Australia’s Antarctic Islands Have Been Given Names

Video highlights from Continent 7: Antarctica

Inspiration for the new monikers came from explorers, animals and planets.

Dagger Island and Cape Fortress may sound like locations from the latest James Bond movie, but they’re now officially on the map.

Seventeen islands and eleven features within the Australian Antarctic Territory have officially been named, the Department of the Environment announced this week.

Many of the islands and features were named for what their shapes resemble, including Ribbon Island, Rhino Island, Crocodile Island and The Cauldron, which resembles a large amphitheatre.

Rauer group of islands

An aerial view of the Rauer group of islands [Image: James Croucher]

Uranus Island and Neptune Island were named after remote planets due to the distance between them and the rest of the Rauer Group of islands.

The newly-named Rescue Island refers to the important role the island played during a 1983 operation to rescue three scientists who would otherwise have been left stranded on Torckler Island.

Davis research station

Davis research station, showing the newly named Abatus Bay [Image: David Barringhaus]

Carey Nunatak is named after Samuel Warren Carey AO, the founding professor of geology at the University of Tasmania who was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to the field of geology.

The Australian Antarctic Division’s icy runway, which has been operating without a name since opening in 2008, has been christened Wilkins Aerodrome, after Sir Hubert Wilkins, a pioneer of Antarctic aviation and exploration.

Suggestions for the names came from past expeditioners, scientists and the general public.

Sunset over Wilkins Aerodrome

Sunset over Wilkins Aerodrome, named after Sir Hubert Wilkins, a pioneer of Antarctic aviation and exploration [Image: Gordon Tait]

Who Owns Antarctica?

In short, everybody and nobody.

Antarctic is governed globally through the Antarctic Treaty system, which was signed in 1969 by the 12 countries who were active in the region at the time, including Australia and New Zealand.

The treaty states that “Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only” and “Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available.”

Among the original signatories to the treaty, seven countries – Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom – have territorial claims to parts of the region, some of which overlap.

The below map shows the national claims to Antarctic Territory. However, some parties to the treaty do not recognise any territorial claims.

Antarctic Territory Map

[Image: Australian Antarctic Data Centre]

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