Book Description
Introduction
A-Z Entries List
Thematic Entries
Contributors
Sample Entries
Reviews
Order Information
Contact Us
Routledge Library Reference Home


(Note: Introduction is taken from uncorrected proofs. Changes may be made prior to publication.)

The Antarctic is unique: geographically, politically, and scientifically. It is the most remote, hostile, and naturally dangerous continent, while at the same time it is the most pristine and least developed. Antarctica is the only major part of the Earth's landmass not directly governed by one nation, but rather existing under the control of a carefully developed, although still evolving, Treaty, which has a multitude of acceding nations. It is the only place in the world in which claims of ownership have been set aside, and international agreements signed that ban nuclear testing, contain damage to the environment under specific regulations, and replace international competition with scientific investigations and organizations that link nations in sustained and joint peaceful efforts.

Despite its isolation and its harsh environment, the Antarctic is home to—or major feeding grounds for—large populations of wildlife. The largest living animals on the Earth—blue whales—can be found there, as can a wide variety of other whales, seals, and many more species of marine life. Some of the world's largest flying birds—wandering albatrosses with wing spans of three meters and southern giant petrels—can be found in the region, as can a number of different species of penguins, including the emperor, which can weigh up to 35 kg. At the other end of the size spectrum, the terrestrial Antarctic hosts population densities of tardigrades between 10 and 1000 times greater than those of temperate or tropical zones. And there are particularly abundant groups of microorganisms, many considered extremophilic, living under extreme conditions that they not only tolerate but which they need in order to exist.

Another Antarctic visitor—in relatively modern times—has been humans. In the nineteenth century, the Southern Ocean surrounding the Antarctic continent was prized as a source of wealth in the form of whale or seal oil and blubber. Around a century ago, the mainland itself became the focus of geographical exploration and the compiling of scientific data. And in more recent decades—particularly since the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58—the major human emphasis placed on the terrestrial, ice, marine, and atmospheric aspects of the southern polar region has been on scientific investigation and increasing our knowledge of the Earth and beyond. In this way, the Antarctic has been shown to be much closer to the rest of the planet than had earlier been thought, because it is a key component of many global systems, including climate and weather, oceanographic circulation patterns, complex interactions in ecosystems, and the influence of the stratosphere, including the ozone layer, in the reception of solar radiation planet-wide.

Intriguingly, for an area of such importance, there is not a single, universally accepted, definition for what the Antarctic is, because the region has variously defined boundaries for different purposes. Some consider it to be the continent itself, and there is debate as to whether the floating ice shelves that are seaward extensions of the continental ice sheet form an integral part of the 'land' surface of the continent. There is also a question of whether this definition includes the islands immediately adjacent to the continent, many of which are attached to the continent by ice shelves. Along and above the Antarctic Peninsula the off-lying islands are also sometimes regarded as part of the continent.

Another, purely geographical, definition is the area south of the Antarctic Circle (at 66°33' 39"S), below the latitude of which the Sun does not not rise on Midwinter Day and does not set on Midsummer Day. A political boundary is the area south of 60° South latitude, the northern limit of jurisdiction for the Antarctic Treaty, which came into force in 1961 with 12 original signatories and now has been acceded to by 45 countries.

Perhaps the consensus of Antarctic scholars is that the best boundary is the Polar Front (formerly known as the Antarctic Convergence), an irregular belt in the Southern Ocean some 20 miles wide occurring between 48° and 61°S. This is where the cold, dense waters of the Southern Ocean sink beneath the warmer surface waters of the southern Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, marking a distinct change in the surface temperature and chemical composition, which in turn affects the creatures living on either side of it. This is both an ecosystem boundary for many marine species, and an administrative boundary, as it was chosen by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources for the extent of its jurisdiction. It is also the boundary adopted by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, because it is defined by natural features, including the northern limit of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

Many, but not all, of the sub-Antarctic islands and island groups are within the Polar Front. Those islands and island groups lying south of the Polar Front but not forming part of the Antarctic continent include Bouvetøya, Heard Island, the MacDonald Islands, the Balleny Islands, Scott Island, Peter I Øy, South Georgia, the South Orkney Islands, and the South Sandwich Islands.

All these definitions and aspects of the Antarctic are only small parts of the diverse, multifaceted, and hugely significant area of the world introduced, explained, and covered in detail in the Encyclopedia of the Antarctic. The two volumes of this work comprise overviews and in-depth discussions of people and historical events, places, wildlife, scientific research, our place in and use of the environment, technological developments, and geopolitics. They also explain the host of scientific studies for which the Antarctic has become an international center, including geophysics, glaciology, atmosphere and climate, solar-terrestrial physics, astronomy, human impacts, oceanography, terrestrial and marine biology, geology, botany, and sea ice. These volumes are the result of the combined efforts of more than 300 international scholars and experts in many fields, most of whom have dedicated their lives to the study, understanding, and preservation of the Antarctic.

All of this makes the Encyclopedia of the Antarctic a unique resource and tool for a wide readership of students, researchers, scholars, and anyone with a general interest in the region of the Antarctic, sub-Antarctic, and Southern Ocean. It both examines the broad, complex theoretical context and fills in the specific details of the existing knowledge about the Antarctic, its history, life-forms, influence on the rest of the Earth, and its place in our scientific understanding of the world.

The goal of this project was to produce a comprehensive, multi-volume work that would cover the entire scope of Antarctic knowledge. Of course, even in two volumes this is impossible, but the Encyclopedia of the Antarctic is larger, more thorough, and more inclusive than any previous work of its kind. The Encyclopedia took shape through the contributions of many people, most importantly an Advisory Board consisting of internationally distinguished scholars who drew up lists of topics in their fields, determined suitable lengths for the entries, and suggested appropriate authors. This all reflected a degree of subjectivity, of course, which was tempered by the process of the Advisors each helping to refine the subsequent overall list of topics and by the countless suggestions for improving the content received from scholars throughout the world. Several authors who were given assignments believed that other topics were of such importance that they voluntarily wrote and submitted extra entries, which were in turn assessed for their viability as part of the Encyclopedia. Input from the Advisors, authors, and other scholars around the world continued throughout the development and writing of the Encyclopedia, and the list of entries was revised virtually until the volumes went to production, allowing it to provide a reliable, up-to-date view of the current state of scholarship about the Antarctic.

The Encyclopedia of the Antarctic comprises 495 free-standing entries of 500 to 6000 words in length, which appear in alphabetical order. These range from factual, data-driven entries such as biographies, wildlife details, and statements about national Antarctic programmes, to longer, thematic overviews on major themes, to analytical discussions of issues that are of significant interest both to scientific researchers and the general public, such as climate change, conservation, geopolitics, biogeography, and pollution.

How to Use this Book

Athough each entry is self-contained, the links between them can be explored in a variety of ways. The Thematic List of Entries in the front matter of each volume groups the entries within broad categories and provides a useful summary. Cross-references (See also) given at the end of almost all entries refer the reader to other related topics within the Encyclopedia. Each entry also contains a list of References and Further Reading, including sources used by the writer as well as additional items that may be of interest to, and expand the knowledge of, the reader. Seven Appendices, including the text of the Antarctic Treaty, and sixteen Maps further guide the reader in exploring the features of this vast region. A thorough, analytical Index provides a detailed listing of topics that do not have their own entry, helping the reader navigate through the wealth of information provided within the context of broader entries.

Acknowledgments

Numerous people contributed to make this Encyclopedia possible. I would like to express my thanks to the members of the Advisory Board—all of whom have extensive knowledge of and experience in the Antarctic—for their general guidance and advice, their valuable input in their fields of expertise, and their writing and editorial contributions. In particular, the efforts and support of David W.H. Walton and Assistant Editor Liz Cruwys have been crucial to the success of this vast project.

It has also been a pleasure to work with the authors of the entries in these volumes, many of whom assisted in a variety of ways above and beyond writing the articles that bear their names. I would particularly like to thank Robert Burton, Peter Clarkson, Ann Savours, Martin Siegert, and Ian R. Stone for such help. I would also like to give special mention to G.E. 'Tony' Fogg and Irynej Skira, both of whom have passed away since contributing very valuable entries to this Encyclopedia.

I am enormously grateful to Gillian Lindsey, under whose supervision this project was initiated and a pattern for its ultimate completion laid out. Without her contributions, this Encyclopedia would never have even been begun. At Routledge, special thanks go to Development Editor Susan Cronin, who kept track of the progress of 311 contributors and oversaw the organisation of all of the materials that compose this work. A team of production assistants, copy-editors, and designers at Taylor and Francis/Routledge also deserve thanks for putting together the final product. I am also most appreciative of input from Mark Nuttall, the editor of the Encyclopedia of the Arctic.

I would like to express my gratitude to Julian Dowdeswell, the Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute—where I was employed throughout the assignment and editing stages of the Encyclopedia—who gave his unstinting support while these efforts were being carried out. Finally, I would like to thank my wife Liz and my parents, Ralph and Angelyn, for their patience, encouragement, and support throughout all of the stages of this enormous project.

Beau Riffenburgh


Description | A-Z Entries List | Thematic Entries | Contributors | Sample Entries
Reviews | Order Information | Order Online | Contact Us
Routledge Library Reference Home