Mawson's Huts, Cape Denison

Raising the flag at Cape Denison after the erection of the hut
Raising the flag at Cape Denison after the erection of the hut, March 1912. (Photo: Frank Hurley)
Mawson's main hut at Cape Denison, Commonwealth BayTransit Hut northern wall

Mawson’s Huts are a collection of buildings located at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, in the far eastern sector of the Australian Antarctic Territory. The buildings were built and occupied by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911–14, led by geologist and explorer Dr (later Sir) Douglas Mawson.

Mawson’s Huts are of national and international heritage significance. They are rare in a world context as one of just six complexes surviving from the ‘Heroic Era’ of Antarctic exploration: a period of great human adventure, exploration, research and discovery on the last continent to be explored.

The buildings are unique in the context of Australian history as the only surviving site representing the work of an Australian Antarctic expedition during this period. The site also has significant heritage values for Australia’s national Antarctic interests, since Douglas Mawson’s AAE was the foundation of the modern Australian Antarctic science program.

Mawson’s Huts have suffered over the years from the effects of wind, ice and time. A number of recent expeditions by the Australian Antarctic Program and the Mawson’s Huts Foundation (a non-profit organisation whose expeditions have been largely funded by the Australian Government) have sought to stabilise the remains.

Explore the Home of the Blizzard website to find out more about Mawson’s Huts and the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.

Mawson's Huts Historic Site Management Plan

In 2001, the Mawson’s Huts Foundation commissioned a conservation management plan for the site, which guided works at the site for several years. In 2007, the Australian Antarctic Division developed a management plan, to meet its obligations arising from the inclusion of the site on the National Heritage List (in 2005) and Commonwealth Heritage List (in 2004), and to reflect the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty management plans for the Cape Denison Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) and Antarctic Specially Managed Area (ASMA).

This plan was reviewed and revised in 2013. The current management plan is available at Mawson’s Huts Historic Site Management Plan [PDF].

This management plan was reviewed in accordance with section 324W and 341X of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in 2018. This review concluded that the management plan remains consistent with the National and Commonwealth Heritage management principles, and effective in protecting and conserving the National and Commonwealth Heritage values of the Mawson's Huts Historic Site. The management plan will therefore remain operative pending its sunset in 2023.

The overarching management philosophy for the Mawson’s Huts Historic site is a commitment to the protection and conservation of the National and Commonwealth listed heritage values in accordance with the requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Persons reading the management plan should note that, in 2014, ASMA No. 3 was de-designated and the boundary of ASPA No. 162 expanded to coincide with the previous ASMA boundary.

Mawson’s Huts Foundation

In partnership with the Australian Antarctic Division, the Mawson’s Huts Foundation contributes to the management and promotion of the Mawson’s Huts Historic Site. The Foundation has participated in expeditions to the site, and undertaken valuable heritage conservation works to conserve the unique historic buildings and artefacts at Cape Denison. It also provides valuable public education and promotion of Sir Douglas Mawson’s legacy.

Further information can be found on the Mawson's Huts Foundation website.