Cape Darnley – What’s in a name?

Have you ever been curious about the names of places around the coast of Antarctica? Many of these places were named by early explorers in the early 20th Century to honour important people who had funded or supported these voyages of discovery.

Cape Darnley, for instance, was named after E.R. Darnley by Sir Douglas Mawson on the 10th February 1931 when he saw land from the RRS Discovery during the British Australian New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) (SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica). E.R Darnley was chairman of the Discovery Committee established by the British Government to carry out scientific (oceanographic, biological and geographical) investigations in the world’s southern regions. Cape Darnley sits at the eastern end of Mac.Robertson Land, also named by Mawson after an Australian philanthropist MacPherson Robertson, who made his money from confectionary (chocolate, chewing gum and candy floss).

Cape Darnley was also named Cape Bjerkø by Norwegian whalers who were exploring the same region in January and February 1931. But Bjerkø is now the name of the peninsula on which Cape Darnley sits. The peninsula marks the western boundary of Prydz Bay, a deep embayment in East Antarctica, named after Olaf Prydz, who was the general manager of the Hvalfangernes Assuranceforening, Norway. The large Amery ice shelf, which flows into Prydz Bay, is the third largest ice shelf in Antarctica, and was named after William Bankes Amery. W.B. Amery was a civil servant representing the United Kingdom government in Australia around this time. So the region was discovered in 1931 by both the BANZARE expedition lead by Mawson and Norwegian whalers and was named after benefactors from the UK and Norway.s is what you need to know about Antarctic Bottom Water.

More recently, limited mapping offshore from Cape Darnley has identified several undersea canyons. These are named Wild Canyon – after Frank Wild, who was a member of the Australasian expedition 1911-1913 and awarded the Polar Medal, and Daly Canyon, likely named after Cape Daly, which is a headland within Prydz Bay. Cape Daly was named by Mawson on the BANZARE expedition after Senator Daly of the Australian Commonwealth Senate.

During this voyage on CSIRO research vessel (RV) Investigator we may also find new, previously undiscovered, undersea features. To name these features we will need to submit potential names to the Australian Antarctic Division Place Names Committee, who can propose the names to the international Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN). A previous 2017 Antarctic voyage by RV Investigator to the Sabrina Coast, East Antarctic, successfully named 6 new canyons. Five of these were named after words provided by the Noongar Aboriginal people of West Australia, whose traditional lands would have been adjacent to the Sabrina Coast before Antarctica and Australia separated about 135 million years ago. The 6th canyon was named after eminent Australian marine scientist and microalgae researcher, Dr. Shirley Jeffrey (1930 – 2014). While we would love to name any new seafloor features after our supporters, in Australia they can only be named after someone who is deceased.