Mawson’s huskies make it onto the map

Photo of landscape with penguins
Adelie penguins at Commonwealth Bay (Photo: Tony Fleming)
Photo of husky dogPhoto of islands

2nd August 2017

The huskies used in early Antarctic exploration are being immortalised with their names bestowed on a variety of prominent landmarks across the icy continent.

The Australian Antarctic Division Place Names Committee today announced 26 islands, rocks and reefs are being named after the beloved dogs which played a critical role in Australia’s heroic era of exploration a century ago.

Committee Chair, Gillian Slocum, said the huskies served alongside Sir Douglas Mawson and his men.

“The dogs were used for expedition transport, pulling sleds laden with supplies, as well as providing companionship for the men,” Ms Slocum said.

“While some of the dogs returned to Australia, others sadly perished in the harsh conditions.”

A number of features near Cape Denison, where Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911–1914 was based, have been named after the huskies.

“Given their important contribution to Antarctic exploration, it is appropriate to name Antarctic landmarks in their honour with the most prominent features named after the most important dogs.”

“Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen gifted Mawson a husky named Lassesen, in honour of the dog that was with him when he reached the South Pole in 1911. Lassesen Island in the Mackellar Islands is named after Mawson’s dog.

“Pavlova Island, Ginger Reef and Devil Rock were all four-legged members of the AAE. Pavlova was named after the famed Russian dancer Anna Pavlova, who was a friend of Belgrave Ninnis who cared for the dogs during the expedition.

“Ninnis later died during the ill-fated Far Eastern Party sledging journey, when he and six of the party’s best dogs, as well as most of the supplies, fell through a crevasse.”

Other huskies named after royalty, explorers, sporting champions, singers, comedians and Greek mythology lend their names to features such as Mary Island, Caruso Rock, Jeffries Rock and Franklin Reef.

Ms Slocum said the latitude and longitude of each feature is confirmed when they are named.

“The approved name, coordinates and a narrative describing the feature are recorded in the Australian Antarctic Gazetteer and Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica.

“Accurate names and positions are critical for scientific research and operations in Antarctica and satellite imagery is allowing us to better identify islands which we may have previously been unsure whether a feature was an island or iceberg,” she said.

The Australian Antarctic Division’s Place Names Committee oversees the naming of features in the Australian Antarctic Territory, Heard Island and McDonald Islands and territorial seas.

The Australian Antarctic Gazetteer records all the Australian Antarctic place names.

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