The author examines the development of the notion of the field experiment in High Arctic environmental sciences during the period 1958 – 70. After a discussion of the philosophy and sociology of experiment, the author considers a set of field practices conducted under the auspices of the Canadian Government’s Polar Continental Shelf Project. Drawing on archival and oral historical research, he argues that field scientists had to deal with a number of logistical, corporeal, and epistemic difficulties in the High Arctic. It is demonstrated that these obstacles hindered attempts to develop a scientific literature based upon experimental practices during fieldwork. In doing so, the author attempts to set new agendas for historical geographers of science around the analysis of the geographical sciences, whilst also contributing to discussions about the epistemic status of variegated field practices.
[awarded EPA Ashby Prize 2007]