This project is a collaboration between Stanford University and the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) at Cambridge University in the UK to digitize the nearly 1,000 rolls of optical film gathered in the late 1960s and 1970s as part of an Antarctic airborne geophysical survey. To browse, label, and download the data, visit

20th Century Antarctic Surveys

C130 Place
At Williams Field
Antenna Maintenance
Jankowski Flight Planning
Mt. Whitmore
C130 Radar

Conducted by an international consortium of American, British and Danish geoscientists , the airborne surveys used a converted American military C-130 long-range aircraft. The decade-long effort involved crisscrossing Antarctica repeatedly, covering a total of about a quarter million line-miles, and using ice-penetrating radar to peer beneath the surface down to a depth of about 3 miles.

21st Century Digitization

This work is the culmination of an international effort to recover, scan, and publicly release a collection of historic airborne radar observations of the Antarctic Ice Sheet acquired nearly a half century ago. For decades these data were stored on 35 mm optical film in the museum archives of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University. By using a high-resolution film scanner built for recovering old Hollywood movies, this project is providing the scientific community with public access to the full resolution version of the earliest continental-wide survey of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and its subsurface. This effort extends the available ice-sheet-scale observations of Antarctica from the early 2000s (about 15 years ago) to the 1970s (over 40 years ago), providing a critical window into the coupled glaciological, geological, biological, and climatological processes of the Antarctic system over the multi-decadal timescales needed for generating actionable climate projections in assessments like the IPCC.

Original Film Canisters
Film reels
splicing film
Film digitization process
Film scanner
Cutting Film _
Preparing film
film editing

High Resolution Scanned Film Analysis

The scanned radar sounding profiles provide high resolution views into a wide range of englacial and subglacial features with broad multi-disciplinary relevance. These include records of subglacial lakes, accretion plumes, and a volcanic ash layer newly revealed by the high resolution scans. These scans also enable observations of subglacial conditions over a multi-decadal timescale.

Film Analysis 5
Film Analysis 6
Film Analysis 4

Data Citation: Multidecadal observations of the Antarctic ice sheet from restored analog radar records. Dustin M. Schroeder, Julian A. Dowdeswell, Martin J. Siegert, Robert G. Bingham, Winnie Chu, Emma J. MacKie, Matthew R. Siegfried, Katherine I. Vega, John R. Emmons, Keith Winstein. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Sep 2019, 201821646; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1821646116