The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Category: Expedition Leader

Sir Douglas Mawson c 1916

Back to the future: The Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 2013-2014

Posted by Chris - 16 August 2013

The Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014 has been a long time in the making. I’m used to planning expeditions but this is on a whole different level. I should have seen it coming. There really is no excuse. After all, I’ve been immersed in the writings and plannings of earlier explorers who certainly faced one succession […]

Chris and Mat in Edwardian gear!

The first of the expedition gear arrives!

Posted by Chris - 17 August 2013

A major aspect of our expedition is making comparisons to Mawson’s venture a century ago. This isn’t just about looking at the scientific data collected a hundred years ago; we also want to explore how the clothing and equipment used by the intrepid scientists of yesterday stacks up against modern gear. Side by side, does […]

The air tractor in Antarctica (source: the Mitchell Library, Sydney)

Taking Flight

Posted by Chris - 25 August 2013

To maintain public interest in the original Australasian expedition south — and keep funds flowing — Douglas Mawson looked to Scott of the Antarctic’s motorised sledges for supporting work on the ice. After reviewing the designs of the vehicles in 1911 he regretfully concluded they would not do. Instead, Mawson thought flight might be a […]


Finding a path

Posted by Chris - 1 September 2013

Mawson’s expedition was a complete scientific exploration of what many suspected to be an entirely new continent, lying in the ‘Australian quadrant’. While exploring on the ice, the expedition vessel, the Aurora, would traverse the Southern Ocean collecting ocean and biological samples alongside depth soundings. Mawson was in no doubt about the importance of his […]

Shackleton's famous advert

PhD volunteers sought for Antarctic science and adventure

Posted by Chris - 9 September 2013

In 1913, the Anglo-Irish explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton allegedly ran the following advert in The Times newspaper: Shackleton’s famous advert Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success. Although it seems unlikely this call was actually ever […]

Youtube logo

Fantastic response to call for Antarctic expeditioners

Posted by Chris - 15 September 2013

The Antarctic expeditions of old would routinely advertise for applicants to join them in the south. Exciting – and often wonderfully sensational – proclamations would be placed in the broadsheets, appealing to national sense of duty to scientifically explore the newly discovered continent in the Southern Ocean. Posting calls in the press helped team leaders […]

Tracey Rogers & Leopard Seal

The Science Program of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014

Posted by Chris - 23 September 2013

The original Australasian Antarctic Expedition produced the first comprehensive study of the vast region south of Australia and New Zealand. The three years’ worth of observations gleaned by Mawson and his men provide a precious dataset we can compare against today. Yet, in spite of a century of research, major research questions remain. Weighty policy […]

The Scott statue in Christchurch awaiting restoration

The Start of the Antarctic Science Season

Posted by Chris - 30 September 2013

On 11 February 1913 England woke to the Daily Mail headline ‘Death of Captain Scott. Lost with four comrades. The Pole reached. Disaster on the return.’ Just a day before, the press had reported that the British Antarctic expedition leader was back in New Zealand after succeeding in his goal to reach the South Geographic […]

Scientific exploration of Antarctica: Spreading the word

Putting the Team Together: A Call for Help

Posted by Chris - 8 October 2013

When planning an expedition, it’s essential you put together the strongest possible team, capable of achieving your goals. The challenge is to pick individuals who will get on under almost any circumstance; not something altogether easy from the comfort of a warm and sunny Sydney. Skill sets are one thing but an ability to get […]

Doogle for Google Judges

Doodle 4 Google: Rediscovering Scientific Exploration

Posted by Chris - 14 October 2013

A century ago Mawson and his fellow explorers travelled the world, exciting the public with tales of endeavour and discovery in Antarctica. Newspaper reports, books, lecture tours, interviews, records, radio and films were all used to capture people’s imagination. The efforts of these early Antarctic explorers to publicise their findings were remarkably effective. The blend […]

The arrival of our shipping container

Packing Up

Posted by Chris - 23 October 2013

Against a backdrop of smoke-filled air and concern for family and friends in the Sydney bush, we spent last week packing our shipping container with scientific gear for Antarctica. The last month has been a scramble, with Chris and I ordering and receiving ever more equipment, talking to the media, negotiating with various officials – […]

A Polynesian fishhook dating back to the 14th century from the subantarctic Auckland Islands. 
See the real thing at the Southland Museum & Art Gallery, Invercargill, New Zealand.

History of Antarctic Exploration in 30 Objects: The Countdown Begins!

Posted by Chris - 29 October 2013

As a general rule, I loathe counting down to a big occasion. Following the passing hands of a clock is not something you would naturally associate with keeping people calm. So when Monday arrived it was with some little trepidation. 30 days before the departure of the expedition would the anxiety levels perceptibly rise? Might […]

An elephant seal in the sub-Antarctic

Win a trip to the New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands!

Posted by Chris - 10 November 2013

Bringing the Antarctic a little closer to home is a major reason for the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014. You can get involved in all manner of ways. For those keen to have a hand in the science programme and join us in the south, berths are for sale. Working with Commonwealth Bank as sponsors of […]


Final Preparations

Posted by Chris - 23 November 2013

I am sitting in Dubai, waiting to catch my flight back home. Looking out of the airport window, the sandy landscape blurs with the skyline, dissipated by the high temperatures outside. It’s the antithesis of where I’ll be in one week’s time. Instead of blistering heat, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014 will be departing from […]


Day 1 – We’re off!

Posted by Chris - 28 November 2013

Well, we made it. After two years of dreaming and a lot of hard work, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014 has finally set sail! Departing from Bluff in southern New Zealand yesterday, our ship the MV Akademik Shokalskiy headed off, packed to the gunnels with all manner of scientific gear and 41 team members, all squirrelled away on board. […]

Port Ross copy

Day 6 – A baptism of wind

Posted by Chris - 2 December 2013

The promise of fine weather ended with my last post! I knew I was tempting fate as soon I put fingers to keyboard and waxed lyrically about the excellent conditions. Since then the Southern Ocean has come back with a vengeance, swinging from one extreme to the other. Wind, rain, hail and sleet have been […]

Campbell Island huts Google HOA team

Day 9 – Land of the Albatrosses

Posted by Chris - 5 December 2013

A sadly neglected member of the original Australasian Antarctic Expedition team was Captain John K Davis, aka ‘Gloomy Davis’. While Mawson and his teams were operating out from the land and ice bases on Macquarie Island and the Antarctic continent, second-in-command Davis effectively led the fourth base: the expedition vessel, the Aurora. This role was […]

Departing Bluff

Day 1 – We’re off to Antarctica

Posted by Chris - 8 December 2013

I’m used to turning things round quickly but reprovisioning a ship and rotating an expedition in one day is not something I would recommend. There really is only one word for it: madness. We arrived in Bluff on the morning of the 7th December. The Sun was breaking through the clouds and southern New Zealand […]

Vacuuming gear

Day 3 – Beating a path to Macquarie

Posted by Chris - 10 December 2013

On the 2 December 1911, the residents of the island state of Tasmania turned out in droves to farewell the heavily laden Aurora when it headed south from Hobart. Sir Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition was off. It had been an extraordinary year. Mawson had somehow managed to raise the necessary funds; appoint a team of scientists, […]

Macquarie Island

Day 4 – Bobbing like a cork

Posted by Chris - 11 December 2013

Discovered in 1810, Macquarie Island suffered its first shipwreck three years later and hasn’t really let up. It is not hard to imagine why. The Caroline, Nelson, Eagle and Endeavour are just a handful of craft that have ended their days here. The only way in is by sea but steep cliffs, shallow waters, wild winds and frequently heavy surf combine […]


Day 6 – We’re officially in the Antarctic!

Posted by Chris - 13 December 2013

I’m not a lover of routine but I will say this: it breaks up the day incredibly well. Three square meals a day, interspersed with science observations, equipment checks, planning meetings and lectures means days on the ocean disappear as if they had never existed. If you’re looking for time to kill, take a cruise […]

Snow petrel

Day 7 – First ice

Posted by Chris - 14 December 2013

Today I experienced an entirely sensation: travelling through sea ice. I don’t think anything can really prepare you for the magnificence of the experience. After days of rolling on the high seas, we have entered a world of absolute silence and calm. The chaotic high seas have been replaced by tranquil, millpond conditions. Flat, low […]

Approaching fast ice

Day 8 – Going with the floe

Posted by Chris - 15 December 2013

Punching your way through sea ice is a bit like being in a bombardment. One moment all is calm, the next silence is shattered by a crushing, grinding sound which reverberates throughout the ship. The duration of this assault on the senses can be fleeting or sustained, depending on the ice being negotiated by the […]

Sea Ice Map 16 Dec

Day 9 – Southward ho!

Posted by Chris - 16 December 2013

It is a fascinating experience going through the same decision making process as the expedition of 100 years ago. What Mawson’s captain Davis achieved with so little is extraordinary. Using just observations from their vessel the Aurora, the original AAE explored thousands of kilometres of ocean, much of it by working their way through the […]

Travelling through the sea ice

Days 10 – We’ve reached Antarctica!

Posted by Chris - 17 December 2013

After a fraught morning ploughing our way through the sea ice, the Shokalskiy finally broke into a huge area of open water. The contrast couldn’t have been more different. Over the past few days we have become surprisingly comfortable with crashing and shaking our way through sea ice. Now there is only the gentle throb […]

Shokalskiy on ice

Day 11 – Exploring the sea ice edge

Posted by Chris - 18 December 2013

Apologies for the short blog entry. The last 24 hours have been frantically busy. We have managed to get the team on the ice and started work exploring our environment and making scientific observations. Tracey has led her team to collect biopsy samples of Weddell Seas to get a better handle on diet for comparison […]

Arrival at Mawson's Huts

Day 14 – Return to Mawson’s Hut… One Hundred Years On

Posted by Chris - 21 December 2013

We’ve had an exhilarating couple of days and I’m just taking stock of all that has taken place. The last time I wrote was in the early hours of the 19th making final preparations for our attempt to reach Cape Denison. During the previous day, we had arrived in Commonwealth Bay and secured the Shokalskiy […]


Day 19 – The AAE has met heavy ice

Posted by Chris - 26 December 2013

Following our successful visit to Cape Denison, sea ice remained clear, allowing our science expedition to proceed to the Mertz Glacier and open water polynya on the other side of Commonwealth Bay. Good conditions allowed the team to reach the Hodgeman Islets to continue our science programme and make comparisons to our findings around Mawson’s […]

Change in sea ice - 29/12

Day 23 – One week on

Posted by Chris - 30 December 2013

It has been a sobering week. At the time we were initially caught by the sea ice, the Shokalskiy was just 2 to 4 nautical miles from open water. Now the sea ice distance has become even greater with the continued winds from the east, putting our nearest point of exit at some 16 nautical miles. The […]


Day 25 – On board the wonderful Australian icebreaker Aurora australis

Posted by Chris - 3 January 2014

After the first decent night’s sleep in a fortnight, the team are starting to familarise themselves with their new home, on board the Australian icebreaker Aurora australis, a remarkable red giant that stands proud in the heavy pack ice. It has been an intense last 24 hours. Yesterday we woke to brilliant sunshine and calm […]

Sunset at Casey

Day 37 – Leaving the Antarctic Base Casey for Hobart: We are heading home!

Posted by Chris - 15 January 2014

The last few days we have been staying on the icebreaker Aurora australis just off the the Antarctic coast near the Australian base of Casey. For the operations team on the vessel, it has been a busy time, resupplying the station, bringing gear and waste offshore, balancing logistical needs against the ever changing weather. For […]