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The shape of the Antarctic continent was only determined after the mid-twentieth century to any reasonable accuracy by a combination of spotty geodetic surveys, aerial photography and satellite imagery. The advent of satellite radar altimetry late in that century allowed mapping the geoid of the ocean basins. The result was a new understanding of the tectonics and evolution of the ocean basins.

Now, a few researchers have applied radar altimetry to determining the shape and ice mass of the Antarctic. Ute Herzfeld's book represents a monumental effort to map the topography of the coastal regions of Antarctica to high accuracy by these means.