A team of conservation experts will venture to Australia’s remotest Antarctic outpost to carry out works on the relics of our first Antarctic expedition.
One hundred and ten years since Douglas Mawson set sail from Hobart, the 2021/22 Mawson’s Huts Foundation expedition will spend five weeks in one of the harshest environments on earth in a bid to ensure the survival of the wooden huts they left behind.
Mawson’s Huts are a collection of wooden buildings constructed by the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition at Cape Denison, 2,500km south of Hobart. Mawson is best remembered for his lone trek of survival across the polar icecap after the death of two companions on a sledging journey. He arrived back at the hut only to see his relief vessel sail north over the horizon without him, leaving him stranded for another year. The huts site a largely untouched since Mawson and his men left it and are a listed heritage site.
The place he dubbed “the windiest place on earth” for its constant blizzards is so hard to get to it has not been visited by an expedition for six years. The team will camp on the Antarctic coastline hundreds of kilometres from the nearest Australian base. There are no showers or laundry facilities, they will melt ice for water and the camp toilet arrangements are best described as “basic”.
Chosen for their ability to thrive in the extreme cold and isolation of Cape Denison, the team is being supported by a grant from the Australian Government and logistical support from the Australian and French Antarctic programs. They will take advantage of the 24-hour sunlight during the Antarctic summer to complete a program of conservation works, erect an automatic weather station and conduct surveys of the area’s penguin population.
Mawson’s Huts Foundation CEO Greg Carter says:
“Mawson’s Huts are Australia’s most important historic site in Antarctica. The team’s work this summer will help ensure these examples of our priceless Antarctic heritage are preserved for the future. This work is not possible without the generous support of the Australian and French Antarctic programs and the support of the Foundation’s many donors and volunteers.
Expedition leader Marty Passingham says:
“Antarctica is never predictable. On previous trips, we’ve faced winds of over 100km/h, blizzards that went for days and temperatures down to minus 20. It can be a challenging place to live. The work we’re doing this summer is the culmination of 14 visits to the site over two decades This work is integral to the buildings’ survival.”
The team is made up of both Antarctic veterans and newcomers. They are in hotel quarantine and will depart Hobart aboard the French Antarctic program Vessel L’Astrolabe at the end of the week. The team is expected to return in late January.
TEAM: expedition leader Marty Passingham, of Hobart Tasmania; conservation team leader Ian Godfrey of Perth, Western Australia; materials conservators Karina Acton and Eoin Eoin O’Suilleabhain of Sydney; expedition doctor Roger Booth and base camp manager David Killick, both of Hobart.