Stories relating to Mawson and polar regions

A model of SY Aurora:

Post commenced April 2014.
Chris Birkett of West Yorkshire, UK, has embarked on the construction of a model of Aurora. His previous model of model of Shackletons’ Endurance is on display in the Scot Polar Research Institute Museum. Chris is kindly supplying us with photos of his work so we are able to bring you a photo dairy of the construction (click on the link below to view it).

In mid-April Chris reported the model "is now taking shape as the first 'layer' of planking to the hull is complete, along with the decking . I have used Lime wood strips 6mm x 1mm for the hull as it is very flexible and follows the contours of the bulkheads easily. The deck planks are cut from 5mm wide by 0.5 mm thick Cherry as this has a fine grain and is therefore in proportion to the build scale (1:60). I am now ready to fine fill the surface of the hull and apply a coat of water based resin to harden the timber and then I will apply the second (finished) layer of planks from 7mm x1mm Mahogany". To view the photo diary click here.

A provocative new book on Mawson:

Posted December 2013.
The book Flaws in the Ice by historian David Day has now been published. Many of you may have seen the preview in the Weekend Australian Review in December 2012 or have read the book. The book is contentious and provocative, to say the least. For example Day argues Mawson's ambition and inexperience were largely to blame for the deaths of Ninnis and Mertz. To get a feel for Day's assertions you can download the Australian article here.

FoM is pleased to offer some balanced appraisals of Flaws in the Ice:
A response from Dr Beau Riffenburgh, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge. He is the author of several books on polar exploration, including Racing With Death, an account of Mawson's landmark 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Click here to view Dr Riffenburgh's response which challenges a number of Day's assertions.
a review of the book by Tom Griffiths, the author of Slicing the Silence: Voyaging to Antarctica UNSW Press, 2007) and co-editor with Marcus Haward of Australia and the Antarctic Treaty System: 50 Years of Influence (UNSW Press, 2011). You can access the review at

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FoM presents cheque to the South Australian Museum:

Posted August 2013.
ChequePresentation The Adelie Blizzard was published by the Friends of the State Library in conjunction with the Friends of Mawson. From their proceeds from the publication FoM presented cheque for $10,000 to the South Australian Museum, to be donated to the Mawson Collection Trust fund. The photo shows FoM President, Pamela Karran-Thomas, presenting the $10,000 cheque on behalf of FoM, to the South Australian Museum Board Chair, Hon. Dr. Jane Lomax-Smith (roll your mouse over the thumbnail to enlarge it). Present also is SAM Acting Director Professor Andrew Lowe and Gareth Thomas, FoM secretary. Also present at the presentation was FoM committee member, Don Howell, who was a key contributor to the publication of the Adelie Blizzard.

Congratulations are due to all involved in this very successful venture, and thanks to members for their invaluable support.

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A talk about Phillip Law:

Posted November 2012.
The Mawson tradition of Australian science in Antarctica was continued into the second half of the 20th century by the inimitable Dr Phillip Law. Fellow expeditioner, one time weather observer and Polar Medal recipient, Frederick Elliott, gave a talk relating some of his experiences with Phillip Law on 9 August 2012 at the Phillip Law Dinner in Melbourne.

Click here to access a transcript of the talk. With acknowledgements to The Melbourne Graduate.

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Clipping19140226An interesting newspaper clipping:

Posted July 2012.
With the focus well and truly on the various centenary milestones of the AAE the clipping on the right from an Australian newspaper published on 26 February 1914, although perhaps premature, is of great interest.

Click on the image to view the clipping at full size.

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An historic piece of Antarctic rock:

Posted April 2012.
NorthernArgusArticleThe clipping on the left is from the 11 April 2012 edition of the Northern Argus, a regional newspaper from the mid-north of South Australia.

It has been suggested, in a private communication to FoM's Ian Flannery, that a donation to Cecil Madigan from the Smythe family to assist in his participation in Mawson's AAE would be the reason that Madigan saw fit to present the Smythes with the engraved porphyry stone.

Again click on the image to view the clipping at full size.


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The Mawson Centenary Flotilla in Hobart:

Mawson CentenaryPosted December 2011.
On 2 December - as beautiful a day as one could wish - a flotilla of assorted ships and boats sailed the Derwent to celebrate the centenary of the departure of the AAE.

On this day, 100 years ago, at 4 pm on a similarly sunny afternoon (albeit a Saturday), the AAE, led by Douglas Mawson, set sail from Queen's Pier, Hobart aboard the 'Aurora'. Today's flotilla of nearly 200 participating vessels saluted the Tasmanian Governor, Peter Underwood, aboard the 'Egeria' in a sail-past.

Mawson CentenaryFittingly the flotilla was led by Australia's polar research vessel, the 'Aurora Australis' (above right), which proceeded down the Derwent bound for Antarctica.Mawson Centenary

Prominent near the head of the fleet was the historic MV 'Cartela' (left) with a large gathering of descendants of the AAE expeditioners.

To add to the spectacle the modern era was further represented by a fly-over of the AAD's A319 Airbus (right), also en-route to Antartica.

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The Vickers Type D airframe rediscovered:

Posted January 2010.
Vickers LocationMawson took (the remains) of a Vickers Type D monoplane to Antarctica for use during the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911 - 1913. Subsequently "lost", it has recently been re-discovered by members of a Mawson’s Hut Foundation expedition to the Cape Denison site.

The story behind the airframe being there is that Mawson had been considering an aeroplane for reconnaissance ahead of sledging parties, or for use as an air tractor if it wasn’t flown. While in London assembling equipment for his forthcoming expedition, Mawson, with the help of Mrs Kathleen Scott (wife of Captain Robert Scott), bought a Vickers D-type two-seater monoplane. This was subsequently shipped to Adelaide in the care of Lieutenant Watkins. Watkins made several much-publicised flights before crashing the aircraft at Cheltenham Racecourse (Adelaide) on 5 October 1911.

Vickers Douglas Although no longer useful as a flying machine, the Vickers fuselage and the engine were shipped to Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, with the AAE. It was used as a "tractor" but with limited success due to the extremely difficult terrain and climate. The fuselage was still visible and in good condition when Mawson briefly re-visited Cape Denison in January 1931 during the second BANZARE voyage. The figure seen sitting happily in the airframe, is Flight Lieutenant Eric Douglas, one of two RAAF pilots who had accompanied Mawson South on the BANZARE.

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Frank Hurley's ice pick?

Posted September 2006.

Has photographer Frank Hurley's ice pick been found? An article published in The Newcastle Herald.

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