Saving Mawson’s Hut

A team of four headed south from Hobart last summer to work on Australia’s most iconic Antarctic heritage site — Mawson’s Hut. They removed snow and ice build-up from inside the hut, checked the cladding, secured loose planks, and assessed further conservation options, including the possible overcladding of the existing roof.

The works party, provided by the Mawson’s Huts Foundation, made the 25-day round-trip voyage to Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, on board the tourist vessel MS Marina Svetaeva. The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) provided tools, generators, communication equipment, clothing, first aid supplies, and cameras and film to document the work.

The last significant conservation effort was undertaken by the AAD in 2002. The conservation team repaired parts of the Main Hut, removed snow and ice from inside, catalogued artefacts, and installed sensors and data loggers to monitor the hut’s internal microclimate (a continuation of the process started in 1997–98, Australian Antarctic Magazine 5: 19–21). Mawson’s Huts Foundation chairman, David Jensen, says that one more expedition should secure the hut’s future to its centenary and beyond.

‘The main work to be done is overcladding of the existing roof of the main building and the removal of more ice and snow, and thereafter ongoing maintenance,’ he says.

‘We plan to launch a $2 million fundraising campaign to give us all the funds we require for this maintenance.’ Jensen says the success of the conservation effort to date is due to the collaborative approach of the foundation and the Australian Government, through the AAD.

‘Having the AAD’s full support has been critical to the success of the operation and is a great example of what can be achieved by a joint venture between private enterprise and government,’ Jensen says.

Eight significant conservation expeditions have been mounted by the AAD and/or the Mawson’s Huts Foundation since 1977. The huts were recognised for their historic, scientific and cultural significance in 2004 when they were included on the National Heritage List. The huts and memorial crosses are also listed on the Historic Sites and Monuments List of the Antarctic Treaty.

DAVID KILLICK, Expeditioner, Mawson’s Huts Foundation
WENDY PYPER, Information Services, AAD