 10′ 24″ W) named after Alan Wright, BAS surveyor at Adelaide base (1961-63).

Notable place names in and around the area are associated with the site’s history. Mackay Point (67° 32′ 14″ S, 68° 04′ 27″ W) was named for Donald Mackay, a BAS builder for Halley, Signy, and Rothera. Cheshire Island (67° 34′ 23″ S, 68° 07′ 29″ W) is named after Alan Cheshire who was a BAS radio operator at Faraday and Rothera stations from 1976-79. Similarly, Killingbeck Island (67° 34′ 19″ S, 68° 04′ 30″ W) is named for John Killingbeck, FIDS Base Leader for Deception Island 1961-62, BAS General Assistant for Adelaide Base in 1962-63 and later surveyor on the last dog journey, Alexander Island 1993-94.

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Place-names around Wright Peninsula

Signy Station 1 June 2017

Signy (60° 42′ 29″ S, 45° 35′ 42″ W) was first established in 1947 as “Base H.” Signy Island was roughly charted by Capt. Matthew Brisbane, Master of the cutter Beaufoy, in early 1823 and later in 1912-13 by the whaler Kapt. P. Sørlle, who named the island Signy after his wife Fru Signy. Names in this region come from whaling, local wildlife and descriptions of features.
Originally a key anchorage for whaling ships and from 1921 the site of a shore station, many place-names stem from whaling such as Waterpipe Beach and Pumphouse Lake (used for watering whaling ships); Factory Cove (site of whale processing plant); and Borge Bay (after Hans Borge, manager of the factory ship Polynesia). Cemetery Flats and Cove are testament to the hazardous work of whaling.

More recent names originate from the local wildlife. Elephant Flats (60° 42′ 14″ S, 45° 36′ 50″ W) was named after the elephant seals which haul out here, while Pup Cove (60° 42′ 11″ S, 45° 36′ 32″ W) was named for the first recorded birth of a fur seal pup on the island (in February 1977) since Signy station opened. Other names are descriptive; Changing Lake (60° 42′ 29″ S, 45° 37′ 08″ W), comes from how the lake has slowly changed size as the retaining glacier ice retreated. Close by, Limestone Valley (60° 42′ 11″ S, 45° 37′ 16″ W) is named from its exposure of limestone cliffs.
The current Signy Island topographic map (2010) is due an update in the coming months – watch this space! For more information on place names and the Antarctic Place-names Committee, please see http://apc.antarctica.ac.uk/.

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Place-names around Signy Station

Shackleton's Crossing 1 August 2017

BAS has recently published a new map of South Georgia, which features completely new, detailed mapping for the route of the crossing of the Island by Shackleton, Frank Worsley and Tom Crean in May 1916. This epic journey has inspired many names along the route.

The first difficult pass on their route was The Razorback (54° 09′ 13″ S, 37° 05′ 06″ W). This feature extends between the northern peak of the Trident and Sörlle Peak and is still a major obstacle to parties attempting the Shackleton route. The three men eventually crossed at the most northerly col, descending down to Compass Glacier (54° 09′ 51″ S, 37° 03′ 21″ W), named after Frank Worsley’s compass which was critical to use on the expedition.

They then crossed Crean Glacier and Nineteen-sixteen Snowfield (54° 09′ 53″ S, 36° 57′ 48″ W), named in commemoration of the crossing. Mistaking Fortuna Bay for Stromness Bay, they descended down the aptly named Turnback Glacier (54° 07′ 38″ S, 36° 50′ 38″ W) before retracing their steps and descending through Breakwind Ridge to Whistle Cove - hearing the steam whistle at Stromness reassured the party that they were within reach of safety.

After starting the final climb at Worsley Beach, Tom Crean discovered Crean Lake by breaking through its ice, and then the final obstacle on their journey involved a perilous clamber down what is now Shackleton Falls (54° 09′ 00″ S, 36° 44′ 28″ W) with the aid of just 15 m of rope, before descending Shackleton Valley and finally making contact with Thoralf Sörlle, manager at Stromness whaling station.

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Placenames along Shackleton's route

Bird Island 1 October 2017

Bird Island (54° 21”S, 38° 02’ 30”W) was first discovered by Cook in early 1775 and named descriptively for the number of birds he saw there. The wildlife on the island have inspired other names in the area. Sooty Cove (54° 00′ 40″ S, 38° 02′ 24″ W), Wanderer Ridge (54° 00′ 31″ S, 38° 02′ 35″ W), Molly Hill (54° 00′ 51″ S, 38° 04′ 00″ W), Gony Point (54° 00′ 27″ S), Pio point (54° 01′ 03″ S, 38° 04′ 54″ W) and more are named after the local populations of Albratross species.
More place-names come from other species present on the island, such as Macaroni Cwm (54° 00′ 07″ S, 38° 01′ 12″ W) named for the Macaroni penguin colonies present nearby; Fairy Point (54° 00′ 39″ S, 38° 04′ 36″ W), named for the fairy prion, and Gazella Peak (54° 00′ 12″ S, 38° 02′ 48″ W), named after a sub-species of fur seal which breeds in large numbers on the island.

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Place-names around Bird Island

Mount Daynes 1 December 2017

Anyone who has done fieldwork in Antarctica with BAS is likely to have slept in a pyramid tent or towed a heavily-laden Nansen sledge. Since 1988 these trusted items of equipment have been made for BAS by Snowsled Ltd - designers and suppliers of polar equipment to many national polar research programmes and expeditions.

Mount Daynes is a locally prominent peak rising to 936 m at the head of Sjögren Inlet, NE Antarctic Peninsula . It’s named for Roger Daynes (b.1942), meteorologist and BC at Halley 1971-73, and then co-founder, owner and Director of Snowsled Ltd until his retirement in 2016. Other names associated with pioneers of overland and polar travel in the Nordenskjöld Coast area include Eliason Glacier (Eliason motor sledge), Weasel Hill and Pyke Glacier (Weasel tracked vehicle and its inventor), Mount Tucker (Tucker Sno-cat) and many more.

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Place-names around Mount Daynes

Missing Places 1 February 2018

In a departure from tradition, this month’s place-name article highlights places that no longer exist; these are marked with an asterisk in the APC gazetteer and on the web-map. Due to the changing nature of the Antarctic landscape there are a number of features which have been renamed or flagged with an asterisk by the Antarctic Place-names Committee. This is partly in response to the changing face of the ice shelves, allied with increased remote sensing capabilities.

Given the recent exploration of Prince Gustav Channel by those on board the James Clark Ross, it is fitting to start with what was there before: The Prince Gustav Ice Shelf, which extended into Röhss Bay, James Ross Island. This ice shelf started retreating in 1945 and continued until its final breakup in February 2002, when the last remnants of the shelf broke away.

Similarly, the Wordie Ice Shelf formerly extended into Marguerite Bay, but gradually retreated and broke apart until 2004, when it had entirely disappeared. The newly-formed area has since been named Wordie Bay (69° 06’ 58” S, 67° 45’ W). The ice shelf retreat also revealed islands which were previously hidden: Buffer Island and Napier Island were revealed in 1989, having previously been considered Ice Rises in the Shelf.

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Wordie Bay with Wordie Ice Shelf indicated

Thwaites Glacier 1 April 2018

The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration was launched on Monday 30th April. This huge multidisciplinary project will study the glacier and its adjacent ocean region. While this area is outside the British Antarctic Territory, local place names and their origins can be found in the SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctic

The Thwaites Glacier (106°45’W, 75°30’S), is located in the West Antarctic and flows into the Amundsen Sea. This extensive ice feature was named by the US-ACAN for Frederik T. Thwaites, glacial geologist and geomorphologist at the University of Wisconsin (1883-1961). The nearby Pine Island Glacier, focus of the iSTAR project, was named for the USS Pine Island, a seaplane tender and flagship of the task group of the US Navy Operation HighJump, which explored the area in 1946-47.

In the same vein, Bear Peninsula (111°W, 74°35’S) was named after the ship USS Bear. Reconnaissance flights were made from this ship in February 1940, leading to the discovery of the Walgreen Coast. This coast was named after Charles R. Walgreen, who assisted in equipping the Bear for the campaign of 1939-41. This expedition was led by R. Admiral Byrd, in relation to whom many places have been named such as Marie Byrd Land (named by Byrd after his wife), the nearby Byrd Subglacial Basin, and associated Byrd Surface camp, which will play a key role in the Thwaites project logistics.

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Thwaites Glacier

Sunshine 1 June 2018

Given the perfect weather we’re having it seems only fitting that we highlight some sunny names found on our favourite cold continent. As many know, a “Dingle Day” is an Antarctic saying for a perfectly calm blue-sky day. This saying can be found in the place names on Snow Hill Island: Dingle Nunatak and Day Nunatak are named for Richard Dingle, BAS geologist, and Crispin Day, Field Guide for a BAS field party of the James Ross Island area in 1994-95.

On the continent, Sky-Blu (74° 51’ 08”S, 71° 34’ 54”W) is situated in Palmer Land, south of Mount Mende and Mount Lanzerotti. Sky-Blu is named after the Sky-Hi Nunataks, named for the US Project “Ski-Hi,” later “Eights Station.”

Disclaimer: MAGIC bears no responsibility if this article jinxes the weather.

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Sky-Blu, Dingle and Day Nunataks along the Antarctic Peninsula

BAS Research Vessels 30 August 2018

With the launch of RRS Sir David Attenborough it seems fitting to highlight the other supply and scientific research vessels used by BAS over the years and noted in the APC Gazetteer. RRS John Biscoe was used by BAS from 1956 to 1991, and was the second Antarctic vessel to be named after John Biscoe, Master, RN (1794-1843) who landed on Anvers Island in 1832. Biscoe Bay (63°48’58”W, 64°48’ S) and Biscoe Islands (66°21’51”W, 66°01’57”S) are named after the famous explorer. Rothera’s Biscoe Wharf was named after the ship itself, which was the first vessel to use the new facility in 1991. The RRS Bransfield, built as a replacement to the RRS Shackleton (1955-69), was used from 1970 to 1999. She was named after Edward Bransfield, Master, RN who discovered the area now known as the Bransfield Strait and the first part of continental Antarctica seen by man, Trinity Peninsula.

These ships were replaced by our current vessels, RSS Ernest Shackleton and RRS James Clark Ross. Both named after famed explorers, their names are reflected in other areas of the continent such as Mount Shackleton (63°55’22”W, 65°12’28”S), and James Ross Island (57°54’W, 64°09’S). Finally, Sir David Attenborough has also got a place name in Antarctic – the Attenborough Strait runs between Charcot Island and Latady Island. This strait opened up following the partial break-up of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in 2009, and was named in 2010.

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Names of BAS Research Vessels, noted in Antarctic Place names.