Place naming is really important. Along with maps and scientific stations, it is one of the most visible markers of national presence; every country with interests in Antarctica has its own procedures. The map is covered with thousands of names representing geographical features. These reveal lots about a country’s exploratory, scientific, monarchical, geographical, political and iconographic traditions. According to the Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica, Britain was responsible for nearly 5,000 names, with the US leading the pack with over 13,000. New Zealand put Maori place names on its maps of its polar territory, the Ross Dependency. Even smaller polar operators such as Bulgaria are responsible for hundreds of place names.

However, there are 3,000 places that have multiple names through translation/transliteration, or different names. The Antarctic Peninsula is called Graham Land (UK), Tierra San Martin (Argentina), Palmer Peninsula (US) and Tierra de O’Higgins (Chile). In 1964, the UK and US agreed to a new strategy, which effectively divided the peninsula into two parts and named accordingly. The northern section was called Graham Land and the southern portion became known as Palmer Land on their maps. So agreement is possible – but the US and UK were, and remain, close allies.

In the UK, the Antarctic Place-names Committee (APC) still considers place name proposals, and agreed “Queen Elizabeth Land”. The APC only addresses the British Antarctic Territory (BAT) and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and liaises regularly with the equivalent committees in Norway, Australia, New Zealand, France and the US. Argentina and Chile also have their own equivalents, and these place-naming committees interact with one another. So while the naming of Queen Elizabeth Land might not have been considered provocative by the British authorities, this 94,000 square mile territory is at the heart of the contested geopolitics of Antarctica.

Place names are markers of national sovereignty and symbols of polar nationalism.

K.Dodds, The Telegraph, 19 de diciembre 2012….html



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