Australia in Antarctica
The History and Activity of Australians in Antarctica
Australia has a long
and involved history in Antarctica. From the sealing and then
whaling days of the 19th century through to
the Heroic Age, to involvement in
the International Geophysical Year, IGY to a
number of modern scientific bases going back
over 60 years and currently at the forefront
of modern research in Antarctica.
Australia was one of the very first
signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty
in 1961 and is a consultative party with voting
rights able to make decisions about
Vincennes Bay, Wilkes Land
1969 - present
Princess Elizabeth Land
1957 - present
54°30' S, 158°57' E
1958 - present
Mac Robertson Land
1954 - present
Divivion (AAD) a
government organization that has
responsibility for Australia's Antarctic
There is an icebreaker the RSV Aurora
Australis that is used to supply the
stations and conduct research in the
Southern Ocean. Since 2004 flights have left
from Hobart, Tasmania directly to Antarctica
to transfer personnel and further supplies.
Smaller aircraft and helicopters are used
within Antarctica for moving between
stations and reaching temporary field camps.
AAD headquarters is in Kingston, Tasmania,
the budget for 2012-13 was $AUS112.8
(Australia) from Welch Island. 5 am,
December 26, 2008
cutesy Bignoter at en.wikipedia Creative
Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence
British Antarctic Expedition -
the aims of the expedition was to try and
reach the South Pole, though this part did
not involve Mawson and wasn't achieved.
Mawson was one of a three man team to reach
the Southern Geomagnetic Pole for the first
time after a 1260 mile man hauled journey.
He also climbed Mount Everest. On return to
Australia, Mawson began planning his own
Australian Antarctic Expedition turning down
a place offered by captain Scott on
the Terra Nova Expedition to take place
Mawson - Aurora -
Australasian Antarctic Expedition -
Supported by the Australian Association for
the Advancement of Science, the expedition
had ambitious aims to explore 2000 miles of
coastline directly south of Australia and to
set up two overwintering bases to allow
inland exploration to take place using dog
teams. A base was also to be established on
the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island. The
members of the expedition were almost all
Australians or New Zealanders.
Unknown to Mawson at the time, they had set
the main base up in one of the windiest
places on earth, no-one had set foot on
Antarctica along a 2000 mile stretch of
coastline before they landed, so they had
little idea of the conditions prior to
Anything that was not tied down was blown
away. When the men left the safety of the huts it was
vital to be wearing crampons fitted onto the bottom
of their boots so they didn't get blown over too. Through March and April the wind often gusted
over 100 miles per hour and occasionally to over 200 miles per hour.
All of the sled parties that left the base
suffered difficulties, though none matched
the ordeal of Mawson, Metz and Ninnis that
only Mawson was to survive and only just at
The Australasian Antarctic
Expedition is today regarded as one of the greatest polar scientific expeditions
of all time because of the detailed observations in magnetism, geology,
biology and meteorology that were made. Mawson's own tale of survival
1914 - 17 -
British Trans-Antarctica Expedition
of Mawson's expedition, Hurley
was the only member of the expedition
that Shackleton didn't meet or interview before the expedition set
off, he was accepted on the the strength of his work with Mawson
on the 1911-13
Antarctic Expedition. It is largely
due to Hurley's pictures that we are able to get
such a good impression of the events and that the Endurance
story is still very alive and capturing people's
imaginations even today.
Bases and Research after 1922
November 1928 -
Wilkins makes the first flight in
Antarctica. A five man team with two single
engined Lockheed Vega aircraft set off for Deception
Island on board a whaling factory ship. The
intention was to try and fly from the Peninsula
region across the continent to the Ross Sea.
While this wasn't possible, a number of flights
were made in summers of '28, '29 and '30 that
showed the possibilities of aircraft use in
Antarctica including aerial photography and
mapping and also the limitations.
British, Australian and New Zealand
Antarctic Research Expedition 1929-31.
BANZARE - Douglas Mawson. The
French had in 1924 laid claim to Terre
Adelie or Adelie Land in the sector directly
south of Australia. What became popularly
known as BANZARE was an attempt by (now Sir)
Douglas Mawson and others in Australia to
encourage the government to file a similar
claim. After a meeting in London, a joint
expedition was proposed, partially privately
funded, it used the RRS Discovery and had a
small floatplane. The expedition didn't
overwinter in Antarctica but consisted of
two summer cruises in 1929-30 and 1930-31,
surveying and mapping by ship and from the
air. Land was claimed as British territory.
It led to the establishment of the
Australian Antarctic Territory.
Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1955
- 1958. Funded by the governments of
Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South
Africa, this was an attempt to do what
Shackleton had set out to do in 1914, to
cross the Antarctic Continent from sea to
sea via the South Pole. Led by the British
Vivian Fuchs from the Weddell Sea and New
Zealander Edmund Hilary from the Ross Sea.
Hilary arrived at the Pole on the 4th of
January 1958, Fuchs on the 19th, they both
reached the Ross Sea again on the 2nd of
is a historical claim of the Australian Antarctic
back to 1933 when it was claimed by the UK
and placed under the Commonwealth of Australia.
The region is that area of Antarctica
between 45°E and 160°E except for
Adelie Land between 136°E and 142°E (claimed
by France) and stretching as far north as 60°S, this
is 42% of the Antarctic Continent.
Australia is one of seven nations that made a claim
to land in Antarctica before the Antarctic Treaty of
1961, these being Argentina, Chile, the United
Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand and Norway.
The UK, France, Australia, New Zealand and Norway
all recognize each other's claims, these are
The Antarctic Treaty, Article IV § 2 states:
“No acts or activities taking place while
the present Treaty is in force shall
constitute a basis for asserting, supporting
or denying a claim to territorial
sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or
enlargement of an existing claim, to
territorial sovereignty shall be asserted
while the present Treaty is in force”.
So the Antarctic Treaty does not suspend or
defer existing claims, though it does state
- No activities occurring after 1961
can be the basis of a territorial claim.
- No new claim can be made.
- No claim can be enlarged.
Practically though territorial claims
have been effectively suspended since 1961.
Image used courtesy TUBS,
license via Wikimedia Commons