Establishment of the Antarctic Division

A large icebreaker in ice, vintage photo
Kista Dan en route to Horseshoe Harbour (Photo: Phillip Law)

The Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs was created in May 1948 to administer and coordinate ANARE. In January 1949, Phillip Law was appointed Director of the Antarctic Division and leader of ANARE – a position which he was to hold for the next 17 years.

ANARE expeditions to sub-Antarctic Heard and Macquarie Islands continued to develop, with a wide range of scientific disciplines being studied. However, Law wanted the ANARE effort extended to the Antarctic continent where the greatest scientific opportunities were to be found. He devoted considerable energy to seeking vessels that could adequately support extended journeys into the Antarctic pack ice. His solution to the problem was to look to the northern hemisphere where ice-strengthened vessels lay idle during the northern winter. In 1953, he chartered the Kista Dan, a ship that was ideal for the difficult ice conditions and could provide adequate cargo capacity. In 1954, plans were realised with the establishment of Mawson, Australia's first permanent station on the Antarctic continent.

In 1959, Australia became one of the original twelve parties to the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), which came into force in 1961. The Australian Antarctic Division continues to engage in international cooperation to ensure that Antarctica is valued, protected and understood.

Australia’s scientific program, now called the Australian Antarctic Program (AAp), continues to focus on conducting world-class science of critical national importance and global significance that delivers on Australian Antarctic policy and operational priorities.

The tradition of 'ANARE' is continued by former Antarctic expeditioners who established the ANARE Club.