Heritage expedition announced for Mawson's Huts

14 October 2002

An Australian expedition will set sail for Antarctica tomorrow on the French Antarctic vessel L'Astrolabe to complete vital conservation and restoration work on Mawson's Huts, Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, Dr Sharman Stone, announced today.

Dr Stone said the $500,000 expedition, funded by the Commonwealth, would remove snow and ice from inside the historic structures, repair the roof and walls, and assess and document artefacts.

"Mawson's Huts are the most important heritage site in the Australian Antarctic Territory. The Howard Government is committed to the preservation of the buildings and their artefacts for future generations," Dr Stone said.

Mawson's Huts, which represent the last structures remaining in the Australian Antarctic Territory from the "Heroic Era" of polar exploration, are located at Cape Denison, which Mawson himself called 'the home of the blizzard'. One of the windiest places on Earth, Cape Denison is 2560 km south of Hobart and 1300 km from the nearest permanent Australian base, Casey. "The isolated location and climatic extremes required careful logistical planning for the expedition," Dr Stone said.

"Mawson's Huts are a frozen testimony to the life and work of our most famous Antarctic explorer and his team," Dr Stone said. "Keeping simple timber huts standing in these extreme winds is a complex task. The Government has embraced its responsibility to preserve and interpret Australia's unique Antarctic heritage."

The nine-member expedition includes a heritage architect, a materials conservator and an archaeologist, as well as expert carpenters. One of the tasks of the expedition is to structurally secure the fragile buildings, subject to an assessment of their condition. The expedition leaves Hobart on October 15 for the 10-week project.