Celebrating all that is Mawson

23 June 2004

An exhibition in Hobart celebrates the 50th anniversary of Australia’s Mawson Station in Antarctica.

Mawson Station

Mawson Station
Photo: AAD

As part of Tasmania’s Midwinter festivities the Australian Antarctic Division's exhibition brings together the history of the oldest continually operating station south of the Antarctic Circle.

The station was named in honour of Australian scientist and polar explorer Sir Douglas Mawson and was opened in February 1954.

Dr Sharman Stone Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Australian Antarctic Division said Australia’s claim of 42% of the frozen continent was largely due to Mawson’s recognition of the value of Antarctica to our understanding of issues such as global climate.

"Sir Douglas Mawson was a persistent lobbyist for a permanent Australian presence in Antarctica and was a driving force in establishing government-led funding of Antarctic research," Dr Stone said.

"His efforts were realised in 1947, when the first Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) were dispatched to Heard and Macquarie Island. He joined the ANARE Executive Planning Committee and continued to serve on this committee into his old age.

"In 1953, Dr Phillip Law, the first director of the Australian Antarctic Division, used photographs to select suitable landing places on the coast to establish Australia's first over-wintering station on the continent.

Horseshoe Harbour from wind turbine 1

Horseshoe Harbour from wind turbine #1
Photo: S. Fawns

"The choice, Horseshoe Harbour, turned out to be one of the safest anchorages in Antarctica and the perfect site for the new station. ANARE finally reached the continent of Antarctica in 1954 where the station was built on Horseshoe Harbour, MacRobertson Land. The station was fittingly named Mawson, after Australia's greatest polar explorer.

"By the end of 1954 the rudimentary station was sheltering scientists who had embarked on a series of scientific observations that continue unbroken to the present."

Over time, the number of buildings at Mawson has grown and the station has become the base for exploration of the coast east to the Amery Ice Shelf and west into Enderby Land. Major traverses of the Antarctic hinterland and aerial reconnaissance of the interior, including the Lambert Glacier and the Prince Charles Mountains, were undertaken from Mawson and the continent's premier cosmic ray observatory was carved out of the solid rocks on which the station was built.

The exhibition in Hobart celebrates all that is Mawson – the man, the expeditioners, the science and the station. It can be found at the Mawson Pavilion on the Hobart waterfront until Sunday June 27.

Further information

Australia's Antarctic research program aims to better understand the Southern Ocean region and to protect its complex ecosystems and wildlife, and how the physical processes drive global climate systems.

Australia now has three permanent stations on the Antarctic continent: Mawson, Davis and Casey and subantarctic Macquarie Island. Around 300 researchers travel to these stations each year to support the science program.

This page was last modified on 23 June 2004.