On the Hobart waterfront stands a full scale replica of Mawson’s huts, just 200 metres from where his scientific expedition to Antarctica departed in 1911.
The Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1911 was the world's first truly scientific expedition to the white continent, led by Douglas Mawson. The fragile wooden huts that Mawson's expedition constructed and used for two years as their main base are just one of six surviving huts from the heroic era of Antarctic exploration of 1898 to 1922. They are the birthplace of Australia's Antarctic heritage. The Mawson's Huts Foundation, established in 1997 to conserve these fragile buildings, has since undertaken 16 conservation expeditions to save them from being blown into the Southern Ocean.
Watch 'Antarctica' (15:01)
(Duration: 15 minutes 1 second)
[Red and blue logo revealed reading ‘STEM 2022 on demand’.
Screen shows robotic arms creating the SISP logo. Screen reads, ‘SISP: Engage. Inspire. Develop. Cultivate.’]
[Screen shows waves crashing against the front of a ship at sea. Screen then shows killer whales jumping in and out of the water. Screen shows pieces of ice on still water. On top of this it reads, ‘Antarctica’.]
[Screen shows a series of shots of large icebergs, ice caps seen from a helicopter, people dressed in cold-weather gear in snowstorms and with penguins. Screen reads, ‘Gondwana breakup’. Screen shows an image of the world with one continent. Screen then shows a thick forest with grazing brachiosaurus and reads ‘200 million years’.]
200 million years ago, the supercontinent Gondwana was a place where dinosaurs roamed in thick forests.
[Screen shows a graphic of the world map with one continent. On the bottom-left it reads ‘180 million years’. As the years begin to rapidly decrease, the land mass on the world map begins to break, until it shows South America and Asia, followed by Africa, then India. Australia and New Zealand then appear as the globe rotates.]
Eventually Gondwana began breaking up 180 million years ago, forming the land masses as we know them today. Finally, following Australia was Tasmania, being last to break away.
[Screen shows Australia floating moving away from the remaining land mass, as it begins to change in colour from green to white.]
Professor Greg Jordan:
And it broke away about 48 million years ago. And then they drifted away. So until about 33 million years ago, they weren't too far.
[Screen reads, ‘Prof Greg Jordan, School of Biological Sciences –University of Tasmania’. Screen shows Professor Greg Jordan.]
And then since then, that's been going north like a rocket, seven centimetres a year, which is pretty fast when you think about it.
[Screen shows the remaining land mass grow whiter as the years decrease from 45 million to zero million years.]
45 million years ago, ice began to engulf Antarctica. Today, in parts of this white desert, that ice is as deep as five kilometres.
[Screen shows various images of snow, snow covered mountains, masses of ice, and strong winds blowing ice and snow.]
Antarctica, the coldest, windiest, driest, and highest continent on earth. The fifth largest continent, and geologically classified as a desert, with a coldest recorded temperature of minus 94.7 degree Celsius. The continent with the highest average elevation on earth. It holds 90% of the world's ice and 70% of our fresh water. Yet some parts have not seen rain for more than 2 million years.
At 14 million square kilometres, almost twice the size of Australia, and over 50 times the size of New Zealand, and the sea ice surrounding Antarctica freezes every winter, doubling the size of ice-covered area.
[Screen reads, ‘Antarctic history’.]
In 1773, English explorer Captain James Cook and his crew of the Resolution became the first to cross the Antarctic Circle and circumnavigate the continent.
[Screen shows a black and white image of Cook. Screen also shows a graphic mapping Cook’s route around Antarctica.]
Antarctica remained unsighted for a further 47 years, until Russian Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen spotted her from sea in 1820.
[Screen shows a black and white image of von Belligshausen. Screen also shows grainy, black and white video footage of ice bergs in water.]
20 years later, Frenchman Jules Sebastian Dumont d'Urville sailed from Hobart to discover a stretch of the Antarctic coastline which he promptly named after his wife, Adelie, a name that today remains with the beautiful and ever-inquisitive penguins that dominate that part of Antarctica.
[Screen reads, ‘1840’ and shows an image of a ship in an icy coastline being pulled by a group of people using a rope. Screen then shows shots of small penguins.]
In 1899, Norwegian explorer Cartsen Borchgrevink became the first man to lead a party which spent a winter in the Antarctic.
[Screen shows a black and white image of Borchgrevink and a photograph of a ship in a harbour. Screen then shows a black and white photograph of 9 people dressed in cold-weather gear sitting in snow.]
Included in that party was the first Australian to visit Antarctica.
[Screen zooms into the photographer to focus on one person in the group.]
He was a young scientist, Louis Bernacchi, and his bronze statue now stands proudly on the Hobart waterfront. That was the start of the heroic era of Antarctic exploration, which saw the British explorers Sir Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton lead expeditions in attempts to conquer the South Pole.
[Screen shows an image of the two British explorers.]
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole on the 14th of December, 1911.
[Screen shows a black and white image of Amundsen. Screen also shows a photograph of 4 men beside a small tent with two flags erected on the centre pole of the tent.]
33 days later, British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his expedition party of four made it to the South Pole. But sadly, they all perished in their attempt to return to base camp.
[Screen shows a photograph of 5 people dressed in cold-weather gear amongst various flags erected to poles in the ground. Their faces appear weathered.]
Accompanying Shackleton in 1907 was a young Australian geologist, Dr. Douglas Mawson.
[Screen shows a black and white photograph of Mawson, along with photos of other people dressed in cold-weather gear.]
Mawson was in the first party to climb Mount Erebus and also reach the South Magnetic Pole.
[Sreen reads, ‘Australasian Antarctic expedition’. Screen shows grainy, black and white video footage of groups of people, ships in a harbour and at sea, icy coastlines and penguins.]
The AAE was the world's first truly scientific expedition to the white continent, led by Dr. Douglas Mawson. Departing from Hobart on December the 2nd, 1911 on the Aurora, his expedition team consisted of 30 young men, with an average age of just 26.
[Screen shows an image of a person operating radio equipment. Screen also shows a map of the tip of Antarctica with Cape Denison marked, along with Macquarie Island ad Wellington marked on New Zealand, Hobart and Sydney marked on Australia, and Fiji.]
The expedition sailed via Macquarie Island, where they established a wireless relay station, pioneering the use of wireless to link Antarctica with the rest of the world.
After a journey of 2,760 kilometres in early 1912, the crew spot a rocky outcrop, which Mawson later named Cape Denison.
[Screen shows an icy coastline with a large bay named, ‘Commonwealth Bay’. Past a large headland, a smaller bay is named, ‘Boat Harbour’ and on the shore sits the main hut site.]
Their hut would be built on the Western shoreline, just 60 meters from what was known as Boat Harbor. Towering behind Cape Denison is the massive Antarctic ice cap, stretching 2,560 kilometres to the South Pole.
Mawson had intended to take the first aircraft to the Antarctic.
[Screen shows a small propellor aeroplane. Screen reads, ‘The R.E.P. Vickers monoplane’.]
It didn't quite turn out to planned, finished up being the first wingless aircraft to Antarctica, with the wings removed after being damaged in a test flight soon after its arrival in Australia.
[Screen shows a photograph of the plane, upside down, surrounded by people. Screen reads, ‘Adelaide – 5 October 1911’. Screen shows grainy video footage of the plane being transported, and a drawing of the hut showing the hanger attached to the right-hand side of the building.]
The Australian Antarctic expedition unloaded the Vicar's monoplane in January, 1912, and constructed Antarctica's first hanger adjacent to their main hut.
Expedition mechanic Frank Bickerton spent the first winter at Cape Denison converting the fuselage into an air tractor to tow sledges.
[Screen shows a black and white photograph of Bickerton. Underneath his name it reads, ‘Engineer’.]
Nicknamed the grasshopper, it reached speeds of up to 20 kilometres per hour.
[Screen shows grainy, video footage of the plane without its wings, moving along the ice on wheels and a sled-like construction.]
It had a few successful runs, but the engine seized when 18 kilometres from the main base, and had to be towed back by the men.
[Screen shows photographs of the pieces of the plane the narrator names.]
The engine was returned to Australia when Mawson departed in 1913, and the frame was left on the ice not far from the huts. The frame of the air tractor was next sighted by Mawson's second expedition in 1929-31, and last sighted in 1976.
In 2003, part of the tailpiece was found when removing ice from the interior of the huts by a foundation expedition. In 2008 another foundation expedition used ground penetrating radar to locate the fuselage. They were unsuccessful. However, the modified pilot's seat was located in rocks nearby. The following year fragments were found of the tailpiece in the water on the edge of Boat Harbour.
[Screen reads, ‘The air tractor search continues.’ Below this is reads, ‘Mawson’s Huts Foundation. Conserving Australia’s Antarctic Heritage’.]
The foundation plans further attempts to locate this wonderful piece of aviation history.
The fragile wooden huts that Mawson's expedition constructed and used for two years as their main base are just one of six surviving huts from the heroic era of Antarctic exploration of 1898 to 1922.
[Screen shows a collection of video clippings of the huts amongst snow and ice, with people building the huts, sitting inside the huts and shovelling snow outside the huts.]
They are the birthplace of Australia's Antarctic heritage and sit at the windiest place on earth at sea level, with winds recorded up to 350 kilometres per hour. The Mawson's Huts Foundation, established in 1997 to conserve these fragile buildings, has since undertaken 16 conservation expeditions to save them from being blown into the Southern Ocean.
[Screen shows various video clippings of the conservation process, with people seen removing and restoring parts of the huts.
Screen reads, ‘Australia and Antarctica’.]
In 1929-1931, Mawson returned to Cape Denison as Sir Douglas Mawson.
[Screen shows grainy, black and white video footage of Mawson standing amongst other people, surrounded by ice and snow, holding a piece of paper and reading from it.]
Sir Douglas Mawson:
I Sir Douglas Mawson, do hereby proclaim and declare to all men full sovereignty of the territory which we have discovered and explored south of latitude 64 degrees and as far as the South Pole.
His claims later led to Australia's 42% claim to the Australian Antarctic Territory.
[Screen shows an image of Antarctica on a globe. From the south pole, a large pie is marked out in yellow and labelled, ‘Australian Antarctic Territory’.]
Mawson later produced over 40 scientific papers, which are still used today.
[Screen shows a university paper with the title, ‘Mawson’s Papers. A guide to the scientific, personal and business papers of Sir Douglas Papers of Sir Douglas Mawson’].
Mawson's AAE was the foundation of the Australian Antarctic Division.
[Screen shows a building with a sign that reads, ‘Australian Government. Department of the Environment and Energy. Australian Antarctic Division, Parks Australia.’]
Today, the division is responsible for Australia's presence and activities in the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Southern Ocean, and it maintains three permanent scientific research bases on the Antarctic Continent at Mawson, Davis, and Casey, and a fourth on Macquarie Island in the Subantarctic.
[Screen shows an image of Antarctica on a globe with pictures of each base appearing as their names appear. The bases comprise small, brightly coloured buildings surrounded by dirt and show, near the coastline.]
The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 to regulate international relations with respect to Antarctica, and Australia was one of the 12 original signatories.
[Screen reads, ‘Flag of the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat’. Screen shows a blue rectangle with a white image of Antarctica in the centre. Lines radiate outwards from the centre of Antarctica, outwards and circles intersect the lines, appearing to look like a radar. The lines placed over Antarctica are blue and the lines placed on the blue background are white.]
Other countries were Argentina, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, United Kingdom and the United States.
[Screen reads, ‘Antarctic environment’.]
Australia plays an important part in looking after the environment. In 1989, former Prime Minister, the late Bob Hawke, successfully led an international campaign to indefinitely ban mining in Antarctica. Australia is also a world leader in attempting to ban whaling, not only in the Antarctic, but worldwide.
[Screen reads, ‘Scientific research’.]
Over 100 years ago, Douglas Mawson believed Antarctica had some bearing on Australia's and the world's climate, and that Australia was once connected to Antarctica.
[Screen shows a series of video clips of penguins, whales and seals. Screen shows a weather balloon, a tool for measuring magnetic field, and sediment samples being lifted out of the water and looked at by groups of people.]
Today, Australia has an active continuing Antarctic scientific research program, including research into the abundant wildlife and marine ecosystems, atmospherics, magnetism, geology, and to understand Antarctica and the Southern Ocean as the engine room for global climate.
By studying the region, we can unlock the secrets of the past and predict future changes.
Antarctica, the last great wilderness on earth, designated as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science.
[Screen reads, ‘Education’. Screen shows a series of photographs of people and of Mawson’s huts.]
The Mawson's Huts Foundation has an active education program to help promote Australia's history and connection to Antarctica.
The foundation initiated the Australian Antarctic Festival to help promote Australia's role and work in the Antarctic. Over 21,000 people participated in the four-day Australian Antarctic Festival on the Hobart waterfront.
[Screen shows a series of video clips of children and adults gathering on the harbour, inside buildings, listening to lectures, at stalls, exploring computer equipmemt. The clips show the replica huts, a plane and a P&O ship named Aurora Australia.]
Held every two years, it is an Antarctic classroom for all ages. During the festival in 2018, over 10,000 children were involved in painting penguins, prominently displayed for all to see.
[Screen shows groups of painted penguins, displayed inside a hanger with signs identifying the school they belong to. People van be seen walking between the groups of penguins on display.]
[Screen reads, ‘Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum’.]
As Hobart has had a long history connection to Antarctica and is now considered our gateway south, in 2013, the foundation built a full scale replica of Mawson's huts on the Hobart waterfront, just 200 meters from where Mawson's expedition departed in 1911.
[Screen shows a series of images of the replica huts from the outside and inside. The inside of the hut contains a gramophone and typewriter, along with beds, books, and papers on display.]
Rated number one on TripAdvisor as the best museum in Hobart, the Mawson's Huts Replica Museum is an education facility, with thousands of school children visiting every year.
[Screen reads, ‘Peter McCabe, Heritage Builder’. Screen shows Peter and a hallway containing maps.]
This is the birth of Australia's Antarctic history.
[Screen reads, ‘Dr Ian Godfrey, Materials Conservator’. Screen shows Ian and exhibit labels on a wall.]
Dr Ian Godfrey:
It's as authentic as you can get in a replica, I think.
[Screen reads, ‘Michelle Berry, Materials Conservator’. Screen shows Michelle and a room filled with kitchen items, lamps, a saw and clothing.]
Think that you can get a sense of what it might have been like to have 18 people in such a tiny room.
[Screen shows a small room with a stove, bed, small piano, chair and books on a shelf above the bed.]
There's a lot of people that are not going to get the opportunity to visit the real Mawson's hut.
[Screen continues to showcase the inside of the hut. The camera moves around to show the kitchen, with a stove and pots and pans. The screen shows many sets of bunk beds. The screen also shows a wooden table with bench seating in the centre of the hut.]
I was sitting on one of the bunks and feeling really strongly like it reminded me so much of being in the real huts down south. It literally is just like being there.
[Screen shows radio equipment inside a glass cabinet, a shelf with souvenir books, followed by a shot of the hut from the outside with a sign that reads, ‘Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum’, finishing with a shot of the original hut covered in snow.]
Oh, I think it's going to be great for the younger generation to really become inspired.
[Screen reads, ‘Antarctic classroom’.]
The foundation also pioneered the mobile Antarctic classroom, bringing the Antarctic to Australian schools.
[Screen reads, ‘Mobile Antarctic Classroom. The environmental science and sustainability Antarctic bus tour’. Screen shows a series of shots of a bus with a trailer travelling on regional roads, and with people standing by the bus, speaking to school-aged children. Screen also shows shots inside classrooms, where students are participating in experiments.]
The Antarctic and Environmental Science Bus features interactive, engaging programs of Antarctic science demonstrations, experiments, and activities for students of all ages.
[Screen reads, ‘Now touring New South Wales’ and ‘Kinder to retirement.’
Topics covered include Antarctic facts.
Antarctica is the coldest, the driest, and the highest continent on the entire planet.
[Scree reads, ‘Carbon dioxide and ocean acidification’. Screen shows students blowing into straws, into cups filled with different coloured water.]
And it's making the oceans a little bit more acidic. Get a blow, very careful.
From green to yellow.
Changing it from being neutral to slightly acid.
So you have made an acid.
[Screen shows the educator and student holding a measuring gauge and tube filled with water. The water inside the tube is bubbling.]
Water temperature boils at normally, is it boiling?
Yeah, at 35.
[Scree reads, ‘Antarctic origin and geology’. Screen shows the educator showing students a picture of a map, surrounded by tables containing artifacts.]
Does it look like something may have fitted there once?
Who'd like to see the penguins?
[Students are inside the bus which contains screens showing Antarctica.]
[Screen reads, ‘Videos and documentaries’. Screen shows an educator presenting a video of penguins on a screen with students seated on the floor, watching.]
Climate change and biodiversity.
If it's too acidic, this is what happens.
[Screen reads, ‘Ecology and biodiversity’. Screen shows the educator holding a beacon filled with a liquid and foam spills out from the top.]
Poor little sea creatures have now lost their shells.
Penguins are very curious. They do not know about predators on land. They are not afraid of anything.
That is amazing.
[Screen shows a series of photos of the bus, inside the bus, and of students interacting with it. Screen reads, ‘www.mawsons-huts.org.au/antarctic-bus’.]
So to experience an educational, interactive, and engaging hands-on Antarctic experience, for the Antarctic Science and Sustainability Bus to visit your school, you'll find an Expression of Interest Form on the Mawson's Huts Foundation website, or you can contact us via email for further information.
[Scree reads, ‘firstname.lastname@example.org
[Screen reads, ‘SISP: Engage. Inspire. Develop. Cultivate.’ Video concludes by displaying the NSW Government logo.]
[End of transcript]