Sunday 22 September 2013

Bob the Island

I was reading the other day about Harry 'Chips' McNish, who was part of the crew on the epic 1500km voyage which Shackleton made from Elephant Island to South Georgia in an open boat after his ship Endurance was crushed in the pack-ice in 1916. McNish died destitute in New Zealand in 1930 aged 56.  A good many years later the United Kingdom Antarctic Place-Names Committee named a small island near South Georgia after him on the recommendation of the British Antarctic Survey.

It made me wonder about who gets appointed to such a committee, what the qualifications are and how much you get paid.  Because I'm ready and willing to do my bit for such a venture . . . if the pay and conditions are satisfactory.  I'd name a couple of Capes and Mountains after myself:  Bob Glacier, Scientist Peak; and then start in on my friends and relations: Rissoles Bay, Cape Beloved, Daughters' Creek, that sort of thing.

pfffffft - my delusions of nomenclature collapsed in a heap when I discovered that another quango called SCAR the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research maintains a searchable Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica with notes and locations of all the named places down in The Great White and there is already a Bob Island: "Rocky island 1 mi long and 145 m high, lying 4 mi SE of Cape Errera, Wiencke Island, in the Palmer Archipelago." But they aren't 100% sure where it is.  The Yanks think it's at 64° 56' 00.0" S 63° 26' 00.0" , the Brits reckon it's 64° 57' 00.0" S 63° 27' 00.0" W. At that latitude a minute (1/60th of a degree) is about 1km in the difference.  So I hunted it down on Google Maps, where it looks a bit like a cloud - maybe it floats around?
It was named for  Robert "Bob" Frederic, nephew of Adrien de Gerlache, leader of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1898 who surveyed and photographed a number of islands in the Palmer Archipelago to the West of the peninsula.  By the rules of priority it should be named Îlot Famine.  But there was a nephew to be honoured and nobody died in the famine. It has, for a small, frozen, uninhabited island acquired a number of other cognomens.  It is claimed, along with the whole Palmer Peninsula by Chile (Isla Poisson and/or Isla Poison), Argentina ( Isla Bob, Isla Bailey and/or Isla Bayley) and the UK (Bob Island).  If anyone goes visiting, bring me back a pebble from the beach, please.

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