Antarctic maps go digital

More than 1500 Antarctic and sub-Antarctic maps, from Douglas Mawson’s expeditions to today, are now accessible from a digital database hosted by the Australian Antarctic Division’s Australian Antarctic Data Centre.

The SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) Map Catalogue provides scientists, researchers, operations personnel, historians and the public with access to the Australian Government maps, from the comfort of their desks.

Amongst the treasures are the first map of the Australian Antarctic Territory, published in 1939, based on Douglas Mawson’s expeditions, and sketch maps by George Dovers, a cartographer for Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition (1911–14).

There is also a large selection of maps produced during the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) years, from the 1950s to 1990s, and a range of modern operational maps for aviation, traverse, station and field needs.

Mapping and Spatial Data Manager, Ursula Harris, said that before the maps were digitised, clients would require a mapping officer to retrieve a hard copy from the physical map store. Now, they can simply preview a thumbnail and downloaded the required map as a pdf or archival quality tiff file.

“Our biggest clients are operations staff looking for the latest station maps, which they can print out and provide to expeditioners,” Ms Harris said.

“Our scientists might access mid-20th century maps that show bird colonies or biological census information, which they can compare with current information.

“And we often get requests from families for maps showing features named after a loved one.”

The maps can be found using a search function, or through a list of popular maps in the Map Catalogue.

Wendy Pyper
Australian Antarctic Division