You are here

Antarctic Single Frame Records

This is an example of trimetrogon aerial photography of Antarctica showing horizon to horizon coverage when the left oblique, vertical, and right oblique images are placed side-by-side.


Antarctic Single Frame Records are a collection of aerial photographs over Antarctica from the United States Antarctic Resource Center (USARC) and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) dating from 1946 to 2000. The Antarctic Single Frame Records collection includes black-and-white, natural color and color infrared images with a photographic scale ranging from 1:1,000 to 1:64,000.

U.S. Antarctic Single Frames

The U.S. Navy began flying Antarctic trimetrogon photography with Operation Highjump in 1946 followed by Operation Windmill in 1947. Then in 1955 the U.S. Navy launched the first Operation Deep Freeze mission to Antarctica. This mission prepared the United States for the International Geophysical Year which was an international project to study earth sciences across the globe in 1957 and established scientific research in Antarctica. The U.S. Navy has acquired over 330,000 frames of Antarctic photography since 1946 with annual acquisitions since 1980. The USARC maintains this collection of Antarctic aerial photography.

The majority of images in this collection are black-and-white trimetrogon aerial (TMA) photographs. TMA photography is a system of cameras positioned to take vertical, left oblique, and right oblique images simultaneously for use in topographic mapping. The TMA images are taken along a single flight line with the oblique cameras pointed at a depression angle of 30°. Each of the three cameras has an angular field of view of 60°, which provides a 180° horizon to horizon coverage when the images are placed side-by-side. Not all flights were equipped with oblique cameras, and equipment malfunctions limited the availability of complete sets of photography.

USGS EROS scanned the U.S. Antarctic film collection and collaborated with the Antarctic Geospatial Information Center (AGIC) to establish latitude and longitude coordinates for the single frame records. The AGIC, based out of the University of Minnesota, supports Antarctic research by providing geospatial information. This collaborative effort provides easy access to historical Antarctic photography. TMA mission number, roll number, and frame number are no longer needed to obtain images since the longitude and latitude coordinates have been provided. Antarctic Single Frame Records can be located by selecting an area or by entering geographic coordinates in EarthExplorer.

The film sources in the USARC collection are affected by vinegar syndrome degradation and have been transferred to the National Archive and Records Administration (NARA) for permanent storage.

British Antarctic Single Frames

The USGS EROS, in cooperation with the BAS, has scanned a portion of their collection of Antarctic aerial photography making single frame records available to the public. The collaborative effort provides easy access to this British Antarctic photography. The BAS has supplied metadata, including latitude and longitude coordinates, for their film collection allowing the images to be searched by selecting an area or by entering geographic coordinates in EarthExplorer.

The BAS film sources were on loan to the USGS EROS Center and were returned immediately after scanning.

Digital Products

EarthExplorer offers two digital download options for the Antarctic Single Frame Records photography. The files are stored in a TIFF format.

Medium Resolution Digital Aerial Products are non-photogrammetric quality and created with a digital camera at 63 micron (400 dpi). The file size for nine inch scenes is approximately 15 MB (megabytes) for black-and-white and 45 MB for color images.

High Resolution Digital Aerial Products are of photogrammetric quality and were created with a digital scanning back at 25 micron (1000 dpi). The file size for nine inch scenes is approximately 110 MB for black-and-white images and 330 MB for color images.

USGS EROS scanning of the Antarctic film collection involved updates to EarthExplorer that activated no cost high resolution downloads and turned off custom scanning request capabilities.

Coverage Maps

Coverage Maps indicating the availability of Antarctic Single Frame Records are available for download.

Additional Information:

Data Use and Citation Policies

For information on how to cite USGS data plus guidance on usage restrictions,
please see our Data Citations and Use page at

Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and
does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Contact Information for User Assistance

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
47914 252nd Street
Sioux Falls, SD 57198-0001

Phone Number: 605-594-6151
Toll Free: 800-252-4547
Fax: 605-594-6589


Business Hours: Monday thru Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Central Time