General information

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) initiates, promotes and co-ordinates a wide range of scientific research programmes in Antarctica, many of which involve significant international collaboration. The SCAR Standing Committee on Antarctic Geographic Information (SC-AGI) co-ordinates the provision of a geographic reference for scientific activities in Antarctica and the dissemination of Antarctic geographic information. The SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica is an activity conducted in this framework.

In 1992 the SCAR Working Group on Geodesy and Geographic Information (WG-GGI), during the XXII SCAR meeting in Bariloche, recognized the need for a composite gazetteer of Antarctica to bring some order to the complex toponymy of Antarctica. The goal of the work programme which evolved from that discussion was to provide the scientific community with two products:

  • a compilation of all existing geographic names of Antarctica and
  • a set of guidelines to be followed when proposing new names and when selecting one name from a list of synonyms for a given feature.

Because Antarctica does not fall under the sovereignty of any one nation this particular continent is similar, in many respects, to the oceans. In general every country has a recognized body which approves the names of geographic features in the country and also has the power to enforce their use. For Antarctica, however, there is no such single naming authority. Individual countries are responsible for their national policy on, and authorisation and use of, Antarctic names.

The case of the oceans is however somewhat different because, by an agreement between two international institutions - the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) - it has been possible to establish a unique set of names for under-sea features depicted on the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO).

The SCAR, through its recommendations, expresses the hope that the present effort will contribute to the adoption in Antarctica of the general principle of 'one name per feature' by all Antarctic place naming authorities. The last of the recommendations concerning Antarctic Place Names (which is still valid) is the SCAR Rec. XXVII-1, the previous ones being Rec.XXIV-5, Rec.XXV-7, Rec.XXVI-2.

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