Large Scale Historical Industrial Exploitation of Polar Areas

Project Description
Short Title: LASHIPA
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The exploitation of natural resources in polar areas is an instructive example of the way man is exploiting the natural resources in the world. The voyages of discovery in the second half of the 16th century and later, during the so called Heroic Century of Polar Exploration (1870-1920), including the first International Polar Year (1882-1883), made it possible for the western colonial powers to penetrate into the polar areas. The voyages of discovery not only led to the exploitation of natural resources but also to scientific research. In both cases, stations were built to facilitate the work and to lodge the people. According to Friedmann’s core/periphery concept (1966) the polar areas can be called Resource Frontier Regions because they produce raw material for the industrial centres in the world core areas (Sugden 1982). Whaling, fur hunting and mining have produced raw materials for the international market for more than 400 years. These activities were carried out by companies and people from outside the polar regions. The companies belonged to the worldwide actor networks (Latour 1986, Law & Callon 1992) in the core areas and local networks in the polar areas.It is notable how similar the developments were in both polar areas. One can divide the exploitation of natural resources in both areas into two phases: directly after the discovery a first phase in which fur hunters and whalers from different countries were active and a second phase in which the activities were focussed on the exploitation of minerals.Scientific research has increased the knowledge of both areas and contributed to the understanding of global processes. The industrial settlements and the research stations have played an important geopolitical role and have serious impact on the natural environment and in the Arctic on indigenous communities. Many sites belong to the polar cultural heritage nowadays.

Aim and strategy:

Until now, the history of science in and exploitation of polar areas were almost exclusively studied from a regional and national approach based on written sources from the archives in the countries in the core region. The aim of this project is to study the various (hunting, whaling, mining and research) settlements/stations from a bipolar, international and comparative perspective. Field and archive research will be done to collect the necessary data. The outcome of the various studies will be compared with each other to acquire more knowledge about the history of scientific research and the exploitation of the natural resources, the impact on the natural environment and the indigenous peoples. Finally the geopolitical consequences of the stations will be studied using written and material sources.The project will start in 2006 with archive research carried out to acquire more insight into the historical context. Much archive research will be done by the participants of the project in their various countries. This will produce a body of documentation, photo and film material which may be used not only for research but also in outreach activities. Field surveys will be carried out jointly on various already known sites in both polar areas. Several selected sites will be mapped and photo documented completely and compared with archival data. In 2007-2008 field work will be done on places difficult to reach. The data analysis of the various sites will be carried out jointly. The databases and maps will be collected in Groningen and made available for cultural heritage purposes and outreach activities. Finally a synthesis will be made which will be published in a joint publication in English and translated in several other languages.