The Australian Antarctic ice-breaker, the Aurora Australis, will arrive in Fremantle (WA) on Saturday morning carrying 25 tonnes of waste from the derelict Atlas Cove base on Australia’s Heard Island. The waste includes the remains of derelict buildings and equipment, as well as accumulated rubbish from over 50 years of occasional occupancy of the base by Australian, French, and US expeditions.

The Australian Government established the base at Atlas Cove in 1947 and was occupied until 1954, when it was closed to allow the establishment of Australia's first Antarctic station, Mawson, 1700 km to the south.

Over recent years the camp-site on this remote outpost has been visited infrequently – with sporadic visits by research parties, as well as tourists and adventurers. Heard Island's relentless gales, blizzards, and sea spray have gradually demolished the frail station buildings, and partially buried much of the debris in shifting volcanic sands.

Heard Island received World Heritage listing in 1998, in recognition of its outstanding natural environment, with the Government immediately announcing that it would move to clean up the site. A small party organised by the Australian Antarctic Division was landed on the island in February this year to assess the site’s heritage value and existing environmental hazards, and to commence clean up work.

As part of a major Australian Antarctic Division program on the island this summer, a second group of technical specialists have been working under the island’s severe weather conditions to clean-up as much as possible of the remaining waste at Atlas Cove.