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The problem of geographic nomenclature in Antarctica differs from that of any land area of comparable size. Antarctica has no permanent settlements. Even in the stations continuously occupied for a number of years, the personnel are rotated. The continent has been visited and explored by the representatives of many nations, who, by their heroic efforts to broaden man's knowledge of this land of ice and snow, have fully demonstrated the international nature of the world of science. Most major features of Antarctica have been discovered and mapped, but a vast number of secondary features continue to be only partially delineated and remain unnamed.

The following statement of policy guides the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in deciding individual cases. It should be helpful also to those persons proposing names for natural features in Antarctica. Decisions on Antarctic names are based on priority of application, appropriateness, and the extent to which usage has become established. The nationality of the honoree is not a factor in the consideration of personal names. The grouping of natural features into three orders of magnitude, with corresponding categories of persons according to the type of contribution which they have made, is intended to provide the greatest possible objectivity in determining the appropriateness of a name.

Because Antarctica has no history of permanent settlement, and because the continent has been unveiled through the efforts of explorers, scientists, and others, the Board has found it practical to apply the names of such persons to Antarctic natural features. The requirements for naming features, coupled with the availability of names of deserving people, further justify this practice. It does not, however, preclude the use of other than personal names. Nonpersonal names are discussed below.

The names of Antarctic buildings, facilities, stations and other installations, not being natural features, do not fall within the purview of the Board. Such names, though not included as main entries in the decision list, are significant in the overall nomenclature and do occur frequently in the text of decisions.



Types of natural features

The kinds of features that have been named in Antarctica are roughly grouped in three categories. There is considerable latitude for judgment in classifying individual features, since it is practically impossible to set size limits for "large glaciers," "great mountains," or "large bays."

Features having special significance or prominence in geographic discovery, scientific investigation, or the history of Antarctica may be placed in the next higher category than their size would warrant.

  1. First-order features
    1. Regions or "lands"
    2. Coasts
    3. Seas
    4. Plateaus
    5. Extensive mountain ranges
    6. Major subglacial basins, mountains, or plateaus
    7. Ice shelves
    8. Large glaciers

  2. Second-order features
    1. Peninsulas
    2. Mountain ranges, except the most extensive
    3. Great or prominent mountains
    4. Glaciers, except the largest
    5. Prominent capes
    6. Islands or ice rises
    7. Gulfs
    8. Large bays
    9. Straits or passages
    10. Harbors
    11. Extensive reefs, shoals, or banks

  3. Third-order features
    1. Minor mountains and hills
    2. Nunataks
    3. Cliffs
    4. Rocks
    5. Minor shore features
    6. Points
    7. Capes (except the greater or more prominent ones)
    8. Glaciers (except the greater or more prominent ones)
    9. Bays (except the greater or more prominent ones)
    10. Coves
    11. Anchorages
    12. Parts of these features
    13. Reefs, shoals, and banks of small extent

Application of personal names to features

Personal names generally are applied to natural features as outlined here:

  1. First-order features
    1. Leaders or organizers of expeditions to Antarctica
    2. Persons who have made discoveries of outstanding significance in Antarctica, or leaders of parties or captains of ships that have made such discoveries
    3. Persons who, through their work with Antarctic expeditions, have made outstanding contributions to scientific knowledge or to the techniques of Antarctic exploration
    4. Persons who have provided the major financial or material support to an expedition, thereby making such an undertaking possible

  2. Second-order features
    1. Persons whose outstanding heroism, skill, spirit, or labor have made a signal contribution to the success of an expedition
    2. Persons who have made important contributions in the planning, organization, outfitting, or operation of expeditions to Antarctica
    3. Ship captains or leaders of field parties of such expeditions
    4. Persons whose contributions to the knowledge of the Arctic either have advanced our knowledge of Antarctica or have expanded the possibilities of Antarctic exploration
    5. Persons who have made outstanding contributions to equipment for polar exploration
    6. The directors or heads of learned societies that have given significant support or made material contributions to Antarctic exploration
    7. Persons who by substantial contributions of funds or supplies have made possible an Antarctic expedition
    8. Persons who have done outstanding work in the utilization of data, identification of specimens, or interpretation of the results of Antarctic exploration

  3. Third-order features
    1. Persons who have assisted in the work of organizing or conducting Antarctic exploration, or who have assisted in analysis of information gathered in the course of such exploration
    2. Members of expeditions, including ship-based personnel
    3. Persons whose contributions to knowledge in their respective fields have facilitated the discovery, recognition, identification, or recording of Antarctic phenomena
    4. Teachers or administrators in institutions of higher learning who have contributed to the training of polar explorers
    5. Persons who have made material contributions in any form to Antarctic expeditions, and who have by their words or actions demonstrated an interest in further scientific research rather than in seeking commercial exploitation of such contributions

Application of nonpersonal names

Names in the following categories may be applied to a feature in any order of magnitude with which there is association. Examples of nonpersonal names are:

  1. Names that commemorate events (e.g., Charcot's Deliverance Point and Nordenskj&oumlld's Hope Bay)
  2. Names of ships from which discoveries have been made (e.g., Cape Gr&oumlnland and Cape Norvegia)
  3. Names of organizations that have sponsored, supported, or given scientific or financial assistance to Antarctic expeditions (e.g., Royal Society Range, Admiralty Mountains, Banzare Coast) or names of institutions of higher learning that have contributed to the training of polar explorers
  4. Names peculiarly descriptive of the feature (e.g., Deception Island, Mount Tricorn, or Three Slice Nunatak); descriptive names not unique or particularly appropriate and for which there are likely to be duplicates are undesirable
  5. Any other nonpersonal name that because of its acknowledged importance occupies a major role in Antarctic exploration or history (e.g., Mount Glossopteris)

Criteria of appropriateness

  1. Newly proposed names will be considered for first, second, or third order features in the light of their appropriateness, as evidenced by the following factors arranged in order of weight:

    1. Chronological priority of discovery, naming, or other relevant action
    2. Actual association of the person, ship, or organization, event, etc., with the feature
    3. Association of the person, ship, organization, event, etc., with other polar exploration
    4. Contribution of the person to the knowledge of Antarctica
    5. Association of the person, ship, organization, event, etc., with other polar exploration
    6. Contribution of the person to relevant fields of knowledge
    7. Extent to which financial or material contributions have contributed to the success of an expedition or to the collection of valuable scientific data
    8. Previous recognition through a geographic name in Antarctica
      1. It is advisable in future naming in Antarctica to apply the name of one person to only one feature.
      2. To avoid confusion, the names of persons having the same surname should be applied to no more than one feature of a kind.
    9. The possibility of ambiguity or confusion with names already in use
      1. The duplication of names in use is undesirable.
      2. Since descriptive names are often ambiguous and easily duplicated, they should be avoided, unless a descriptive name is peculiarly appropriate.
      3. The duplication in Antarctica of names well known in other parts of the world is undesirable even though qualified by adjectives such as "new," "south," and "little."

  2. Names already in use will be considered in the light of:
    1. Appropriateness, as outlined above
    2. Wideness of acceptance, as evidenced by extended use on maps and in literature. Usage considered sufficiently fixed and/or unanimous may be accepted as valid grounds for approval of a name that otherwise would not qualify.

Fields of knowledge pertinent to Antarctica

The following is a list of fields of knowledge in which outstanding contributions may be considered justification for commemoration in an Antarctic place name. It is to be considered neither exclusive nor exhaustive, and no order of priority is intended.

  1. Navigation and astronomy
  2. Oceanography and hydrography
  3. Surveying, photogrammetry, and cartography
  4. Meteorology and climatology
  5. Geodesy and geophysics
  6. Glaciology and ice physics
  7. Radio, radar, and allied fields
  8. Geology, volcanology, and seismology
  9. Geography
  10. Botany and its subdivisions
  11. Zoology and its subdivisions
  12. Engineering research and applications

Recommended language and form

In keeping with long-established policies based upon trends in the normal evolution of geographic names, considerations will be given to brevity, simplicity, and unambiguity in selecting the form of names derived by these procedures:

  1. The application of full names and/or titles of persons is not considered appropriate. Titles will be translated where their use is required.
  2. The names of organizations, ships, and other nonpersonal names, when unduly long and cumbersome, will ordinarily be used in some shortened though intelligible form.
  3. English generics are preferred. Complete translation of names will generally be avoided, but well established translated forms may be accepted.
  4. An English generic may be added, or may be substituted for an included generic term, in the case of nonpersonal, non-English, single-word names that include a generic or a definite article, or both.
  5. Board-approved romanization systems are used for transliteration from nonroman alphabets.

Inappropriate names

Names in the following categories will not be considered, unless otherwise appropriate according to the principles stated herein, or unless such names are widely and firmly established as of the date of approval of these principles.

  1. Names suggested because of relationship or friendship
  2. Names of contributors of funds, equipment, and supplies, who by the nature and tone of their advertising have endeavored to capitalize or to gain some commercial advantage as a result of their donations. This would not include advantages resulting from testing of donated equipment under Antarctic conditions; in cases of doubt, the decision shall be in favor of the individual whose name has been proposed
  3. The names of products, sled dogs, or pets will ordinarily not be considered appropriate for application to natural features.


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