A Century of "Discovery": Antarctic exploration and the Southern Ocean: Abstracts
Papers presented at an international symposium, held at the Southampton Oceanography Centre, 28–30 June 2004, published in association with the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton and the British Antarctic Survey.
Associate editors: Professor G. Griffiths and Professor D. W. H. Walton
1. A century of Antarctic science; planning and serendipity
G. E. FOGG
The British National Antarctic Expedition planned with discreditable bickering, sailed for the Antarctic in 1901 on the Discovery. The venture was well equipped and commanded by R. F. Scott who, without scientific training himself, was nevertheless remarkably in empathy with his scientists. The expedition was foremost among those dispatched around the same time in establishing basic knowledge of the continent. Followed by the second Scott expedition and those of Shackleton and Mawson, a cadre of able and enthusiastic scientists was established.
The second involvement of the Discovery in Antarctic exploration was planned without quarrels and with unusual understanding of science by a government department, resulting in a massive accumulation of knowledge about the Southern Ocean. United States expeditions began in 1928, introducing modern technology, thereby extending greatly the scope of Antarctic research. The Norwegian-British-Swedish expedition of 1949–1952 put planned science before geographical exploration. The International Geophysical Year of 1957–1958, supported by governments and planned by international committees, achieved great success. Science has flourished in Antarctica with unplanned and serendipitous findings emerging, for example, the structure of the magnetosphere, collection of meteorites by ice movements, the microbial life of the apparently sterile Dry Valleys and the discovery of the ozone “hole”.
KEY WORDS: Discovery – science policy – Discovery Investigations – Southern Ocean – magnetosphere – meteorites – ozone “hole”
2. Ships employed in Arctic ice: Discovery’s past, 1602 to 1876
This paper looks back to the predecessors of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery, which was built for the National Antarctic Expedition 1901–1904. The period covered is 1602 to 1876. An account is given of the exploring voyages of those ships named Discovery which sailed to the Arctic, including those of George Waymouth, Henry Hudson, William Baffin, James Knight, Christopher Middleton, James Cook, George Vancouver and Sir George Nares. In addition brief mention is made of several ships owned by the East India Company, also named Discovery, which sailed in lower latitudes.
KEY WORDS: Henry Hudson – William Baffin – Christopher Middleton – James Cook – George Vancouver – Sir George Nares – Robert Falcon Scott – exploration
3. Discovery Investigations: an early attempt at ecologically sustainable development?
This paper aims to pay tribute to the work of three people, Sidney Frederick Harmer, Ernest Rowland Darnley and Stanley Wells Kemp who followed and amplified the ideas put forward by Jens Andreas Mørch in attempts to preserve the whaling industry and learn all there was to know about whales and their environment. Both Harmer and Kemp were keen taxonomists and diligent collectors of everything biological. Their approach, which was to reject nothing and to investigate everything as it might be useful one day, led to one of the largest oceanographic investigations of the first half of the twentieth century. They also provided part of the origins of both the British Antarctic Survey and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
KEY WORDS: South Georgia – whales – oceanography – S. F. Harmer – J. A. Mørch – E. R. Darnley – S. W. Kemp.
4. Discovery at sea; a heady mix of scientists, ships and sailors
A. L. RICE
The success or failure of science at sea depends on many factors, including the suitability of the vessel as a research platform and the support of the scientist’s shipmates. This paper touches on a few of the classic examples of unsuitable ships provided for scientists and explorers, such as Wyville Thomson and Carpenter in the Lightning in 1868 and the relatively minor shortcomings of Scott’s Discovery. But it concentrates on some of the personality clashes on research or exploration voyages ranging from Edmund Halley’s experience of an insubordinate mate in the Paramore in 1698, to Nicolas Baudin’s appalling relations with almost all of his companions in the Géographe and Naturaliste in 1800–1803. Since human nature does not change it is suggested that seagoing scientists should pay at least as much attention to the personalities of their prospective shipmates as to the characteristics of the ships in which they expect to sail.
KEY WORDS: Joseph Banks – Nicolas Baudin – James Cook – Thomas Huxley – Edmund Halley – François Péron.
5. Terra Antarctica: a history of cognition and landscape
WILLIAM L. FOX
The evolution of our perception of the Antarctic from an unknown space to a comprehensible place can be traced through the evolution of its portrayal in visual art. Early expedition artists relied upon the topographically-based aesthetic traditions of northern European landscape painting as the polar region was first charted, and the continent’s outlines were traced in coastal profiles during the late eighteenth through mid-nineteenth centuries. This pragmatic approach with its close ties to cartographic needs was later superseded by increasingly symbolic depictions of the environment. The artists accompanying Scott, Shackleton and Mawson, for example, often portrayed the Antarctic as an historic stage for heroic action. With the International Geophysical Year in 1957–1958, modernist aesthetics reached the continent. Visiting artists sponsored by national programs began to abstract the environment in photography and painting. By the turn of the century, sculptors and installation artists had helped bring the Antarctic more fully into the international cultural arena as a subject for contemporary art. This aesthetic shift is both a symptom of, and part of the process for, the transformation of a terra incognita into a terra Antarctica.
KEY WORDS: art – William Hodges – Frank Hurley – painting – photography – Herbert Ponting – Eliot Porter – Emil Schulthess – Edward Wilson.
6. The Poles: information for exploration
R. K. HEADLAND
The development of knowledge from exploration and research in both polar regions is indicated, with particular emphasis on international co-ordination of scientific investigation and dissemination of literature. Periods where this was essentially national are contrasted with current circumstances of work in the Arctic and Antarctic where economy and efficiency of effort are particularly important. Historical stages and phases of exploration are distinguished. Most exploration has been governmental but contributions by many private expeditions are also significant.
KEY WORDS: Arctic – Antarctic – history – geography – Heroic Age – exploration – bibliography – International Polar Year.
7. From natural history to biodiversity: collections of discovery
PHILIP S. RAINBOW
The Natural History Museum, London, houses more than 70,000 jars with more than 5 million specimens of marine animals that constitute the Discovery collections. The Discovery collections are the specimens from the twentieth-century expeditions of British oceanographic ships, a series that began in 1904 with the return of the SY Discovery from the Antarctic. These marine collections are an irreplaceable asset in the history of biological oceanography, spanning a time of changes – change in the use of such collections and dramatic global environmental change. Collections of animals have graduated from being objects of wonder to satisfy curiosity to be essential reference collections for the taxonomy and nomenclature of the world’s diversity, underpinning attempts to decipher patterns of marine biodiversity and evolutionary relationships. The Discovery collections offer a record of oceanic life as it was, before the demise of the great whales, before the ozone “hole” and before global warming. The foresight of the collectors of this unique archive can be rewarded by their use as an active research tool, using modern molecular and analytical techniques, and others yet to be imagined.
KEY WORDS: The Natural History Museum, London – Darwin Centre – Antarctica – taxonomy – plankton – molecular analysis.
8. The foundations of Antarctic glaciology
RICHARD L. CAMERON
Heroic treks inland by Scott, Shackleton, and Amundsen in the early 1900s demonstrated the immensity of the Antarctic ice cover. But it has taken a century to estimate its volume and elucidate its intricate dynamics. Three significant milestones in the development of Antarctic glaciology have been: the memoir Glaciology by Charles Wright and Raymond Priestly arising from the Terra Nova expedition (1910–1913); the Norwegian-British-Swedish Expedition (1949–1952); the International Geophysical Year (1957–1958). Robert Scott thought glaciology so important he appointed a physicist as glaciologist (Wright) and to work with him, a scientist with previous experience of Antarctic ice (Priestley). Their compendium is a classic work. The Norwegian-British-Swedish Expedition was the first true international scientific expedition to Antarctica. Their studies provided the first clear picture of the Antarctic glacial environment, leading to the concept that sea level is controlled principally by the state of the Antarctic ice sheet. Glaciology was one of the main studies in the International Geophysical Year. Research was conducted at coastal and inland stations and on over-snow traverses. Measurements on traverses provided the first glimpse of the surface elevation, magnitude of the ice volume, snow accumulation, and mean annual surface temperatures.
KEY WORDS: Terra Nova – Norwegian-British-Swedish Expedition – International Geophysical Year – traverses – snow accumulation – mean annual air temperature – ice thickness.
9. Modern glaciology in Antarctica
D. G. VAUGHAN
Two developments in the late 1960s ushered in a new era of glaciology in Antarctica and radically increased the scope and importance of glaciological studies.
On 29 January 1968, the first deep ice-core to reach bedrock in Antarctica was drilled with a cable-suspended electromechanical drill at Byrd Station. The core began our tapping of the best natural archive of global climate change yet discovered. Many other cores have since been recovered, including the famous Vostok ice-core that charted the march of climate change over four glacial cycles on the interior of East Antarctica and in the last years this has been extended to eight glacial cycles by a European group drilling at Dome C (The EPICA community, 2004 Eight glacial cycles from an Antarctic ice core. Nature 429: 623–628). These cores provided the evidence to link greenhouse-gas concentrations with global temperature and remain the foundation of our understanding of climate change.
Around the same time, airborne radio-echo sounding techniques became practical which largely saw the end of reconnaissance mapping of the ice sheet. Prior to this spot measurement of ice-sheet topography and thickness was only possible through the efforts of a few tough individuals engaged in long, dangerous traverses of the ice sheet. The introduction of airborne sounding, made it possible to gather data quickly and continuously along long traverses through the Antarctic interior. In only a few seasons of collaborative effort by the United Kingdom’s Scott Polar Research Institute, the Technical University of Denmark and the US National Science Foundation, a large part of East Antarctica was criss-crossed with hundreds of thousands of kilometres of flight-track. The data collected revealed sub-glacial mountains, vast lakes and a rich architecture of internal layers that record the history of the ice sheet. Those data are still in frequent use today, and marked a turning point in developing an understanding of the present state and history of the Antarctic ice sheet, and they provided a framework for efforts to simulate past and future ice-sheet evolution using numerical models.
Since the 1960s, glaciologists working in Antarctica have gone from strength to strength, but they now have even more tools at their disposal. The most significant of these being satellites provide new perspectives at a continental-scale and previously unimagined precision. In the last ten years, glaciologists have ceased, simply to make uncertain assessments of whether the ice sheet in balance or not. Today, regional imbalances is being measured directly and with impressive precision (DAVIS, C. H., YONGHONG, L., McCONNELL, J. R., FREY, M. M. and HANNA, E., 2005 Snowfall-driven growth in Antarctic ice sheet mitigates recent sea-level rise. Science 308: 1898–1901). At the same time, our research goals have changed, we are now focused on understanding the specific causes of observed changes and predicting their future. These changes may appear subtle, but their effects may eventually be felt across the world. The Antarctic ice sheet is the single most important control on global sea level and changes in the volume of the Antarctic ice sheet may one day affect national economies and the lives of countless individuals living in coastal communities.
The importance of the Antarctic ice sheet within the climate system and as a herald of global change is established. Antarctic glaciology not only promises to be exciting for the glaciologist but also central to issues of policy-making in the coming century.
10. From Discovery to discovery: the hydrology of the Southern Ocean, 1885–1937
ERIC L. MILLS
The work at sea of George Deacon on the RRS William Scoresby and RRS Discovery II between 1927 and 1937 resulted in the publication of “The hydrology of the Southern Ocean” (1937) and a description of the Southern Ocean and the names of its water masses that are still in use. Deacon’s interpretations were publicized by Sverdrup, Johnson and Fleming in the text The oceans (1942), but their origin is in earlier work, mainly German, between 1898 and 1922, in which Gerhard Schott, Erich von Drygalski, Alfred Merz, and Georg Wüst, and especially Wilhelm Brennecke, added significantly to knowledge of the meridional circulation of the Atlantic Ocean. Deacon’s great contribution was to systematize the physical oceanography of the Southern Ocean and to show that it was part of a global system.
KEY WORDS: George Deacon – Discovery Investigations – meridional currents – German oceanography – The oceans – global ocean circulation.
11. Southern Ocean circulation
STUART A. CUNNINGHAM
The Discovery Investigations of the 1930s provided a compelling description of the main elements of the Southern Ocean circulation. Over the intervening years, this has been extended to include ideas on ocean dynamics based on physical principles. In the modern description, the Southern Ocean has two main circulations that are intimately linked: a zonal (west-east) circumpolar circulation and a meridional (north-south) overturning circulation. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current transports around 140 million cubic metres per second west to east around Antarctica. This zonal circulation connects the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, transferring and blending water masses and properties from one ocean basin to another. For the meridional circulation, a key feature is the ascent of waters from depths of around 2,000 metres north of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to the surface south of the Current. In so doing, this circulation connects deep ocean layers directly to the atmosphere. The circumpolar zonal currents are not stable: meanders grow and separate, creating eddies and these eddies are critical to the dynamics of the Southern Ocean, linking the zonal circumpolar and meridional circulations. As a result of this connection, a global three-dimensional ocean circulation exists in which the Southern Ocean plays a central role in regulating the Earth’s climate.
KEY WORDS: ocean circulation – hydrography – Antarctic Circumpolar Current – climate – meridional overturning – eddies.
12. Southern Ocean pelagic ecosystems
MARTIN V. ANGEL
In 1902 the Discovery sailed into an ocean that was almost totally unknown biologically. Even so, its living resources of seals had been extensively hunted almost to the point of extinction. Exploitation of the whales was about to begin. The expedition resulted in the discovery of 23 new zooplankton species; 5% of the presently known mesozooplankton fauna. The results were worked up within six years, and paved the way for the next century of research. The ultimate target was to provide the scientific basis for the sustainable management of the Southern Ocean especially the whale stocks. This paper summarizes the knowledge base at the start of the expedition and how the various strands of research became woven into our understanding of the biological oceanography of the Southern Ocean. The science has been both technology driven and technology limited. It failed to convince decision-makers in time to prevent the gross overexploitation of the whales, but the Antarctic Treaty now provides a framework of protection. However, within the last two decades we have come to realize that it is not just whales that are at risk, and that the remoteness of the Southern Ocean is proving no protection against the pervasiveness of anthropogenic influences.
KEY WORDS: anthropogenic impacts – plankton dynamics – quantitative sampling – whaling – zooplankton.
13. Southern Ocean pelagic ecosystems: the era of conservation
The decline of the great whales by the early 1960s allied to the emergence of the “new order” of ocean governance under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which limited the availability of some of the most productive fishing grounds by placing them under Coastal state jurisdiction, meant that many traditional fishing nations were looking to alternative targets. Antarctic krill, which in the era of Discovery Investigations had been studied as the whale food, now became a target for commercial fishing along with some fin fish species. Major concerns were expressed at the potential difficulties that might arise, not just for krill but also dependent species, should over-fishing on krill occur. This led to the Biological Investigations of Marine Antarctic Systems and Stocks (BIOMASS) and subsequently to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Implementing an ecosystem approach by CCAMLR, the first to be included in any fisheries convention, has provided challenges. More recently the questions of surveillance and monitoring of the fleets in the lucrative toothfish fishery has been the major concern. Developments in fishing, monitoring and the provision of scientific advice for management are discussed.
KEY WORDS: whaling – krill – toothfish – CCAMLR – BIOMASS – ecosystem approach.
14. Antarctic meteorology and climatology: an unfolding story of
Early explorers and sealers took home from the Southern Ocean tales of tempests, huge waves and massive icebergs. Many recorded in their logbooks and narratives observations of wind, weather and sea state. Meteorological measurements were made on some early voyages but were often of doubtful quality. Not until the 1840s were reliable meteorological observations made near the Antarctic continent. During the First International Polar Year, observations were made near Cape Horn and on South Georgia. From 1899 onwards, bases were established on the Antarctic continent and meteorological observing programmes organized. Extremely strong winds were discovered. Data sets of climatological value became available and data from aloft were obtained. After the First World War, wireless telegraphy was used increasingly to broadcast observations from ships and shore bases to distant analysis centres. During the Second International Polar Year, thousands of meteorological observations were made aboard ships on the Southern Ocean. After the Second World War, the pace of progress quickened, especially during the International Geophysical Year. Research stations and the International Antarctic Analysis Centre were established. Weather satellites, automatic weather stations, global telecommunication networks and powerful computers revolutionized Antarctic meteorology and climatology.
KEY WORDS: exploration – expeditions – science – weather – observations – instruments – snow – ice – temperature – wind.
15. Aspects of modern Antarctic meteorology and climatology
Great advances have been made in recent years in our understanding of the weather of the Antarctic and how the climate of the continent varies on a range of time-scales. The observations from the stations are still the most accurate meteorological measurements that we have, but satellites have been important in providing data for remote parts of the continent and the Southern Ocean. With the large amount of data that is available today weather forecasts are much more accurate than just a few years ago and can provide valuable guidance up to several days ahead over the Southern Ocean and Antarctic coastal region. However, predicting the weather for the interior of the Antarctic is still very difficult. Recent research has shown that the climate of the Antarctic is affected by tropical atmospheric and oceanic climate cycles, such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, but the links are complex. The picture of climate change across the Antarctic during the last 50 years is complex, with only the Antarctic Peninsula showing a significant warming. By the end of the twenty-first century near-surface air temperatures across much of the Antarctic continent are expected to increase by several degrees. A small increase in precipitation is also expected.
KEY WORDS: Antarctica – climate – climate change – temperature – weather – weather forecasting.
16. Surveying terrestrial magnetism in time and space.
Charts marked with the lines of magnetic variation have been published since Halley’s Atlantic chart of 1701. It was already known that the location of the magnetic poles shifted over time, and that the north and south poles were not diametrically opposite. As more seafarers penetrated the Southern Ocean, isogons on the charts were extended southwards with greater confidence.
At sea variation was measured by comparing compass direction with the Sun’s midday shadow. In polar regions, where horizontal force is too weak to attract a compass needle, the location of the pole was sought by observing the inclination of a dip needle swinging in the magnetic meridian, which would hang vertically at the pole. The Fox dip circle, developed in 1834, was the first instrument capable of measuring dip and intensity at sea, and allowed James Clark Ross to predict the location of the South Magnetic Pole.
In 1902 Discovery’s crew landed an observatory ashore, but a trek on to the plateau failed to reach the magnetic pole. Success came in 1909 during Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition, when T. Edgeworth David’s party reached the zone of maximum dip. Over the following years data from photographic magnetometers recording declination, vertical and horizontal intensity were routinely made at the various national bases round Antarctica; they contributed to our knowledge of the Earth’s internal magnetism and on the solar influences.
KEY WORDS: geomagnetism – Arctic – Antarctica – magnetic instruments – South Magnetic Pole – Carnegie.
17. The Magnetic South Pole: its influence on the atmosphere
The unique magnetic field configuration in the Southern Hemisphere has led to important new insights into upper atmospheric processes in the latter part of the twentieth century. Novel findings include how thermospheric winds with speeds of around 300 metres per second were determined for the first time, and how the ionosphere is undergoing significant cooling as a result of increasing carbon dioxide concentration. The Southern Hemisphere has the particular advantage over the Northern Hemisphere for such studies because the magnetic pole is much further displaced from the geographic pole in the south compared with the counterparts in the north. This allows effects controlled by the magnetic field to be separately identified from those caused by solar radiation.
The Sun’s highly gusty atmosphere is continually buffeting the outermost envelope of the Earth’s atmosphere. Some solar wind energy is guided by the Earth’s magnetic field into the upper atmosphere of the polar regions, where it causes the spectacular aurora, heats the atmosphere and changes its chemical composition. These effects are largest in the South Atlantic sector, where the magnetic field is weaker, and changing faster than anywhere else in the world, resulting in higher fluxes of energetic particles impacting the atmosphere. It is these processes that link solar variability to the Earth’s climate change, but the detailed mechanisms are poorly understood and not yet quantified. Data from the south are likely to be of great importance in establishing the links between solar variability and climate change.
18. The role of Antarctica in the development of plate tectonic theories: from Scott to the present
M. R. A. THOMSON and ALAN P. M. VAUGHAN
One hundred years of geological research in and around Antarctica since Scott’s Discovery expedition of 1901–1904 have seen the continent move from a great unknown at the margins of human knowledge to centre stage in the development of plate tectonics, continental break-up and global climate evolution. Research in Antarctica has helped make the Gondwana supercontinent a scientific fact. Discoveries offshore have provided some of the key evidence for plate tectonics and extended the evidence of global glaciation back over 30 million years. Studies of Antarctica’s tectonic evolution have helped elucidate the details of continental break-up, and the continent continues to provide the best testing ground for competing scientific models. Antarctica’s deep past has provided support for the “Snowball Earth” hypothesis, and for the pre-Gondwana, Rodinia supercontinent. Current research is focusing on Antarctica’s subglacial lakes and basins, the possible causes of Antarctic glaciation, the evolution of its surrounding oceanic and mantle gateways, and its sub-ice geological composition and structure. None of this would have been possible without maps, and these have provided the foundation stone for Antarctic research. New mapping and scientific techniques, and new research platforms hold great promise for further major contributions from Antarctica to Earth system science in the next century.
KEY WORDS: Discovery – Gondwana – continental drift – Du Toit – Wegener.
19. Antarctica and the global jigsaw – a centennial perspective
D. W. H. WALTON
Historical perspectives have shown how several scientific disciplines have developed their Antarctic component over the last century. Antarctic science has changed from a secondary activity of privately organised expeditions by a few countries to a major international activity supported by over 30 countries and making a major contribution to Earth System Science and the improvement of global climate models. What was once a backwater of science is now in the main stream and the seminal contributions of the Discovery expedition and others from the “Heroic Age” of exploration are now becoming clear.
KEY WORDS: Discovery – “Heroic Age” – Antarctic exploration – polar science – Southern Ocean – Earth System Science.