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Rare honour for Antarctic researcher

Media Release
07 December 2009

Rare honour for Antarctic researcher

IRL senior scientist Dr Tim Haskell has joined an elite group of Antarctic explorers and scientists by having a geographic feature in the region named after him.

Officially named by the New Zealand Geographic Board after a proposal from NIWA, Haskell Strait lies beneath the permanent McMurdo Ice Shelf and has Scott Base on its shores. It lies between Cape Spencer Smith and Cape Armitage which were named after two explorers of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration, a period in the history of Antarctica marked by numerous exploratory expeditions.

Dr Haskell says he was “surprised and delighted” to learn of the addition to Antarctic nomenclature. “There hasn’t been such a significant geographical feature named in the area for quite a while,” he says.

Haskell Strait is an area of relatively high human activity with the Williams and Pegasus airfields above it, on the surface of the ice shelf. Dr Haskell says the strait is deemed by oceanographers to rank in importance alongside well-known bodies of water such as Cook Strait and the Straits of Gibraltar because of its size and significant currents. “It is particularly interesting because it is partially covered by an ice shelf, sea ice and occasionally open water,” he says.

Dr Haskell is the leader of the sea ice programme supported by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology. He is an associate investigator on the recently begun sea ice/ice shelf/ocean programme supported by the Marsden Fund and hosted by NIWA, and says the naming is a significant recognition of this work.

“I have been given various medals and awards in the past but this is something quite special,” says Dr Haskell.

IRL Chief Executive Shaun Coffey says the naming of Haskell Strait is a “rare honour indeed” and recognition of the important work undertaken in the region by Dr Haskell.

“With the challenges represented by climate change looming large, the importance of research into Antarctic sea ice cannot be underestimated,” he says.

Dr Haskell recently returned from the ice where he was taking part in several projects including ice thickness measurement, oceanography and measurement of airborne dust found in sea ice. The thirteen-strong research team he was leading was challenged by stormy conditions and visibility that was as low as one metre at times.


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