100 years on, photos of the Antarctic Expedition which explored 2000 miles of frozen coastline

100 years on, photos of the Antarctic Expedition which explored 2000 miles of frozen coastline

On Christmas Eve 2013, an antarctic expedition found itself stuck in thick-ice pack and needed to be rescued by helicopter on the 3rd of January after rescue by ice-breaking ships had failed.

The Australasian Antarctic Expedition commemorated 100 years since the mission of the same name, headed by Douglas Mawson OBE, returned from two years of exploring 2000-miles of antarctic coastline in december 1913.

Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen are the two most famous explorers of the age or Arctic Exploration, the first to reach the South Pole, and Mawson had indeed been invited to join Scott on his mission, but the AAE provided extremely valuable scientific data and mapped the treacherous coastline. Thanks to the State Library of New South Wales in Australia, which has uploaded the pictures to Flickr, you can see these amazing vintage photographs of the lesser-known mission.

While Amundsen and Scott were exploring the South Pole, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) launched on the steam-powered ship Aurora from Macquarie Island, halfway between Australia and Antarctica. The date was the second of December, 1911.

Mawson was a veteran of Antarctic expeditions, having been part of the Nimrod expedition five years prior, and had brought another member of that expedition, John King Davis, making him captain of the Aurora. The expedition discovered and named both King George V Land and Queen Mary Land, and found the first meteorite in the antarctic, 30km west of Cape Denison, the first of many later found in the are.

The AAE set up its’ main base at Cape Denison, where the winter-over huts can still be seen, and two further support stations on Macquarie island and on the Shackleton Ice Shelf. Through its’ course, the expedition also found one of the places on earth with the strongest wind-forces. It just so happens that this is where they set up base camp, and subsequent readings demonstrated the extraordinary strength of the winds.

In retrospect, Mawson was lucky to refuse Scott’s invitation to his Terra Nova expedition – Scott’s entire party died after being beaten to the South Pole by Amundsen with a margin of 33 days. The AAE did not go without its’ own casualties, however: Belgrave Ninnis was swallowed by a snow-covered crevasse while on a sledging expedition (the glacier was named after him), and on the same trip Xavier Mertz died poisoned after eating the liver of one of his sled dogs in order to survive on the harsh return.

The photos which document this lesser-known expedition were taken by a number of crew members, but chief photographer was Frank Hurley. If exploring and spending nearly 5 years in the antarctic (he joined Shackleton’s expedition in 1914 and was marooned on ice until 1916) wasn’t enough, he also served as official photographer of Australian armed forces in both world wars.


Author Description

Alberto Furlan

Comments are closed.