Antarctic soil data

Introduction to Ross Sea Region soils

Extracting sample from tube

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

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

  • Pre-2005 dataset: Thirty-five years of soil studies by Drs Iain Campbell and Graeme Claridge, and their colleagues.
  • Post-2005: Investigations since 2005 by Dr Malcolm McLeod, Dr Megan Balks, Prof Jim Bockheim and colleagues in Wright Valley, Cape Hallett, and the Darwin Mountains.

Direct access to both datasets is from the links 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.

Map viewer

Ross Sea Region Soils

Use a map of Antarctica to spatially search for soils information available. The associated 'point' database contains descriptions of over 1,000 soil pits, together with their chemical, physical, and mineralogical characteristics, at soil sites clustered around ice-free areas.

Data sources

The Ross Sea Region viewer has been built using data from the following sources:

  • Soil site and soil pit horizon data
    Soil studies by Iain Campbell, Graeme Claridge, and their colleagues over 35 years have been organised into the soils reports accessible from this part of the website. You can also view the soil sites using the interactive map viewer.

  • SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctic Placenames (CGA)
    As of September 2021, the SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica (CGA) consists of 39,007 names that correspond to 20,105 features. The place names information has been submitted by the national names committees from 22 countries and compiled by Roberto Cervellati and Chiara Ramorino from the Italian Antarctic names committee. CGA is hosted by the Australian Antarctic Data Centre.
  • Antarctic Digital Database
    Vector data from the SCAR ADD managed by British Antarctic Survey have been downloaded from their website. For the Ross Sea these data are predominantly derived from the printed 1:250 000 USGS topographic map series of the region. The original data were organised in separate sheets, within each layer; the sheets have been merged into a single shapefile for efficient access.
  • RAMP-1 125 m SAR mosaic
    A quadrant of the 1.6GB medium resolution version of the Radarsat-1 Antarctic Mapping Project (RAMP) SAR mosaic was extracted and downloaded for use in this website.


The license for the Ross Sea Region soil data is CC-BY-ND 3.0 NZ.


We appreciate the past financial support of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, New Zealand (CO9X0307 and C09X1001) and the logistic support of Antarctica New Zealand, Helicopters New Zealand, and the staff at Scott Base. Soil analyses were done in Manaaki Whenua's Environmental Chemistry Laboratory. 


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.