The Third International Polar Year International Geophysical Year 19571958

Following the success of the first two polar years it seemed reasonable to agree that these events should occur every 50 years. However, so many scientific and technological improvements were made in a short time after the second IPY that already at the beginning of the fifties many scientists believed a third coordinated IPY would allow major advances in our knowledge of Antarctica, which should not wait until the 50th anniversary of the second IPY.

On 5 April 1950, in Silver Spring, Maryland, a small group of eminent physicists gathered to meet in an informal meeting in Van Allen's home. Among these were the house owner James Van Allen (1914-2006), Lloyd Viel Berkner (1905-1967), Siegfried Frederick Singer (born in 1924) and Sidney Chapman (1888-1970) (Fig. 2.6), all of whom had been involved in research for military applications during the World War II. They realised the potential of the new technologies such as rockets, radar and numerous other geophysical techniques perfected during the war, and hoped to

Lawrence Donnell Younghttp://celebrating200years.noaa.gov/)."/>
Figure 2.6: Sidney Chapman (1888-1970) was the President of CSAGI and guided much of the IGY planning. He and Lloyd Berkner were called the 'fathers of the IGY' (NOAA 200th Anniversary Celebration Website, http://celebrating200years.noaa.gov/).

redirect these toward creating a basic knowledge of Antarctica and the world. This desire reflected the lack of focus on the Antarctic in the previous IPYs.

In the months following the 'Van Allen's dinner', other geophysicists joined the proponents and, during the summer of 1950, they presented their idea for a third IPY at the Conference on the Physics of the Ionosphere, at Pennsylvania State University. From this point onwards the plan moved to an international scale and a proposal was presented to the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) that the time was right for a new IPY, which would fall in 1957-1958 and coincide with an expected sunspot maximum (from the standpoint of solar-terrestrial research, the period of the previous IPY was not a particularly interesting time because it was coincident with a minimum in the 11-year solar cycle!). ICSU endorsed the proposal and broadened its scope to include studies of the whole planet, rather than just polar studies. The program was renamed the IGY and ICSU established a special committee (Comité; Special de l'Annee Geophysique Internationale, CSAGI), headed by S. Chapman (president) (Fig. 2.6) and

Figure 2.7: The official logo of the 1957-1958 International Geophysical

Year.

Figure 2.7: The official logo of the 1957-1958 International Geophysical

Year.

L.V. Berkner (vice-president), to act as the governing body for all IGY activities (Fig. 2.7). Care was taken to ensure that this committee would remain non-nationalistic, apolitical and geared towards a scientific agenda. The first meeting of CSAGI took place in Brussels, Belgium, in July 1953, and was followed by a series of general assemblies and regional conferences (held for the Arctic, Antarctic, the Americas, Eastern Europe, Africa and the western Pacific). At the general assemblies the main criteria for the IGY were established.

The Soviet Union was not initially among the 26 proposing countries, probably as a result of the very peculiar cold war politics of the time. Nonetheless, how could a program aiming to be named 'International' take place without the participation of the Soviet Union and its numerous allies? Fortunately, a short while later also the Soviet 'block' joined the program with a very comprehensive scientific approach. This truly international effort, against a background of cold war mistrust and weapons escalation, was a remarkable achievement. The launch of the first artificial satellite, 'Sputnik 1', on 4th of October 1957, gave a temporary political victory to the Soviet Union in the race for space; but the Americans were not far behind, launching Explorer 1 on 31 January 1958. These launches began the exponential growth in geophysical knowledge about the state of the planet that was to come from the use of space probes; it was the first dramatic step towards the space-based remote sensing techniques so much in use nowadays.

The IGY, began on 1 July 1957 and was completed on 31 December 1958, although a one year extension - the International Geophysical Cooperation -was allowed. With more than 10,000 scientists and 67 countries involved, the IGY was a significant event in the history of science and surely the greatest international scientific enterprise in the middle of the twentieth century.

Important discoveries were made in the fields of cosmic ray research, climatology, glaciology, oceanography, terrestrial atmosphere and the magnetic field (Fig. 2.8). Explorer 1, in particular, brought the discovery of the so-called Van Allen radiation belts. Major deep counter currents were discovered in the ocean, for example beneath the Gulf Stream.

Importantly for Antarctica, the IGY also witnessed major, internationally coordinated over-ice traverses. Using seismic exploration techniques developed several years earlier during a Norwegian-British-Swedish expedition to Dronning Maud Land (1947-1952), the ice volume of the Antarctic continent was estimated with a degree of accuracy for the first time. It showed the continent to be overlain with a vast ice sheet, several kilometres thick in places, with a bed often depressed below sea level and a separation between East and West Antarctica. Several research stations were located in the continental interior, including a US base at South Pole, a Soviet base at the Magnetic South Pole, named Vostok Station, and a Soviet station near the Pole of Relative Inaccessibility, named Sovetskya. A plinth and bust of Lenin was placed at the exact site of the Pole of Relative Inaccessibility, facing towards Moscow; it remains there today and was visited for the first time in nearly 50 years in 2006. The impact of the IGY on comprehending the dimensions of the Antarctic Ice Sheet cannot be overstated. The measurements taken remain, in some of the more remote regions, the only data ever collected on ice thickness.

Perhaps the most important conclusion of the IGY was an appreciation that Antarctic scientific exploration was best served by international corporation, regardless of global geopolitics. Subsequent to the IPY, nations interested in Antarctic matters gathered to declare Antarctica free from commercial exploitation, and a site for scientific collaboration and data sharing. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) was established during the IGY from discussions that took place in 1957 and led to the first meeting of SCAR held at the Hague, from 3-6 February 1958. Its objective was to develop scientific cooperation on research of continental scope, and to ensure that such research continued beyond the narrow confines of the IGY. As an apolitical independent organisation, and an integral part of ICSU, SCAR has served to integrate and facilitate research on Antarctic matters ever since. Its members represent the national academies of science in 34 countries (as of early 2008). The need for this kind of mechanism was evident to ICSU from an examination of the shortcomings of the first and second IPYs, when the organisation underpinning of the activity and its follow-up was weak or non-existent, which meant that the data were less valuable than they might otherwise have been.

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"Vastness! and Age/ and Memories of Eld! Silence! and Desolation! and dim of Night!" POE

Figure 2.8: 'Poles' was one of six posters (Earth, The Oceans, The Poles, Weather and Climate, Sun and Earth, Space) around which the National Academy of Sciences' IGY Committee created its booklet 'Planet Earth'. The numbers on this poster identify points discussed in the booklet (National

Academy of Sciences, 1958) (courtesy: National Academy of Sciences).

"Vastness! and Age/ and Memories of Eld! Silence! and Desolation! and dim of Night!" POE

Figure 2.8: 'Poles' was one of six posters (Earth, The Oceans, The Poles, Weather and Climate, Sun and Earth, Space) around which the National Academy of Sciences' IGY Committee created its booklet 'Planet Earth'. The numbers on this poster identify points discussed in the booklet (National

Academy of Sciences, 1958) (courtesy: National Academy of Sciences).

For much the same reason, another innovation of the IGY was ICSU's creation of the network of World Data Centers to be repositories for the large amounts of data collected by the participants. The emphasis on putting data into a centre so that it would be available to all was a novel departure.

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