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Purpose of Naming

The purpose of place-naming is to ensure that geographical features can be unambiguously identified. It is of secondary importance to commemorate a particular expedition, person or the country of origin. New naming should ensure that a particular feature receives only one distinct name and this can only be achieved by liaison between national place-naming authorities.

The APC considers proposals for new names for features which have not been previously named and which are adequately mapped and defined. The Secretary undertakes research into the suitability of a name and there is liaison with other national place-naming authorities before a name is put forward to the Committee. These proposed names should not be used in official reports or scientific papers prior to approval by the APC. The Committee meets twice a year, but at irregular intervals, depending on the number of proposals received for new names. Forms for submission of names and further information are available from the website (

Need for a Name

Proposals should include an explanation of the need for the name.

Double naming

To ensure scientific clarity and operational safety, it is important to apply only one name per feature, with allowance for its appropriate translation or transliteration into other scripts. Existing place names should be accepted only when full account has been taken of all matters of provenance and suitability.

Density of names

New names for minor features are only accepted if there is a map or chart published at a sufficiently large scale to show them. Near permanent scientific stations, where large scale maps are available, a higher density of names is often permissible but the map should not be overloaded with names; field scientists are encouraged to use a grid system for collecting-station lists and to provide a sketch map of these localities in their reports.

Duplication of names

It is APC policy to avoid duplication of place names, not only in the British Antarctic Territory but elsewhere in the Antarctic.

Personal names

The APC will consider the naming of features after individuals who have demonstrable evidence of:

  • Sustained and exceptional contribution to scientific understanding and/or life in the Antarctic.
  • Major contributions to Antarctic matters.
  • Contribution to government and policymaking with direct relevance to Antarctica.
  • Association of the person with the proposed feature.

Due to the criteria, the majority of nominations are for individuals at the end of their career or are commemorative. Where there is a nomination for an individual still active in their field, nominations should ideally be accompanied by at least one letter of support from someone other than the nominator.

With rare exceptions, forenames and the use of more than one part of a hyphenated or dual, unhyphenated surname are unlikely to be approved, but will be reviewed on a case by case basis. The use of titles or the names of partners or pets is similarly not considered suitable.

Place-naming stemming from tourist operations

In certain circumstances, where visits and landings are regularly made to unnamed locations and the interests of safety, navigation and environmental monitoring call for the application of a name, the Committee may consider proposals arising from the activities of Antarctic tourism. Individuals may only be commemorated after making a significant personal contribution.

Size of feature and name

Any name needs to be legible on a published map or chart and this often rules out the use of long names for small features, particularly for coastal features on charts where soundings may be obscured.

Choice of generic term

New names should be applied to distinct geographical features and the generic part of the name should be appropriate (see list of generic terms).

Names with two generic terms

Names such as “Pond Bay” or “Ridge Mountain” should be avoided.

Descriptive names

Names that might be mistaken for descriptions of terrain or topography should be avoided. For example names such as “Sandy Hills” or “Broad Valley”.

Group names

Features in an area may follow a group idea or theme. This has the advantage of making it easier to remember the geographical position if names belonging to the same idea group are found near to each other. For example, in the South Shetland Islands, a group which includes the names of nineteenth century sealers is found, while in Alexander Island names commemorating composers of music are found.

Coordinate Selection

The coordinates for any given feature should provide an indication of its position that clearly distinguish the feature from any other, while providing a level of precision appropriate to the size of the feature. The gazetteer will use two methods of quoting co-ordinates: a) Degrees, minutes and seconds (DMS), with seconds and decimal seconds only being shown when justified, and b) Decimal degrees, to four decimal places when justified.

The descriptions can describe the extent of large features more accurately by including two to four sets of coordinates and a description of the position of the feature relative to other topographical features.In general, coordinates mark the exact position of a feature, or the central position of a feature. However, this can involve a wide level of interpretation.

Names outside BAT

The APC considers names for features within the sector of Antarctica between 80°W and 150°W and south of 60°S. Names approved for this area will be submitted to SCAR for inclusion in the Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica but will not be added to the BAT Gazetteer.

Where place names are proposed for features elsewhere in Antarctica, the APC considers the proposals. If the place names are considered acceptable, the APC liaises with the place-naming authorities of other countries.

Underwater features

Names for underwater features, which are within 12 nautical miles of the coast or ice shelves, and are important to navigation, are dealt with by the APC. Proposals will be shared with the GEBCO Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) to make them aware of the proposed naming and allow them the chance to comment.

Names for features more than 12 nautical miles offshore are dealt with by the International Hydrographic Organization.

Subglacial features

Names for subglacial features within British Antarctic Territory, which are of scientific, logistical or navigational significance, are dealt with by the APC.