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International Polar Year Historical Data and Literature, Version 1

The International Polar Year Historical Data and Literature collection (formerly known as the Discovery and Access of Historic Literature from the IPYs (DAHLI) project) is an online data collection consisting primarily of photographs, publications, and observational data records from, and relating to, the first two International Polar Years (IPY) 1882-83 and 1932-33 and the International Geophysical Year (IGY)1957-58. Examples of data contained in observational records include, but are not limited to: air magnetic vertical intensity, air conductivity, atmospheric-electric observations, auroral log data, potential-gradient electrographic data, dust counts, and meteorological observations. Photographs within the collection include those from the Wilkes Station in Antarctica, the USGS survey of Fletcher's Ice Island, and the DTM Geophysical Laboratory Library. Publications within this collection primarily consist of government (national and international) bulletins and reports on activities during the International Polar and International Geophysical years. Other data include audio files of interviews recorded during NCAR's Oral Histories Project, and a video on Drifting Station Alpha during the IGY, published by NSIDC.

Geographic Coverage

  • Glaciers/Ice Sheets > Ablation Zones/Accumulation Zones
  • Atmospheric Temperature > Air Temperature
  • Atmospheric Electricity > Atmospheric Conductivity
  • Atmospheric Electricity
  • Atmospheric Pressure
  • Ionosphere/Magnetosphere Dynamics > Aurorae
  • Solar Activity > Cosmic Rays
  • Aerosols > Dust/Ash/Smoke
  • Atmospheric Electricity > Electric Field
  • Ionosphere/Magnetosphere Dynamics > Electric Fields/Electric Currents
  • Geomorphology > Glacial Landforms/Processes
  • Land Records > Glaciation
Spatial Coverage:
  • N: 90, S: -90, E: 180, W: -180

Spatial Resolution: Not Specified
Temporal Coverage:
  • 1 January 1882 to 31 December 2007
Temporal Resolution: Not specified
Data Format(s):
  • TIFF
  • MPEG
  • PDF
  • JPEG
Version: V1
Data Contributor(s): Elizabeth Coburn, Ruth Duerr, Elizabeth Schlagel, Allaina Wallace
Data Citation

As a condition of using these data, you must cite the use of this data set using the following citation. For more information, see our Use and Copyright Web page.

Coburn, E., R. Duerr, E. Schlagel, and A. Wallace. 2011. International Polar Year Historical Data and Literature, Version 1. [Indicate subset used]. Boulder, Colorado USA. NSIDC: National Snow and Ice Data Center. doi: [Date Accessed].

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Background Information

The original intent of the Discovery and Access of Historic Literature from the IPYs (DAHLI) project was to provide a searchable online bibliography of records and publications from International Polar Year (IPY) events: 1882-1883, 1932-1933, and 1957-1958. When the project was conceived, these materials were (and still are) scattered about the globe, largely uncatalogued and unpreserved. At best, they are difficult to discover and access, and at worst, in danger of total deterioration or destruction. These materials were the legacy of past IPYs and stood as milestones of scientific progress. They continue to be of scientific, historical, and sociological value; but their value cannot be exploited if inaccessible. As older generations of researchers retire, particularly those who participated in the 1957-1958 IPY/IGY, even the memory of these materials is lost. The need was and currently still is imminent to identify and catalogue these materials while these researchers are still available to advise. DAHLI hoped to, and partially succeeded in, correcting this situation. The history of the DAHLI project follows.

In January of 2005, NSIDC submitted an Expression of Intent (EOI) to the International Polar Year Joint Committee to provide on-line access to gray literature from the first three International Polar Years. The proposed approach was to create a searchable portal to materials from prior IPYs. Seventeen organizations holding historical IPY literature expressed interest in collaborating on the project. The EOI was approved by the International Council for Science (ICSU), World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Joint Committee for IPY.

As a follow on to the EOI, NSIDC submitted a full proposal to the IPY Joint Committee in December of 2005 detailing the activities that would be conducted under the DAHLI project as well as a proposal for funding to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the spring of 2006. Both proposals specified that NSIDC/WDC would host a comprehensive, web-accessible, searchable bibliographic database of materials from the three prior IPYs. The comprehensive bibliography would be compiled from materials supplied by consortium members as well as other collaborating institutions and groups. The project researchers were to eliminate duplications and resolve conflicting entries. The team would also create records for those materials without a readily available bibliographic source. In addition, several participating organizations, including NSIDC, would digitize unique materials held locally, as well as materials provided by collaborating institutions. Links to all digitized materials would be included in the bibliography to allow ready access to anyone with access to the Internet. Where available and appropriate, links to not just the original materials, but also to translations, would be provided.

Rather than accepting the full proposal as is, the IPY Joint Committee suggested that the DAHLI project join the existing International Polar Year Publications Database project (IPYPD) which hoped to provide similar support for the publications of the then upcoming 4th International Polar Year. Consequently the DAHLI project agreed to join The Arctic Science and Technology Information System (ASTIS), the Cold Regions Bibliography Project (CRBP), the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) Library, and the NISC Export Services (NES) in populating the IPYPD.

In May of 2006 eleven polar libraries participated in a discussion of DAHLI at the Polar Libraries Colloquy in Rome. Pending NSF funding, the group decided at the very least to create a directory of institutions and their IPY historical holdings. Each institution, as it was able, would digitize what they could, and agreed to collaborate informally by linking together what each created individually. Around this time, NSIDC began conducting its pilot test for digitization of IPY-related materials. This pilot was conducted under the sponsorship of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Data Modernization Program (CDMP), using their contractor, Lason. The pilot began with materials held locally by NSIDC and continued with materials held by the libraries of NOAA’s Boulder Labs and other local collections. The pilot allowed the participating parties to test and streamline procedures, as well as to work out issues that could potentially have arisen in such a venture. The pilot helped develop a model for collaboration with outside entities; specifications for bibliographic entries, imaging, keying, and product output; and procedures for materials and stewardship. The first set of materials, IGY General Reports and IGY Glaciological Reports, were sent to Lason for digitization 2 May 2006 and as of October 2007, 28 reports had been digitized and made available. In addition, some 700 images taken during the IGY were digitized and added to NSIDC’s Glacier Photograph Collection.

In March of 2007, the IPYPD became available online. It attempted to identify and describe all publications that resulted from, or that describe, the IPY 2007-2008 and the three previous IPYs. The IPYPD is part of the IPY Data and Information Service (IPYDIS).

As of October 2008, funding from the proposal submitted by NSIDC to the NSF IPY had still not materialized. However, digitization funding continued to be made available to the project through the NOAA CDMP. The implications of this funding situation were that several of the activities originally planned did not happen, including organization of an advisory board, quality control of digitized materials and web interface development, and data rescue. Despite the funding situation and its implications, DAHLI digitization efforts through the auspices of the NOAA CDMP continued. In 2008, digitization of the holdings of the Carnegie Institute in Washington, D.C. began. In 2009 over 9,000 pages (45 documents) were digitized. In addition, John Hollin, Fellow of INSTAAR and Research Scientist Emeritus of the University of Colorado donated 30 slides taken during his time at Wilkes Station, Antarctica during the IGY. Materials held by the University of Colorado Libraries were also digitized.

With the cancellation of the CDMP in 2011 and with no resolution to the grant proposal submitted to NSF several years earlier, the DAHLI project came to a close in August of 2011. Over the course of the summer of 2011 all of the collected digitized materials (bibliographic items, images, and video and audio files) were organized, documented, and published in Archon, an open-source system developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where it is intended they will remain accessible to the public for the long-term.

Data were contributed by several institutions:  the University of Colorado Libraries, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The data collection contains approximately 800 digital objects, formats of these objects include:  PDF, TIFF, JPEG, MP3, and MPEG.  Most objects are freely accessible and downloadable, except where prohibited by copyright.  Temporal coverage of this data collection is between the years 1882 and 1958.  Geographical coverage is global, with data originating from Europe, Asia, North America, and South America and relating primarily to specific glaciers and other locations in North America (Alaska and Canada) and Antarctica.

All materials without use constraints are accessible by the public through the ROCS Archives Catalog.  Reference images and PDFs of publications and data are available for immediate viewing and download. Please request high resolution TIFF image files through the NSIDC ARC Archives Catalog.

Detailed Data Description


Ablation Zones/Accumulation Zones
Air Temperature
Atmospheric Conductivity
Atmospheric Electricity
Atmospheric Pressure
Cosmic Rays
Electric Field
Electric Fields/Electric Currents
Elevation/Ice Sheet Elevation
Frozen Ground
Glacial Landforms/Processes
Glacier Elevation/Ice Sheet Elevation
Ice Core Records
Ice Depth/Thickness
Ice Growth/Melt
Ice Sheets
Particulate Matter
Periglacial Processes
Sea Ice Elevation
Seismic Profile
Snow Depth
Solar Flares
Solar Radio Wave Emissions
Terrestrial Hydrosphere
Water Temperature

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Spatial and Temporal Coverage and Resolution

Data were produced during, and surrounding, each of the first two International Polar Years (1882-1883 and 1932-1933) and the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958). Also provided are oral histories relating to the IGY from 2007. The spatial coverage is global and includes locations in North America, Europe, Asia, Antarctica, and South American, as well as certain glaciers.

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Table 1 lists the different formats of the data files.

Table 1. Data File Formats
File Type File Format
Publications and literature Portable Document Format (PDF)
Photograph and diagram reference images Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG)
Full-resolution photograph and diagram images Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)
Audio files Moving Picture Experts Group(MPEG)-1, or Moving Picture Experts Group(MPEG)-2, Audio Layer III (MP3)
Video file Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG)
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Sample Data Record

Below are two sample records from the ARC Archives Catalog system. Figure 1 shows a record that was found by searching for "Adelie" in the search box on the catalog interface, and then clicking on Digital Images and Records and then Search image thumbnails.

Screenshot of a record page from the ARC Archives Catalog of an image of an Adelie Penguin.
Figure 1. Sample Image Record from the ARC Archives Catalog

Figure 2 shows a sample page from a record found by searching for "Meteorological Observations: Hygrothermograph Weekly Recorder Cahier" in the search box on the catalog interface, and clicking on the title link that appears under Digital Images and Records.

Screenshot of a record page from the ARC Archives Catalog of a publication.
Figure 2. Sample Publication Record from the ARC Archives Catalog

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File Naming Convention

Files in this data set were named with a unique convention. First, there is a string of text identifying the collection (DAHLI). Second, there is a string identifying either the collection or its original disc or directory for tracking or provenance purposes; and third, they each were assigned a four-digit identifier unique to this data set.

The files are named according to the following convention and as described in Table 2:


Table 2. File Naming Convention
Variable Description
DAHLI Discovery and Access of Historical Literature from the IPYs
IPYxxx International Polar Year and a three-digit number corresponding to the directory of the original data
IGY International Geophysical Year
IGYxxx International Geophysical Year and a three digit number corresponding to the directory of the original data
CI The Carnegie Institution of Washington
WILKES Wilkes Station, Antarctica
OH Oral Histories (audio files of interviews in the NCAR collection)
yyyy A unique four-digit identifier
.ext File extension: .jpg, .tif, .mpg, .pdf, or .mp3
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File Size

Table 3 lists the various sizes of the different file formats.

Table 3. File Size by Format
File Format Size
Video file (MPEG) 129 MB
Audio files (MP3s) 90 MB - 120 MB
Thumbnail images (JPEGs) 4 KB - 8 KB
Reference images (JPEGs) up to 15 MB
Full-resolution images (TIFFs) 50 MB - 120 MB
Publications and literature (PDFs) up to 550 MB
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Data Acquisition and Processing

Sensor or Instrument Description

The following sensors or instruments were used to acquire the data:

  • Balance
  • Camera
  • Compasses
  • hygrothermographs
  • Magvar Magnetic Variometer
  • Multilens Cameras
  • Thermometers
  • Visual observations
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Data Acquisition Methods

Materials were digitized at various institutions and by Lason and sent to NSIDC upon completion.

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Data Processing

Data were renamed according to the convention specified above.

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References and Related Publications

Contacts and Acknowledgments

Coburn, Elizabeth, Ruth Duerr, Elizabeth Schlagel and Allaina Wallace
National Snow and Ice Data Center
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309


Digitization activities at the National Snow and Ice Data Center received support from the NOAA Climate Data Modernization Program (CDMP). Data were also contributed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), The Carnegie Institution for Science, the University of Colorado Libraries, and John Hollin and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado-Boulder (INSTAAR).

Distribution of the data set from NSIDC is supported by funding from NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) and the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC).

Document Information

Document Authors

E. Coburn and A. Windnagel prepared this document.

Document Creation Date

August 2011

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