The History of SCAR

The plans for the IGY, the International Geophysical Year, 1957-58, included a major Antarctic component.

At the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) Antarctic meeting held in Stockholm on 9 - 11 September 1957 it was decided that there was need for further international organization of scientific activity in Antarctica, and that a committee should be set up for this purpose. The Bureau of ICSU invited the twelve nations actively engaged in Antarctic research to nominate a delegate each to a Special Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

Delegates were also invited from the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG), the International Geographical Union (IGU), the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and the Union Radio Scientific Internationale (URSI).The following permanent delegates were nominated: Argentina, Captain L. de la Canal; Australia, Professor J. van Mieghem; France, Mons. B. Imbert; Japan, Professor T. Nagata; New Zealand, Dr. E. I. Robertson; Norway, Professor L. Harang (also representing URSI; South Africa, J.J. Taljaard; United Kingdom, Dr G. de Q Robin; United States, Dr L.M. Gould; USSR, Dr M.M. Somov; IUBS, Dr A. Brunn; IUGG, Ing. Gen. G. Laclavère; and IGU, Dr V. Schytt.

The first meeting of SCAR was held at the Hague from 3 - 6 February 1958 and all the participating nations and societies were represented except New Zealand and South Africa. Dr R. Fraser and Colonel E. Herbays represented the ICSU. The meeting elected Ing. Gen. G. Laclavère President, Professor K.E. Bullen Vice-President, and Dr V. Schytt Secretary. The main ask of the committee at the first meeting was to "prepare a plan for the scientific exploration of Antarctica in the years following the completion of the International Geophysical Year programme". A Finance Committee was also formed. Three working groups were set up to discuss and prepare future research programmes and each later reported their recommendations to the Committee.

Subsequently SCAR was renamed the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

The header image on this page shows delegates at the VI SCAR meeting in Boulder, Colorado, USA in August 1962.

Geographical Scope:

For the purposes of SCAR, in 1958 "Antarctica" was defined as being bounded by the Antarctic convergence, and also including the Sub-Antarctic islands on which International Geophysical Year observations were being made.

In 2005, this definition was enlarged as follows (from the SCAR Strategic Plan 2004-2010): SCAR's area of interest includes Antarctica, its offshore islands, and the surrounding Southern Ocean including the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the northern boundary of which is the Subantarctic Front. Subantarctic islands that lie north of the Subantarctic Front and yet fall into SCAR's area of interest include: Ile Amsterdam, Ile St Paul, Macquarie Island and Gough Island.

Further information:

acrobatA Brief Account of the Evolution of SCAR, 1958-2006 by Peter D.Clarkson.

See the History of the SCAR Secretariat for a list of Secretariat staff over time.

See the archive website for the history of SCAR Membership, for a list of SCAR meetings with dates and venues and elected officers of SCAR.

See also the SCAR Expert Group on the History of the Institutionalisation of Antarctic Research.

SCAR Website Archive:

The British Library holds a UK web archive showing a wide range of websites and, through copies taken at regular intervals, how they have developed over time.  The SCAR website has been part of the archive since March 2012.  The final copy of the old site was taken in March 2014.  To view the collection, go to the web archive