Report of New Zealand Delegation to the Special Committee on Antarctic Research Third Meeting, Canberra, March. 2–6, 1959
The third meeting of S.C.A.R. was held in Canberra from March 2–6, 1959. Scientific delegates from all twelve member nations (except Chile) and from the I.U.G G. were present, while S.C.O.R. and W.M.O. sent observers. The following advisers also attended: Argentina (1), Australia (7), France (1), New Zealand (1), South Africa (1), United Kingdom (4), U.S.A. (10), and U.S.S R. (1).
Plenary sessions were held on March 2, 3 and 6, and Working Group meetings as follows: Cartography (Convener, G. R. Laclavere), March 3, 4, 5. Meteorology (Convener, H. Wexler), March 3, 4, 5. Biology (Convener, R. Carrick), March 3, 4, 5. Exchange of Information (Convener, G. de Q. Robin), March 4. Upper Atmosphere Physics (Convener, F. J. Jacka), March 5. Programme Amendments (Convener, L. M. Gould), March 5.
As the minutes will be distributed in the near future, this report will only cover the main aspects and decisions reached.
International Co-operation. The delegates were convinced that scientific work should be continued in Antarctica on a large scale, and appreciated the fact that only on a co-operative basis could many research projects be carried out. On this account, information concerning the past and future scientific activities was freely exchanged and arrangements made for the regular exchange of scientific data, maps and publications. Several of the matters discussed, such as mapping of the Antarctic continent and the admission of Poland as a member of S.C.A.R., had obvious political implications. However, the desire to preserve the strong spirit of collaboration in Antarctic research that began during the I.G.Y. enabled such matters to be satisfactorily resolved.
The following facts clearly demonstrate that Chile is the only member of S.C.A.R. which does not appear to be enthusiastic about co-operation in Antarctic research.
1. It is the only country that has not formed a National Antarctic Committee as recommended by S.C.A.R.
2. It was the only country not represented at the Moscow and Canberra S.C.A.R. meetings.
3. It has not appointed representatives to the permanent working groups on Cartography and Radio Communications.
4. It was the only country which did not send a national report to the Canberra meeting concerning its 1959 programme and its proposed programme for 1960. Reports on activities during 1957–58 and its proposed programme for 1959 were, however, sent to the Moscow meeting.
Exchange of Personnel. At the Moscow meeting it was recommended that the exchange of personnel, as during the I.G.Y., should be continued as a general policy, subject to bilateral agreement in every case. The following evidence, presented at the Canberra meeting, showed that this policy had been implemented extremely well and that bilateral negotiations were preferable to arrangements made through the S.C.A.R. secretariat.
1. Two South African meteorologists will work at the U.K. Halley Bay station during 1959.
2. Three U.S.A. scientists will work at Scott Base during 1959.
3. During the 1958–59 summer one U.S.A. biologist was attached to the “Endeavour's” cruise in the Ross Sea and one N.Z. scientist joined a U.S.A. traverse party.
4. Halett Station would continue as a joint U.S.A.-N.Z. station during 1959.
5. During 1959 several U.S.A. scientists would be attached to Wilkes Station (Australia) and one U.S.A. meteorologist to Ellsworth Station (Argentina).
6. Two U.S.A. biologists had worked at Deception Station (Argentina) during the 1958–59 summer.
The French delegate, G. Weill, asked me to look into the possibility of a New Zealander wintering over at Dumont d'Urville and a Frenchman at Scott Base during 1960. He preferred a New Zealander qualified to conduct the auroral radar programme. Because of the
tentative enquiry made to me in Moscow by Burkhanov concerning the interchange of personnel between Scott Base and Mirny, I discussed this matter with M. Rubin, a U.S.A. meteorologist who spent 1958 at Mirny. He confirmed our view that the New Zealander would have to be a first class scientist, a good “ambassador” with a strong character and have taken lessons in Russian for several months before departure for the Antarctic. There is very little scope for geology in the Mirny area, and the most appropriate discipline would be geomagnetism, ionosphere or aurora because the calibre of the U.S.S.R. scientists is not as high in these disciplines compared with meteorology, glaciology, etc. As the U.S.S.R. delegate did not raise with me at Canberra the question of exchange of N.Z. and U.S.S.R. scientists I took no action in the matter.
National Reports on 1959 Activities. Full details are given in the set of national reports which is on circulation to members of the R.D.R.C. and interested scientists and a summary is contained in the minutes of the Canberra meetings. The following information, however, deserves special mention.
1. All countries would continue work in Antarctica during 1959 at much the same level as during the I.G.Y. Some I.G.Y. stations would be closed, but there was an equivalent increase in the scientific work due to the inclusion of biological, medical and geological activities in the post I.G.Y. programmes.
2. Charcot interior station (France), Little America (U.S.A.), and Oasis Pioneerskaya and Sovietskaya (U.S.S.R.) stations were closed in January, 1959.
3. A U.S.S.R. station at the Pole of Inaccessibility was operated from December 14–26, 1958.
4. Komsomolskaya station (U.S.S.R.) may be closed during the 1959 winter.
5. It was not known at the time of the meeting whether the U.S.S.R. attempt to establish a new coastal station, Lazarev, at approximately 10° E. had been successful.
6. Oasis had been handed over to the Polish Republic which intended to put in a wintering party during the 1959–60 summer.
7. A French station on Kerguelen Island will be operated for 18 months, commencing in April, 1959.
8. Extensive glaciological traverses were carried Out by the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. during the 1958–59 summer.
National Reports on Proposed 1960 Activities. 1. All countries plan to continue their scientific work during 1960 at much the same level as during 1959.
2. Glaciological traverses are planned by the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. during the 1959–60 summer season. Details of the U.S.A. plans have not been finalised, but the U.S.S.R., is planning the very long traverse from Vostock-South Pole-Pole of Inaccessibility-Lazarev.
Antarctic Symposium at Buenos Aires, November 16–21, 1959.—The following extract is taken from the statement presented by the Argentinian delegate.: “The Antarctic Symposium of Buenos Aires is to be held between November 16 and 21, 1959, with the object to have the first scientific and technical results of the Antarctic activities carried out during the International Geophysical Year (I.G.Y.) presented, to contribute in encouraging Antarctic research and to give an opportunity to Antarctic investigators to make personal contacts.”
Following discussions at Canberra it was agreed that the biological and geological sciences would also be included in the scope of the symposium.
N.B.—The Argentine Government will pay the return transportation expenses of two delegates from New Zealand to Buenos Aires and sojourn expenses for ten days while in Argentina.
Polish Application for Membership of S.C.A. R. A party of six Polish scientists took over Oasis Station from the U.S.S.R. in January, 1959, remained about two weeks and returned by a Russian ship to Poland. After considerable discussion it was agreed (the U.S.S.R. delegate abstained) that until the Polish 1960 wintering party arrived in the Antarctic during the 1959–60 summer, Poland could not claim to be “actively engaged in Antarctic research” as required under the S.C.A.R. constitution. On this account, the S.C.A.R. Executive Committee was given authority to accept Poland as a member on receipt of cabled advice that the 1960 wintering party had landed.
Report of Finance Sub-Committee. A copy of this report has been sent to the Secretary of the R.D.R.C. The 1958 subscription rate of 500 dollars per member nation will apply in 1959. The finance sub-committee will review the financial position at the end of 1959, and if any increase in the subscription rate is required for 1960 it will be based on the principles established at the Hague meeting.
It was agreed “that National adherents to S.C.A.R. should pay their annual subscriptions for each calendar year by June 30 of that year Members who have not paid these subscriptions by June 30 of the following year shall cease to be members of S.C.A.R.” The general tenor of the discussions was to keep the Secretariat activities and expenses as low as possible.
Cartography. As a result of a resolution passed at the Moscow meeting in August, 1958, a permanent Working Group on Antarctic Cartography had been established to “study
ways and means of producing a map of Antarctica on the scale of 1:3,000,000″. R. G. Dick is the New Zealand representative on this working group. Agreement was reached at Canberra on many of the technical details (concerning a map on this scale and maps of special areas on larger scales) such as scales, spheroid, type of projection, sheet lines and contour interval. However, it was not possible to finalise an internationally acceptable set of conventional map signs which will, therefore, be done by correspondence and presented at the next meeting of the Working Group (probably August or September, 1960).
The U S.S R. delegate considered that a start should be made now on the collating of information and preparation of the 1:3,000,000 map of Antarctica instead of waiting until the air photography of the whole area had been completed and all appropriate ground control points had been established. He also recommended that the area should be divided into various sheets so that each sheet would carry value as a map in itself, and, if joined, would make a complete map. The responsibility for producing the various sheets could be allocated to appropriate nations. Because it would take time to finalise an internationally acceptable set of conventional map signs and no large scale mapping programmes were planned by any country during the 1959–60 summer season, it was decided that the U.S.S.R. proposals should be referred to the Antarctic Mapping Centres of the member nations for their views and the matter given further consideration at the next meeting of the Working Group.
The U.S.A. delegate reported that a plan to map the whole of Antarctica on a scale of 1:6,000,000 and all except the relatively featureless polar cap on a scale of 1:1,000,000 and have the maps available within six years of commencing the project had been approved by the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. and submitted to the Government for consideration. Because of the extensive preparations necessary, the project could not effectively commence until the 1960–61 summer or possibly as late as the 1961–62 summer.
Although there are still some technical details requiring agreement, the work of the Cartography Group has so far been most successful in achieving agreed procedures.
Biological and Medical Sciences. It was agreed that marine biology is an integral part of oceanography because the interpretation of marine biological studies requires physical oceanographical data.
The necessity to integrate all types of oceanographical research was stressed both from the scientific point of view and because they all require the same expensive facility—namely, a research vessel.
The Terrestrial Biology and Medical Research programme could not be formulated at the Moscow meeting because suitably qualified scientists were not present. A comprehensive programme was formulated at the Canberra meeting covering botany, zoology, physiology, behaviour and microbiology. Full particulars will be included in the minutes.
Upper Atmosphere Physics. No major changes were made to the programme formulated at the Moscow meeting. The necessity for continuing visual observations of aurora because of the following limitations of all-sky cameras was discussed.
What is recorded depends on film type, exposure and the optics used.
Colours and structure are not usually discernible.
Discrimination between aurora and cloud is difficult, especially in the presence of moonlight, etc.
The final decision was that visual observations should be made every 15 miutes, especially during Regular World Days and Regular World Intervals, to supplement all-sky camera observations with the objective of drawing synoptic maps. Detailed recommendations on suitable observing procedures will be prepared by the S.C.A.R. reporter for Upper Atmosphere Physics (Dr. O. Schneider).
The need for early publication of the variations in the three components of the geomagnetic field (dominantly hourly values) and the Q indices for all stations was stressed.
Reporters. The Secretary stated that on many occasions he has to consult specialists in order to implement S.C.A.R. resolutions. On this account, the following reporters were appointed to assist him when necessary: Oceanography, M. M. Somov (U.S.S.R.); Meteorology, W. J. Gibbs (Australia), Geology, R. W. Willett (N.Z.); Glaciology, A. P. Crary (U.S.A.); Terrestrial Biology and Medicine, R. Carrick (Australia); Upper Atmosphere Physics, O. Schneider (Argentina); Seismology and Gravity, K. Wadati (Japan); Cartography, G. R. Laclavere (France); Communications, A. H. Sheffield (U.K.).
Exchange of Information. The New Zealand delegation pointed out that the national reports (covering the work carried out during the past year and the programme for the coming year) presented at each S.C.A.R. meeting were unsatisfactory for the following reasons:
1. There is no uniformity in the format and contents.
2. The reports on activities carried out during the past year do not meet the requirements of an “index” to the work carried out. At present, such information which is vital for planning and research purposes is often not available until formal publication several years later.
3. National reports do not contain a list of scientific papers published during the past year.
4. The S.C.A.R. meeting was held too early in the year for the past year's activities to be written up satisfactorily. The next year's programmes also were not definite at this early date.
These difficulties would be overcome if S.C.A.R. meetings were held in August or September each year.
It was agreed that reports on the past year's activities should be distributed by National Committees not later than the end of July each year, beginning in 1960. These reports will cover one operational year up to the time of change-over of personnel at each base and to the completion of the summer voyage in the case of ship reports. Such reports will be brief, factual statements of the scientific work carried out, but are not intended to cover presentation of results. The material to be included will be drawn up by the Secretary, with the assistance of the reporters. Each report will include a bibliography of scientific papers published during the period covered by the report.
For the sake of completeness, a similar report covering the years 1957 and 1958 should be prepared and distributed by November, 1959.
Reports on activities planned for the coming year should be circulated not later than the end of June to all S.C.A.R. delegates and National Committees.
Meteorology. The general interest in reporting networks, communications, and the International Antarctic Analysis Centre made the Meteorological Working Group the largest of the meeting. Ten countries and the World Meteorological Organisation were represented at most of the meetings.
Not many changes are envisaged in reporting stations on the continent, but the meeting recommended strongly that investigations be made of floating and other types of automatic weather stations in order to fill in gaps in the networks on the continent itself, but more particularly in the surrounding oceans.
The meeting accepted with gratitude the Australian offer to set up the International Antarctic Analysis Centre (I.A.A.C.) in Melbourne. It aims to prepare maps to 30° S. Australia is unable from its own resources to provide sufficient professional staff for the Centre, and had sought assistance from other countries. The United States announced that they were attaching one analyst, but other countries were not in a position at the meeting to make announcements. From the tenor of remarks, however, it would seem that sufficient assistance will be forthcoming at least in the first year. Nevertheless, it will be some time before the I.A.A.C. is in full operation. Whilst wishing the Centre well, New Zealand is still rather doubtful if it will be really successful as an operational meteorological centre.
In order to support its deepfreeze flying and shipping activities the United States was obviously keen to see the Centre functioning as an operational centre, and to this end is ready to assist materially in the provision of the requisite communications. The American navy will maintain their existing meteorological communications centre at the Naval Air Facility, McMurdo Sound, and will install a radio teletype link from there to Melbourne. Until this is installed, say towards the end of this year, New Zealand has agreed to continuation of the passing of the Antarctic weather information to Melbourne through Auckland.
Communications within the Antarctic are still a problem, as at present the position is quite unsatisfactory insofar as the Weddell Sea area is concerned. It was agreed that the Argentine station at Ellsworth should become a Mother Station for collecting information for that area, the Falkland Islands and South America and passing it to Melbourne, via McMurdo. Until the link is improved there seems little prospect of Melbourne being able to obtain sufficient information promptly enough to carry operational analysis for the whole of the Antarctic and surrounding waters.
The question of the distribution of the analysed data from Melbourne to Antarctic stations was not fully resolved. Australia hopes to arrange for facsimile broadcasts, but there may be difficulty in obtaining sufficient time on an appropriate broadcasting station. In the meantime the information can be sent to McMurdo Sound either by teletype or facsimile and passed from there to interested stations. There is only limited radio time available, however, on the channels within the Antarctic, and only experience will show if the scheme will be satisfactory.
Next S.C.A.R. Meeting. The next meeting of S.C.A.R. will be held either in Paris or Cambridge (U.K.), late in August or early in September, 1960. The final decisions will be made by the Executive Committee.
Recommendations. 1. The selection of the New Zealand delegates to the Antractic Svmposium in Buenos Aires should be finalised as soon as possible.
2. The New Zealand attitude to an exchange of personnel between Scott Base and Dumont d'Urville station during 1960 should be discussed at the next R.D.R.C. meeting.
3. The 1961 S.C.A.R. meeting should be held in New Zealand.
E. I. Robertson R. G. Simmers,
March 31, 1959.
N. Z. Delegates.