Monday, 7 April 2014

Data, data, everywhere!

One of the science cruise members is Ellen Bazeley-White who works as a Scientific Data Manager in the Polar Data Centre (PDC) at the NERC British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Ellen put together this blog (thanks Ellen!) post to explain what she does and as Ellen managed the BAS Archives Service for six years and has provided a brief history of BAS for the blog....

During the cruise I’m helping with the CTD sampling, but also recording information in digital event logs about the scientific events, the where, when, what and how type information about the data being collected. I work closely with the information technology staff (Jeremy and Pete) and engineers (Mark and Seth) to make sure all the data being collected is being saved and backed-up. The data and all the documents and logs created during the cruise are copied and taken back to BAS in Cambridge.

In addition to the BAS Polar Data Centre, data and records are also managed in the BAS Archives Service and I also have to be familiar with the older types of marine data collected by BAS such as sea-ice observations, met logs, paper echo sounding charts and also with ships records such as deck logs and voyage reports.

Ellen at Rothera

So, what exactly is ‘The British Antarctic Survey’

The British Antarctic Survey started as a UK government operation during the Second World War called Operation Tabarin.  The aims of the operation were to provide a British presence in the Antarctic to discourage enemy activity, to strengthen British claims to sovereignty of the Falkland Islands Dependencies [now South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and British Antarctic Territory] and to make meteorological observations considered important to improving weather forecasting for British shipping in the South Atlantic Ocean.

In February 1944 two bases were established, at Deception Island (Base B) and Port Lockroy (Base A), the following year a base was established at Hope Bay (Base D). Scientific work carried out included topographical survey, geology, glaciology, biology, meteorology and sea ice observations.

During Operation Tabarin lots of film footage was taken. These original films along with many more documenting the history of BAS are held in the BAS Archives Service. In 2012 the Operation Tabarin collection was digitised in preparation for the 70th anniversary. Here is a short film clip of the building of Base A at Port Lockroy in February 1944.  You can see the boxes are marked with ‘A’ to get them to the right base, BAS still uses these base markings for cargo today, the ship in the background is the S.S. Fitzroy, the huts were of a prefabricated design and the carpenter is ‘Chippy’ Ashton.

Lewis Ashton, 1944. Reproduced courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey Archives Service. Archives ref. AD6/16/1944/1.1. Crown Copyright

After the war the organisation was named the Falkland Islands Dependency Survey (FIDS) and continued to undertake scientific survey and research. BAS staff that go South [to the Antarctic], especially people that winter at the BAS bases are still known as Fids. In 1962 the name changed from FIDS to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and in 1967 BAS came under the remit of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

BAS still carries out scientific research, long-term observations and surveys that cannot be done by anyone else in the UK and provides the national capability for UK Antarctic science and logistics. As on ongoing organisation now over 70 years old, there is great value in the data and collections managed by the information services at BAS. As a publicly funded body, these value long-term data are available for all to access and reuse.

Over the years BAS has operated many bases, ships and aircraft, but currently operates five bases (Rothera, Halley, Signy, Bird Island and King Edward Point), four aircraft (one Dash-7 and four Twin Otters) and two ships (RRS Ernest Shackleton and RRS James Clark Ross, the ship we are currently on). In addition some of the old bases have been designated historic sites and are now managed by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.

More about BAS science, operations, data and collections, history and heritage can be found on the BAS website.

British Oceanographic Data Centre –

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