TAC 27 May-Jul96

TAC 27 Index

A few (possibly) final thoughts on the Christmas Quiz

(questions: TAC25 pp8-9; answers: TAC26 pp8-11):

Q9b asked for the highest point in Britain including its dependencies. We gave the answer as Mount Paget in South Georgia, 2934m, rather than Mount Jackson in Antarctica, 4191m. Chris Doake has written to TAC (p17) begging, nay pleading to differ, and an interesting tripartite email discussion ensued between Chris, your Ed and Grant Hutchison (currently working on a World Tops-and-Bottoms TACit Table). Chris's doubts are twofold: true height and status of claim. There does seem little doubt that Mount Jackson is nothing like as high as 4191m - most likely around 1000m lower. This would still however make it higher than Paget.

Chris thinks the height for Jackson was originally estimated from a combination of aircraft observation and ground sighting during the US Antarctic Service expedition of 1939-41. This method could easily have led to large errors. He also tells of several ascents of the mountain by folk working for the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey / British Antarctic Survey. But because "recreational" activities have been frowned upon, there is little in the way of written records (eg Mountain No.24, Nov 1972, contains an article on climbing in the Antarctic Peninsula but doesn't mention the height of Jackson, only that John Cunningham climbed it in the sixties). The estimate of "over 3050m" probably comes from aerial photography, and is sufficiently close to the marked 3180m on the present BAS map to be the right order of magnitude. The origins of the 3180m figure are also unclear, since as far as Chris knows there has been no point properly surveyed higher than the subsidiary rock ridge at 2652m.

The territorial claim situation is less clear. The British claim to Jackson pre-dates the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, but then so do many other unrenounced national claims, the Treaty being designed to supersede all existing claims, no matter how old. Indeed, Argentina and Chile both had claims within the British claim, with Jackson being claimed by both Argentina and Britain. The Argentine claim, quite apart from the obvious geographical proximity, was based on a Papal Bull by Alexander VI (aka Rodrigo Borgia) in 1498! Grant's understanding of this situation is that there is a "decision not to decide" between contesting claims. The corollary to this, the situation with Paget, is perhaps best looked at from the point of view of the Falklands War. Whatever one's view of this, there is little doubt that, in TAC Quiz terms, Britain successfully saw off an Argentine bid for "ownership" of the South Georgian highpoint. It can thus be argued that Mount Jackson inhabits an ownership limbo not shared by Mount Paget. Perhaps the statement in the answers that territorial claims are "ruled out" should really have read "in abeyance".

Chris also points out that many maps and WWW sites still give the height of Vinson Massif, undoubted highpoint of Antarctica, as 5140m when it should be 4897m. He also suggests that someone ought perhaps go there next season with a differential GPS!

There have also been murmurings about Q11a: the sequence of Munros in a north-south line. No-one actually lost any points through this - quizzers were either clearly right or clearly wrong - but the answer given (that the seven Munros lie in a one-mile-wide line along the 2470 easting) was a little imprecise. Strictly, we should have said: lie in a band one kilometre either side of the 2477 easting. Happy now, Charlie?

And finally, re the Q13 footnote, your Ed would just like to say something: Canaan Banana.

TAC 27 Index