Nameless nodes get new look from NIWA


At the bottom of the Southern Ocean, near Cape Adare in East Antarctica, lies an undersea ridge which until this month was only known by its co-ordinates: -71.2132 latitude, 172.1649 longitude.

Now, thanks to NIWA marine researcher Kevin Mackay, it finally has a name. Pelorus Ridge was officially granted its title by the New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB) last week, along with 42 other place names for undersea features in New Zealand waters.

Mr Mackay says New Zealand’s vast undersea area is largely unmapped and the naming of undersea features has taken on some urgency this year in a bid to give as many of them as possible names connected to New Zealand.

The naming of undersea ridges, canyons, plateaus and other features, is the responsibility of SCUFN, the Sub-Committee of Undersea Features Names, which meets annually to define nomenclature and decide on names submitted to it.

SCUFN, of which Mr Mackay is a member, was set up to put in place a standardised system for geographical names to ensure consistent naming for navigation maps. For a name to be approved it must “honour the memory of people involved in ocean sciences, exploration or marine protection”.

Pelorus Ridge gets its name from a small NIWA launch that during its long service mapped the seafloor of Antarctic waters over three seasons. Pelorus was carried south aboard Tangaroa, NIWA’s flagship research vessel that has made 13 trips to Antarctica.

Pelorus carried out its Antarctic work in 2001, 2004 and again in 2006 operating in challenging conditions to improve maps around Capes Adare and Hallett where historic huts are visited by cruise ship passengers. The maps are also used to service “survival stashes” along the coastline at which emergency gear and supplies are kept.

Mr Mackay says it’s great to see the SCUFN system working. “These features deserve recognition and it is very gratifying to see them get through.”

After long service to NIWA Pelorus was sold to a private buyer a couple of years ago. Mr Mackay says the naming of Pelorus Ridge carries on a tradition of undersea features connected to NIWA. Former Tangaroa captain Andrew Leachman also has an undersea ridge named after him, and the Tangaroa seamounts recognise NIWA’s research vessel.

Meanwhile the NZGB is currently consulting on new standards for naming Antarctic place names. More information can be found at



Marine Geologist, Marine Data Manager
Pelorus in Evans Bay, December 2007 [Photo: Alan Blacklock]
Pelorus aboard RV Tangaroa. [Photo: John Mitchell]