Explorers reach Mawson's Huts in Antarctica

December 20, 2013
File photo of Commonwealth Bay, in the Australian Antarctic Territory, where two Australian explorers have battled dangerous sea ice to reach the historic Mawson's Huts,which have been isolated for years by a giant iceberg blocking the route in

Two Australian explorers have battled dangerous sea ice to reach the historic Mawson's Huts in Antarctica which have been isolated for years by a giant iceberg blocking the route in, officials said Friday.

The huts, in the eastern sector of the Australian Antarctic Territory, some 3,000 kilometres south of Hobart, were erected and occupied by the Australian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-1914 led by explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.

Conservator Ian Godfrey and heritage carpenter Jon Tucker navigated 70 kilometres (43 miles) of during a five-hour journey on an amphibious vehicle to reach the buildings on Thursday after leaving their ship.

"This has been planned for six months and was the trip of a lifetime. These vehicles travel at speeds up to 20 kilometres per hour but we had to negotiate tide cracks in the ice at times as well as pressure ridges," said Godfrey.

"Mawson's Huts seem to be in good condition but we may only have a day here so we're doing all the essentials such as changing data loggers and assessing the condition of the building structure."

The Australian Antarctic Expedition was the pre-eminent scientific expedition of its time to South Polar regions and was organised, manned and supported primarily by Australians.

The four huts left behind are among the few that remain from a golden era of Antarctic exploration.

The Mawson Huts Foundation said the structures had been cut off for several years because an iceberg codenamed b09b has been blocking the entrance to Commonwealth Bay—named by Mawson—where the huts are located.

The massive iceberg broke away from the Ross Ice Shelf in 2009 and a huge piece of it is now grounded on the ocean bottom.

This prevents the sea ice from breaking up, which obstructs access to the huts by ship.

Godfrey and Tucker will measure the ice thickness in the harbour near the huts for the possible landing of an aircraft from the Casey scientific base on the sea ice during the next few days.

The privately-funded expedition is a joint venture between the Mawson's Huts Foundation and the Australian Antarctic Division with some 30 scientists on the ship who will carry out many of the experiments conducted by the 1911-14 team.

Explore further: Huge Antarctic iceberg foils centenary plans

Related Stories

Huge Antarctic iceberg foils centenary plans

December 21, 2011

An iceberg nearly 100 kilometres (60 miles) long was Wednesday preventing tourist ships from reaching Antarctica to mark the centenary of Australian explorer Douglas Mawson's epic polar voyage.

New Australasian Antarctic expedition

June 4, 2013

To celebrate the centenary of Sir Douglas Mawson's 1911-1914 expedition to Antarctica, two University of New South Wales scientists are leading a modern-day voyage to retrace the route taken by the great Australian scientist ...

Perilous Shackleton Antarctic bid sets off

January 24, 2013

A British-Australian expedition recreating Ernest Shackleton's perilous 1916 crossing of the Southern Ocean in a small boat set off Thursday, braced for fearsome seas and icy, bleak conditions.

Australia's Antarctic runway melting

October 24, 2012

Australia said Wednesday it was searching for a new aircraft landing site for planes supplying its three bases in Antarctica because the current runway is melting.

Recommended for you

Arctic wintertime sea ice extent is among lowest on record

March 23, 2018

Sea ice in the Arctic grew to its annual maximum extent last week, and joined 2015, 2016 and 2017 as the four lowest maximum extents on record, according to scientists at the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center ...

Germany was covered by glaciers 450,000 years ago

March 23, 2018

The timing of the Middle Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles and the feedback mechanisms between climatic shifts and earth-surface processes are still poorly understood. This is largely due to the fact that chronological ...

Wood pellets: Renewable, but not carbon neutral

March 22, 2018

A return to firewood is bad for forests and the climate. So reports William Schlesinger, President Emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in an Insights article published today in the journal Science.

The tradeoffs inherent in earthquake early warning systems

March 22, 2018

A team of researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and the California Institute of Technology has found that modern earthquake early warning (EEW) systems require those interpreting their messages to take into consideration ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 20, 2013
Why didn't they just travel there by air (i.e. plane, helicopter)?

Would've been a hell of a lot easier.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.