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Background to SCAR

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) was formed at The Hague in February 1958 and evolved from the Special Committee on Antarctic Research established by the International Council for Science (ICSU) to co-ordinate the scientific research of the twelve nations active in Antarctica during the IGY, the International Geophysical Year in 1957-58. The main purpose of SCAR is to provide a forum for scientists of all countries with research activities in the Antarctic to discuss their field activities and promote cooperation and colloboration in scientific research amongst Antarctic Treaty Nations. SCAR also has an important function to provide scientific advice to the Antarctic Treaty System. [A US-published Handbook on the Antarctic Treaty System is also available]

The surveying and mapping activities of SCAR are coordinated through its Working Group on Geodesy and Geographic Information - WG-GGI.

The scientific working groups during the IGY quickly realised that their research needed maps and positions to assist in their studies and to document their work.

Formation and History of WG-GGI

At the first SCAR meeting in 1958 Cartography, as it was known then, was part of Working Group 2 (along with Geology, Glaciology and Morphology). At III SCAR in September 1959 Cartography met as a Working Group in it's own right. The following year at IV SCAR a Permanent Working Group on Cartography was established (in September 1960). The Chief Officer was C R Laclavére from France.

The name was changed at V SCAR in October 1961 to the Working Group on Geodesy and Cartography. The WG's Chief Officer was B P (Bruce) Lambert from Australia. Since then the Chief Officers position has been held by an Australian representative from the National Mapping organisation.

"As a result of the group's activities, SCAR made a series of formal recommendations pertaining to subject. Some recommendations aim at ensuring cooperation between the SCAR member nations’ other at standarisation of mapping.

One of the first recommendations was a request for SCAR members to establish National Antarctic Mapping Centres and to urge its members to arrange automatic distribution to these centres of all maps of areas within the zone of interest of SCAR and also of data useful in the compilation of maps. It was also agreed that there should be an exchange of information on unpublished mapping material and that agencies desiring copies could make special application to the originating source.

Another series of recommendations was aimed at ensuring a high degree of standardisation in scales, symbols and projection using in the production of maps and atlases, and other recommendations dealt with aspects of geodesy.

In 1960, the Working Group on Cartography produced a catalogue of topographic, aeronautical charts, and hydrographic charts of the Antarctic published by member nations. The catalogue is kept up to date by periodical lists of new and revised maps. A revised version of the catalogue was produced in 1976 and a further edition is in preparation.

Data exchanged in accordance with the SCAR recommendations have enabled a number of general or thematic atlases of the Antarctic to produced by agencies of SCAR members. In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States produced an extensive map folio series on Antarctica. Another spectacular production was the Soviet Atlas Antarktiki in two volumes. Volume I, first published in 1966, contained the cartographic and diagrammatic matter. Volume 2, first published in 1969, contained the text. It was a successful attempt to present in cartographic form the scientific knowledge of the Antarctic at the time of publication. The Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of Leningrad planned and coordinated this atlas which was produced by Glavnoe Upravlenie Geodezii I Kartografii, Moscow." (Fifield, 1987)

In 1988 the name of the group was changed to the Working Group on Geodesy and Geographic Information (WG-GGI) to better reflect its current activities.

In 1992 Mr A L (Drew) Clarke took over as Chief Officer of the Working Group and injected some much needed enthusiasm back into its activities. Successive restructures and the introduction of Work Programs and Projects with their own goals and specific activities have resulted in a number of key geographic information products, such as the Antarctic Digital Database and the Composite Gazetteer of Antarctic being produced and released. It has also resulted in the Working Group raising its profile both within SCAR and to the broader Antarctic scientific community - particularly the geoscience field which is becoming very interested in the use of GPS and geodetic techniques for measuring and monitoring crustal motion / deformation.

The WG-GGI met as a full group every 2 years at SCAR meetings along with the other 8 SCAR Working Groups and 4 Groups of Specialists (GoS).

At the XXVI SCAR meeting in Tokyo Mr Clarke was replaced as Chief Officer of WG-GGI by Mr John Manning, Group Leader of National Mapping Division's Geodesy Group, within Geoscience Australia.

Also at this meeting the SCAR Delegates received the Report of the ad hoc Group on SCAR Organization and Strategy entitled "Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research: preparing SCAR for 21st Century science in Antarctica." The Delegates adopted in principle all of the 20 Recommendations made in the report. SCAR then produced a White Paper on the implementation of the Review.

At the XXVII SCAR meeting in Shanghai the restructure of SCAR was implemented. This meant that WG-GGI ceased to exist and its activities were amalgamated with those being performed in the Geology and Solid Earth Geophysics research areas.

Formation of the Geoscience Standing Scientific Group (GSSG)

The first meeting of the newly created GSSG was held on Thursday 18 July 2002.

Dr Phil O'Brien from Australia was elected as the inaugural Chief Officer, Prof. Alessandro Capra from Italy was elected as Deputy Chief Officer and Prof Bryan Storey, from New Zealand, was elected as Secretary.

Mr John Manning remained in charge of geodesy and geographic information activities under the newly created Expert Group on Geospatial Information (GIG).

A report on the outcomes from this first meeting was presented to the SCAR Delegates for their consideration. Also see Structure of GSSG and GSSG research areas for further information.


Richard Fifield, (1987) "International Research in the Antarctic", OUP