Temporally and spatially increasing information on the distribution of Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) breeding sites is used as an index of various national activities in eastern Prydz Bay, East Antarctica. Recorded instances of such sites are used to indicate both exploration and enhanced local knowledge. While Norwegians discovered the area (1935), and revisited it (1937), reports of penguins were minimal. The 1938 Ellsworth expedition added few details and the potential of Operation Highjump (1947) photographs to delimit breeding sites was never realised. Observations by Australian expeditioners from the mid-1950s onwards, supplemented to some extent by those from the Soviet Union, increased information substantially. When Davis station was established (January 1957), at least five breeding sites were known around eastern Prydz Bay. By 1973 this had increased to 23 or 24 sites, mostly north of the Sørsdal Glacier, which had apparently acted as a barrier to land-based exploration. Data available to 1980 showed 20 sites in the Vestfold Hills, added two in the Rauer Group, and omitted some recorded earlier. Ground surveys of the Vestfold Hills (November 1973) increased known sites slightly, discounted erroneous records, and massively increased numbers of individual colonies. In 1981 an air survey recognised 24 sites in the Vestfold Hills and increased those known to 47. In approximately the same period, official Soviet records showed perhaps four sites in the Vestfold Hills and another in the Rauer Group. Early reports provided poor estimates of breeding population sizes — totals of some 130,000 (or 174,200) pairs in the Vestfold Hills in 1973 are compared with perhaps 196,600 in 1981, with another 129,000 pairs to the south. By 1983 locations of breeding sites in the Vestfold Hills were well established, and this was achieved in southern Prydz Bay following publication of 1981 survey results.
Progression of information regarding breeding sites in eastern Prydz Bay was slow. Initial Australian activities were slight following acceptance of its Antarctic Territory (1933). However, a Soviet Antarctic whaling fleet, uncertainty regarding American and Soviet intentions, and the imminent International Geophysical Year increased Australian interest. A station was established, local search areas expanded, and enhanced details regarding penguin breeding sites and colonies followed. Data reviews and surveys followed increasing international interest in southern ecosystems. Improved knowledge regarding the species' local populations reflected changing political agendas. Indeed, ‘knowledge’ itself gave early support to territorial claims. Participation in international surveys became an acceptable scientific endeavour, anticipated under Treaty agreements and promoted by associated organisations. In such fora, surveys and monitoring are expected, although not necessarily furthering the strength of existing claims.