Mawson's Antarctic living quarters revealed

11 November 2002

Sir Douglas Mawson's living quarters at his Cape Denison Antarctic base have revealed some historically significant artefacts.

An Australian Antarctic Division expedition to conserve Mawson's Huts has begun removing ice accumulated inside the main hut so that it can assess its condition.

In order to inspect the foundations the nine-member expedition team, working under trying weather conditions and a wind-chill factor of up to -45°, has begun the task of removing some of the ice that has entered the hut through weakened exterior timbers.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic Dr Sharman Stone said that the expedition had reached a particularly critical phase with real progress towards uncovering important relics of Australia's Antarctic pioneering history.

The team has reported that 'bunks of ancient explorers peep out from under the ice - their initials still visible after all this time. In one corner is Frank Hurley's darkroom with his glass photographic plates still sitting on a shelf. Nearby is Mawson's bedroom, with a box as a bedside table and his spartan wooden chair.'

Dr Stone said through this expedition the Federal Government was attempting to save this legacy of our proud Antarctic heritage.

"These and other items inside the main hut such as equipment and personal objects as well as the contents of the adjoining workshop will be documented and assessed."

Dr Stone said that the assessment and documentation of the hut and its artefacts was part of the wider program at the Cape Denison site to ensure its conservation into the future. "A decision on whether we can safely remove the bulk of the ice inside the hut depends on what the expedition finds over the next week or so," she said.

"The Commonwealth is committed to this most important Antarctic heritage project," said Dr Stone.