CGA characteristics


The SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica contains in form of a database all the names that have been published in national gazetteers, plus basic information about those names. The 22 countries who contributed data to the project, and the content of their national Antarctic gazetteers are listed in Annex E. In addition the CGA has incorporated parts of the GEBCO gazetteer, issued by IHO/IOC, for under-sea features located south of 60°S.

The overall content of the CGA amounts to 35921 geographic names (1st October 2007).

4A. Synonyms
In addition to the approved names, several national gazetteers list synonyms for a given geographic feature; these are commonly labelled as variants in the published gazetteers. Synonyms include obsolete (historical) names, mis-spellings and incorrect applications but they also include linguistically correct forms of geographic names in a foreign language. By including synonyms for a given feature, a national gazetteer records the existence of names different from the one officially recommended for that feature. A synonym in one country's gazetteer can be the approved name in a gazetteer of another country and vice versa.

The CGA represents a composite list of approved names taken from all the current national gazetteers available. Synonyms in individual gazetteers have been excluded since all the names in current usage exist as approved entries in other gazetteers. However, it is recognized that the lack of historical names and other types of synonyms will limit the value of the CGA when researching scientific literature of a historical nature or written in different languages. The inclusion of such synonyms may be considered for a future work.

4B. Geographic coverage and content
The geographic coverage of the CGA lies south of latitude 60°S. Although the interest of SCAR extends North of 60°S and encompasses all the areas inside the Antarctic Convergence and also several sub-Antarctic islands, the geographic features North of 60°S either fall within the sovereignty of a particular country or, in the case of oceanic features, are named according to the rules of international bodies. Thus it was agreed in SCAR that the CGA should be limited to the area South of 60°S, where as a matter of fact there is no single recognised naming authority. Accordingly, those records or sections of national gazetteers which refer to areas outside the agreed limit have not been included in the CGA database. The present content of the CGA, on a national basis, is shown in Annex E .

4C. Scientific stations
There are different national approach about whether Antarctic scientific Stations should be included in a list of geographic features or not. Some national gazetteers include Antarctic Stations and some do not. A man-made structure is not a natural geographic feature but the location of a Station is an important piece of geographic information. Because the CGA is just a compilation originating from the national gazetteers as published/supplied to Italy (as the Convenor of the programme), no Station has been deleted nor was there an attempt to obtain a complete list of Stations. As a consequence, some but not all Antarctic Stations are listed in the CGA. An updated list of the Antarctic Station, however, is permanently available on the Comnap site.

4D. Word order of entries
Apart from a few exceptions, a geographical name (toponym) is composed by a generic term and by a specific term (see also below, paragraph I ).

In the CGA entries are arranged alphabetically with the specific term first. For example, Cape Dalton is listed as "Dalton, Cape", Mount Dalton as "Dalton, Mount", Dalton Iceberg Tongue as "Dalton Iceberg Tongue".

4E. Transliteration
A characteristic which makes the SCAR CGA a rather singular publication (not unique, however) is the diverse origin of the data, derived from different languages and alphabets. The transliteration adopted in the SCAR CGA is the one provided by the country approving the relevant names. A transliteration was needed for Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Bulgarian, and Polish names.

4F. Diacritical marks
In several languages words are correctly spelled only by making use of diacritical marks. To reproduce correctly all diacritical marks used in the national gazetteers would be cumbersome. Consequently they have been omitted in the database available on the web. However a record is being kept of all of them.

On the contrary, diacritical mark have been kept in the printed version of the CGA. In the publication all diacritical are identical to those present in the original gazetteers. Due to the variety of alphabets used in the source-gazetteers, the edition of the CGA (printed version) required the use of different fonts in order to find all the needed diacritical marks. Under this respect the printed version of the CGA is more aligned with the national gazetteers than the database available on the web site.

4G. Alphabetical order
When more entries, corresponding to given query, are sorted out of the database they are arranged alphabetically letter-by-letter throughout the name. The alphabetical order is set up automatically by the database software, which is presently DBASE IV. That means that the blank and the hyphen, when present, are regarded as alphabetic characters preceding the letter "A"; the comma, when present, is regarded as an alphabetic character following the letter "z".

4H. Basic information
For each name, CGA contains the following information (not all of them always available):

  • source, i.e. the country which provided the name;
  • approval date, when an official approval has been issued by the relevant country's organization for geographical names;
  • latitude and longitude, with degrees, primes and, when available, seconds;
  • height above sea level;
  • class; and
  • reference number.

The source refers to the nation publishing the gazetteer from which the geographic name has been extracted. A three-letter country ISO code after the name, indicates the source of the name. When two or more ISO codes correspond to an identical name that indicates that more than one Country has the name in its gazetteer. For ISO codes see Annex E .

As to the latitude and longitude it should be noted that the co-ordinates supplied by the national gazetteers are usually accurate to a minute of arc. However, the accuracy of the values assigned to the co-ordinates varies according to the nature of the feature itself and the scale of the map available for identifying the feature. Although the accuracy in the location of a nunatak or a cape can be within a few metres or tens of metres, the co-ordinates locating the central point of a mountain range or an island will be much less accurate, the accuracy decreasing as the size of the feature increases. Because no standard algorithms are used to calculate the characteristic co-ordinates of an extended feature (for example, the central point of the area inside a contour line), different gazetteers attribute different pairs of co-ordinates to the same feature, even when there is perfect agreement about the feature under consideration and its name. The relevance of co-ordinate accuracy is discussed further in Annex H.

The class indicates the type of geographical feature to which the name has been applied. The use of classes, or the classification of names, facilitated also the grouping of names applicable to a specific feature (all the names used by different countries to indicate the same feature). None of the national Antarctic gazetteers includes any reference to classes. The class given in the CGA is derived from the generic part of the name (see below) by the Convenor and, more rarely, from maps, charts, or additional information supplied as a reply to a specific query. For these reasons, the importance attached to the classification of the names is to be regarded as practical rather than theoretical. Moreover it is quite understandable that the logical border between one class and a similar one is somewhat arbitrary. The feature class is coded alpha-numerically. Annex F gives the description of the geographic classes to which the features appearing in the CGA have been assigned. The code "na" means that the feature class is not yet assigned.

To each geographic name appearing in the CGA has been given an arbitrary, but fixed, reference number or UFI (Unique Feature Identifier). The reference number is unique to a specific geographic feature, not to the name itself. Thus all names associated with the same reference number refer to the same feature. There are many more names than numbered features in Antarctica, indicating that there are multiple names for some feature. At present (1st October 2007) 18622 distinct features are recognized and included in the CGA.

4I. Generic terms
The name of a geographic feature is usually made up of two parts which are generally called the generic term and the specific term (e.g. the generic part or term of Terra Nova Bay is "Bay" and the specific part is "Terra Nova". That is not always true, however. See for instance the toponym "Tour de Pise" or "Three Brothers".

Although the generic term provides a good indication of the type of feature being named, it must be remembered that data in the CGA originated from 23 sources, in 12 different languages. A scientist working with the CGA should be familiar with the different generic terms and their equivalents in other languages. This point is becoming progressively important since the Recommendation SCAR XXIV-5 which states: " adopting existing names, countries are encouraged not to vary any part of such names". Annex G lists all the relevant generic terms that have been incorporated into the CGA from the national gazetteers.

The SCAR Composite Gazetteer is hosted by the Australian Antarctic Data Centre. The information in the footer below pertains to the AADC web site.