Icy resting place for Australian Antarctic pioneer

Station Leader Mark Williams conducts the interment ceremony flanked by Mawson expeditioners carrying the ashes of Phil and Nel Law, and the remaining 2011 wintering expedition team.
Station Leader Mark Williams (in red at centre) conducts the interment ceremony flanked by Mawson expeditioners carrying the ashes of Phil and Nel Law, and the remaining 2011 wintering expedition team. (Photo: Chris Wilson)
The final resting place of Phil and Nel Law’s ashes, alongside the graves of three other expeditioners who lost their lives in Antarctica.

The man known as ‘Mr Antarctica’ has been laid to rest on a rocky outcrop near Mawson station in Antarctica.

Dr Phillip Law’s ashes and those of his late wife, Nellie Law, were interred at a ceremony at West Arm overlooking Horseshoe Harbour on Sunday 19 June 2011.

Dr Law died in Melbourne in 2010, aged 98, and Nel Law died in 1990, aged 75. Their ashes were transported to Mawson station on the icebreaker Aurora Australis in February.

Former Australian Antarctic Division Director, Lyn Maddock, said Dr Law’s final wish was to be interred with his wife at Mawson, alongside the graves of three other expeditioners who lost their lives on the icy continent.

‘Dr Law was particularly fond of Mawson as it was the first Australian station he founded in 1954,’ Ms Maddock said.

Mawson Station Leader, Mark Williams, and 19 other wintering expeditioners attended the interment ceremony.

‘As Mawson expeditioners we have a special bond with Phil Law,’ Mark said.

‘His indomitable will, humorous disposition and adventurous spirit set high standards for those of us who follow him.’

Dr Law founded Australia’s three continental stations and explored extensive tracts of the Australian Antarctic Territory. He was appointed as the first Director of the Antarctic Division in 1949; a position he held for 17 years. He also established Australia’s National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) – the forerunner to today’s Australian Antarctic program – with an emphasis on scientific research in the region. In his 19 years as an Antarctic explorer Dr Law personally led 23 voyages to the Antarctic and subantarctic.

Nel Law was the first Australian woman to set foot on the Antarctic continent when she visited Mawson station in 1961. She was a talented artist and produced a magnificent series of oil and water colour paintings of her first Antarctic voyage. She founded the Antarctic Wives Association of Australia in 1965, later to become the Antarctic Family and Friends Association, and was the group’s first President and later Patron.

Read more about Dr Phil Law in Australian Antarctic Magazine 18: 22-24, 2010.

NISHA HARRIS

Corporate Communications, Australian Antarctic Division