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Halley Bay

Instruments of scientific governance? Historical geographies of Halley Bay, 1956-present

Research by Alice Oates

Dr Alice Oates

September 2019 start, 2024 completion. University of Cambridge: PI Dr Richard Powell.



This project aims to provide an account of the emergence of scientific governance in Antarctica, by focusing on the Halley Bay research station. Halley Bay was established by the Royal Society in 1956, in preparation for the International Geophysical Year (IGY), 1957-58, and became a critical centre for observations in global science, including for the discovery of the ozone hole in the 1980s, until its temporary closure in 2017. The histories of Halley Bay have never been fully investigated, and yet they involve many important actors in British post-war science and international governance.

This project will involve research across a range of collections and archives. The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) holds papers relating to the planning of Antarctic expeditions, including those to Halley Bay. The Royal Society has recently catalogued their extensive holdings of papers, films, scientific instruments and other equipment related to the establishment of the station at Halley Bay. The Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) houses objects from the Royal Society IGY expedition, and photographs and a range of papers from the 1950s and 1960s. The extensive archives of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), which was founded in tandem with the IGY, and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), are also held in Cambridge.


Find out more

You can watch a recording of a talk given by Alice about her research.

Watch Alice's talk


  • Oates, A.,E. (2024) 'Space Weather Sentinels': Halley and the evolution of geospace science, Notes and Records
  • Doctoral thesis: Oates, A. (2023). A historical geography of Halley research station, Antarctica, 1956 - present [Apollo - University of Cambridge Repository]. Embargoed until March 2024

Key collections

RGS-IBG: Papers relating to the planning of Antarctic expeditions, including to Halley Bay.

Royal Society: Papers, films, photographs, maps, scientific instruments and other equipment relating to the establishment of Halley Bay.

Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI): Objects from the Royal Society IGY expedition, and photographs and papers from the 1950s and 1960s.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS): Papers relating to Halley Bay and films made and edited by expedition members.


Useful references

  • Beck, P.J. (1983) ‘British Antarctic Policy in the Early 20th Century’ Polar Record 21(134), 475-483.

  • British Antarctic Survey (BAS) (2019) Halley Automation available at Accessed 28th November 2019.

  • Brunt, Sir David (ed.) (1960) The Royal Society International Geophysical Year Antarctic Expedition: Halley Bay, Coats Land, Falkland Islands Dependencies 1955-1959, Volume 1: Introductions; Aurora and airglow; geomagnetism London: The Royal Society.

  • Collis, C. (2007) ‘Mawson and Mirnyy Stations: the spatiality of the Australian Antarctic Territory, 1954-61’, Australian Geographer 38(2), 215-231.

  • Dean, K., Naylor, S., Turchetti, S., & Siegert, M., (2008) ‘Data in Antarctic Science and Politics’ Social Studies of Science 38(4), 571-604.

  • Dodds, K., and Hemmings, A.D, (2013) ‘Britain and the British Antarctic Territory in the wider geopolitics of the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean’ International Affairs 89(6), 1429-1444.

  • Driver, F., (2013) ‘Hidden Histories made visible? Reflections on a geographical exhibition’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 38, 420-435.

  • Dudeney, J.R., & Walton, D.W.H., (2012) ‘From Scotia to ‘Operation Tabarin’: developing British policy for Antarctica’ Polar Record 48(247) pp.342-360.

  • Howkins, A. (2008) ‘Political Meteorology: Weather, climate and the contest for Antarctic sovereignty, 1939-1959 History of Meteorology 4, 27-40.

  • Livingstone, D. (2003) Putting Science in its Place Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

  • Naylor, S.(2005) ‘Introduction: historical geographies of science – places, contexts, cartographies’ BHJS 38(1), 1-12.

  • Naylor, S., Dean, K., and Siegert, M. (2008) ‘The IGY and the ice sheet: surveying Antarctica’ Journal of Historical Geography 34, 574-595.

  • NERC. (2017). Halley Research Station Antarctica will not winter in 2018. Retrieved from Accessed 28th November 2019.

  • O’Reilly, J. (2017) The Technocratic Antarctic: An ethnography of scientific expertise and environmental governance Cornell University Press.

  • Powell, R., (2008) ‘Science, sovereignty and nation: Canada and the legacy of the International Geophysical Year, 1957-58’ Journal of Historical Geography 34, 618-638.

  • Solomon, S., and Chanin, M-L (2011) ‘The Antarctic Ozone hole: a unique example of the science and policy interface’ in Berkman P.A., Lang, M.A., Walton, D.W.H., and Young, O.R. (eds) Science Diplomacy: Antarctica Science, and the Governance of International Spaces Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge