Pioneers in Antarctica

A black and white photo of Mawson being carried on a chair by a big crowd of his students.
Mawson being carried by students along North Terrace, Adelaide on his return in April 1909 from the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909. This expedition, the years of apprenticeship, deeply imbued Mawson with the spirit of exploration. (Photo: News, Adelaide)

Australian scientists have been involved in exploring and researching our planet's greatest wilderness since the beginning of exploration in Antarctica. Louis Bernacchi, a Tasmanian physicist, was among the first group of ten men to endure the endless night of the Antarctic winter in 1899, and was also a member of Lieutenant Robert Scott's Discovery expedition of 1902-04.

The most famous Australian Antarctic scientist was the geologist and explorer Sir Douglas Mawson. Under the leadership of another Australian geologist, Professor Edgeworth David, Mawson made the first ascent of Mt Erebus, and in what is still described as one of the greatest manhauling trips of all time, reached the South Magnetic Pole. His pioneering role in the early 20th century laid the foundations for Australia's territorial claim in Antarctica.

Scientific and exporatory expeditions were made possible through the skilled and bold seamanship of Captain John King Davis, Clarence Petersen de la Motte and other Australians crewing aboard the vessels that carried expeditioners into the icy regions.

These pages offer just a small selection of people who helped shape our understanding of Antarctica, and it is a list that we plan to grow.

This page was last modified on 17 June 2002.