Antarctic soil data

Introduction to MWLR Antarctic soil data

Extracting sample from tube

Manaaki Whenua has conducted research in Antarctica for many years, and manages and curates the Antarctic soil database and related materials.

The historic and recent soil site and soil pit horizon data are accessible from two distinct datasets:

  • Pre-2000 dataset: Thirty-five years of soil studies by Drs Iain Campbell and Graeme Claridge, and their colleagues. This dataset has been re-compiled and is accessible through the Antarctic Soils Explorer platform.

  • Post-2000: Investigations since 2005 by Dr Malcolm McLeod, Dr Megan Balks, Prof Jim Bockheim and colleagues in Wright Valley, Cape Hallett, and the Darwin Mountains. These data have not yet been assembled in a modern database, but individual site reports are available from the link provided below.

In total, the two datasets provide descriptions for over 1000 soil pits at soil sites clustered around ice-free areas, reaching as far south and east as 87º S, 150º E and as far north and west as 72º S, 170º E. For each soil pit, site and soil horizons are described in detail. Site descriptions include observations of the surrounding geological, topographic and climatic contexts, and local surface features, site moisture, parent material and biology.

Antarctic Soils Explorer

A platform to celebrate Antarctic soils, and the pioneers who set out to research them

This website provides access to historic (1964-1999) soil sample data, recently collated by Manaaki Whenua, allowing for ongoing scientific and cultural research.
Other historic records, such as photographs, field books, publications and verbal accounts have recently been curated and are also presented here to ensure Aotearoa’s Antarctic soils heritage is preserved.


Bockheim JG, McLeod M. 2006. Soil formation in Wright Valley, Antarctica since the Late Neogene. Geoderma 137: 109–116.

Bockheim JG, McLeod M. 2008. Soil distribution in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Geoderma 144: 43–49.

Bockheim JG, Campbell IB, McLeod, M. 2008. Use of soil chronosequences for testing the existence of high-water-level lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Catena 74: 144–152.

Campbell IB, Claridge GGC. 1987. Antarctica: soils, weathering processes and environment. Elsevier, Amsterdam. 368p.

Hofstee EH, Balks MR, Petchey F, Campbell DI. 2006. Soils of Seabee Hook, Cape Hallet Northern Victoria Land, Antarctica. Antarctic Science 18: 473–486.

Gibb RG, Campbell IB, Claridge GGC. 2002. 35 years of Ross Sea region soil studies on-line. Third International Conference on Contaminants in Freezing Ground, Hobart 14–18 April 2002.

McLeod M, Bockheim JG, Balks MR. 2008. Glacial geomorphology, soil development and permafrost features in central-upper Wright Valley, Antarctica. Geoderma 144: 93–103.

McLeod M, Bockheim J, Balks M, Aislabie, J. 2009. Soils of western Wright Valley, Antarctica. Antarctic Science 21: 355–365.