Gale force winds and heavy seas have prevented the Russian icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov ferrying ashore a surprise Christmas hamper and the ninth member of a team working to conserve Mawson’s Huts at Cape Denison in Antarctica.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic Dr Sharman Stone said that the site described by Sir Douglas Mawson as the 'windiest place on Earth’ yesterday lived up to its reputation creating dangerous conditions for going ashore.

“The Kapitan Khlebnikov stayed in Commonwealth Bay for around five hours hoping for an easing of the wild weather conditions,” said Dr Stone. “However, it was considered too unsafe to venture from the ship in small boats to land.”

The Kapitan Khlebnikov, a tourist ship, is carrying 60 passengers on a nine week circumnavigation of Antarctica and one of the highlights of the trip was to be a tour of Mawson’s Huts.

“It would have been a wonderful opportunity for these travellers to experience this unique piece of Australian Antarctic history. At the same time they could have seen, first hand, the remarkable conservation work being undertaken by expeditioners under the Federal Government-funded $500,000 heritage project,” said Dr Stone.

“The weather also prevented a surprise hamper being delivered to the team which has spent the past seven weeks in harsh conditions without any of the treats so readily available to the rest of us,” Dr Stone said.

An Australian Antarctic Division environment officer, who was to join the conservation team, boarded the Kapitan Khlebnikov in New Zealand carrying fruit cake and chocolates to her colleagues. Those luxuries will now have to wait until the trip home in several weeks when the French resupply ship L'Astrolabe calls to collect the team.

The conservation team is due to leave Cape Denison in about two weeks and will return to Hobart around Christmas.