A works party will sail for Cape Denison, Antarctica, on 9 December, to undertake conservation work on Mawson’s Huts — remnants of the 'Heroic Era’ of Antarctic exploration and an important symbol of Australia’s pioneering spirit.

Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the four-person works party, funded by the Mawson’s Huts Foundation, would make the 25 day round-trip voyage to Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, in the far eastern sector of the Australian Antarctic Territory, on board the Aurora Expeditions tourist vessel MS Marina Svetaeva.

Mawson’s four wooden huts were built during Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911–1914. They were recognised for their historical, scientific and cultural significance in 2004 when they were included on Australia’s National Heritage List and declared an Antarctic Specially Protected Area under the Antarctic Treaty.

“The Australian Government welcomes the ongoing commitment by the Mawson’s Huts Foundation, and the support of Aurora Expeditions, to continue conservation efforts on these amazing heritage-listed buildings,” Senator Campbell said.

“I was proud to help establish the Mawson’s Hut Foundation as Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment in 1996. The foundation successfully conducted a number of voyages to Commonwealth Bay to restore the huts to their original condition — I have maintained my interest in this fascinating part of history since.

“To assist the team, the Australian Government’s Australian Antarctic Division will provide tools, generators, communication equipment, clothing, medical supplies and cameras and film to document the work.”

The most recent significant conservation work took place in 2002–03, with the assistance of the French Government, which operates a research station 200km from Cape Denison. 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.

This season, under a works plan developed by the Australian Antarctic Division, the works team will continue repairs and assess the state of the huts, with a view to returning to conduct further work in 2006–07.

“Conservation works are expensive at the best of times, but in places like Cape Denison — isolated, infrequently visited and battered by the elements — the costs can be extraordinary,” he said.

“So it is important that the Government works with private enterprise and our Antarctic Treaty partners at every opportunity, to visit this far flung and windswept part of our Territory.”

Conservation efforts were mounted by the AAD in 1977–78, 1984–85, 1985–86, 1997–98, 2001–02 (with the Mawson’s Huts Foundation) and in 2002–03. This season’s conservation programme is expected to take six days. The works party will return to Bluff, New Zealand, on 4 January 2006.