Search on to name Antarctic landmarks

By Angela Gregory

Forget Windy Gully, Hillary Coast and even Sponsors Peak - they're taken.

Now the search is on for new names of Antarctic geographical features to be gazetted next year.

At the Annual Antarctic Conference in Dunedin, a significant new mapping project over a large area to the south of Ross Island, with naming rights, was made public for the first time yesterday.

New Zealand Geographic Board secretary Wendy Shaw told the Herald New Zealand last did considerable mapping in Antarctica about 50 years ago, so it was well overdue.

Mrs Shaw said satellite imagery would be trialled in the new area to be mapped, the Darwin and Hatherton glacier system. Previously, mapping had involved expensive aerial photography.

Mrs Shaw said names would be needed for newly identified features such as peaks and glaciers.

The names could be created using physical characteristics but descriptive names were running out in Antarctica and duplication would not be allowed.

The continent was also running out of names of famous deceased people, including explorers.

Sir Edmund Hillary had a big stretch of coastline south of Ross Island named after him, although that was named while he was living.

Mrs Shaw said the names of living people would be allowed, even though it deviated from common practice in New Zealand and internationally.

Antarctica was a special case given it was barely populated, she said. "It is the only exception I know of."

Mrs Shaw said the names would not just be provided by New Zealand but shared about equally with Australia and the United States.

That was because the area was mainly Australian-claimed territory although the Australians were not operational in it.

Instead it was New Zealand scientists who were increasingly moving into the region for research purposes.

Mrs Shaw said New Zealand also had a long-standing name-sharing protocol with the United States which had been very proactive in mapping the continent in the past decade.

The need for formalisation of names had been highlighted by other countries renaming features.

China, for instance, had been doing some of its own naming in Australian operational areas.

Mrs Shaw said it was important to get consistency, especially because of the possibility of emergency responses required with the increase of tourism in the region.

The board would be encouraging visitors to the Antarctica this summer to come up with names for submission. She said options included names of scientists, or along themes like mythology.

Mrs Shaw said that since 1956, a Government directive had given the board authority to provide names in Antarctica, and about 2600 names had been approved.

Legislation passed this year, yet to be enacted, would formalise the board's authority and allowed it to gazette names beyond the Ross Dependency.

The names were expected to be confirmed after public notification next year, and could then be included on maps and in official documents.

- NZ Herald

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