The following activities provide a framework for developing important mapping skills - how to find places and features, how to work out distances and direction, and how to interpret information on maps.
The most useful map for these activities is the A3 sized map of Antarctica [PDF]. In addition to this map, further map templates are available for use by teachers and students on the Australian Antarctic Data Centre's maps page.
- Using the A3 sized map of Antarctica and/or an atlas, students can describe the relative locations of Antarctic stations and features using directions e.g. Casey is [southwest] of Hobart, Sydney is […] of Macquarie Island, Washington DC is […] of McMurdo station etc.
Latitude and longitude
Ask students to give the latitude and longitude of Antarctic features eg. Mawson, Heard Island, Falkland Islands… Give the latitude and longitude for a number of Antarctic features and have the students work out what they are, e.g. 53 degrees South, 73 degrees East (Heard Island); 67 degrees South, 63 degrees East (Mawson); 67 degrees South, 142 degrees East (Commonwealth Bay).
You could also introduce students to the concept of a gazetteer, and then point them to the search page of the Australian Antarctic Division's gazetteer which contains features in the Australian Antarctic Territory. Here they can check the exact latitude and longitude of the features.
- Ask them to follow the longitude line of (for example) Mawson north on their map and name the countries it passes through before reaching the North Pole. (This will demonstrate how far west Mawson is from Australia.)
- Have them follow the latitude line for Casey around the globe and ask them to find three other Antarctic stations at about the same latitude (Dumont D'Urville, Mirny and Rothera). Ask them to work out which of the three Australian stations is the furthest south (Davis). Ask them to work out which country is closest to the Antarctic coast? Which is closest to the South Pole?
Have students examine the Antarctic distance matrix [PDF]. Using the information in the table, ask the students to:
- Work out the distance from Hobart of the Australian Antarctic stations Casey, Davis, Mawson and Macquarie Island.
- Which Australian city, Hobart, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth is closer to Casey? Which is closer to Macquarie Island?
- How does the distance from Hobart to Antarctica (e.g. Commonwealth Bay) compare with the distance from Hobart to Perth?
Students could alternatively be asked to use the A3 sized map of Antarctica or an atlas to determine these distances.
- Ask students to research the area of each of the seven continents and rank them in order of size. If they are using maps, make sure they use ones with an equal area projection. This exercise can also lead to a discussion on map projections. In the end a globe is the only medium for showing all geographical relationships in true perspective, so the cartographer chooses the projection which most closely fits the purposes of her map. Go to The Great Globe Gallery to find examples of 18 different projections. Visit the AAD site for information about three map projections commonly used in Antarctica. To extend this activity into a cartographic unit check out the wonderful website The Mathematics of Cartography.
- Print out the comparison map of Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica [PDF] and ask the students to compare the areas of the countries. Older students could calculate the actual areas and perimeters.
Names of Antarctic features
- Students can research the official names of Antarctic features on the Australian Antarctic Division's gazetteer. For example, they could investigate how many features have been named after Mawson, Davis, Law, Amundsen and the aurora. Then ask them to research what they are, where they are, and what they've been named after (all this information is on the gazetteer).
- Using the map of Antarctica [PDF] students can see how many features they can find which have been named after explorers or their ships (students can check any place names in the Australian Antarctic Territory on the gazetteer if in doubt). Mark them on a blank map of Antarctica [PDF].
Make your own maps
- Your class can create its own large map of Antarctica by projecting a transparency of the blank map of Antarctica [PDF] onto a large piece of paper or cardboard. This can be used for mapping activities, or form the centrepiece of an Antarctic display. Why not put it on the southern wall of the classroom?
Turn a map of the world upside down and make a copy of this inverted world, with all major features (continents, oceans etc.) named. Discuss with students how this affects our perspective on Antarctica (having Antarctica at the bottom of the world is just a convention after all).
For information about the geographic and magnetic poles (and the ceremonial and pole of inaccessibility) as well as information about direction, go to the AAD's Geography page.