The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

History of Antarctic Exploration in 30 Objects

This video camera was used by the Australian adventurers James Castrission and Justin Jones on their epic unassisted sledging journey to the South Geographic Pole and back, from October 2011 to January 2012.  Recording and blogging as they traveled the pair documented their journey, sharing their experiences with people across the world on social media.  Unlike early Antarctic explorers entirely isolated from the world, the men’s use of high-tech equipment allowed them to stay in contact whilst sharing the challenges and excitement of their day to day experiences as they happened.

After kayaking across the Tasman Sea in 2007, Jones and Castrission were ready for a new challenge, and decided to make the first unsupported trek from the Antarctic coast to the South Geographic Pole and back. Having learnt lessons from the early explorers such as Amundsen, the pair placed great importance on preparing thoroughly for the trip.  With only limited snow experience, the two men spent months researching and consulting with international experts, in order to gain the skills they would need to survive in the extreme polar environment.  Both men endured gruelling physical training to build strength and endurance whilst eating specially designed high-fat meals to accustom them to their diet on the ice.  By September 2011, after testing their equipment in the New Zealand snow fields, they were ready for the off.

On 30 October 2011 the pair arrived at Union Glacier in Antarctica, flown south by Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE), on an Ilyushin 76, a Russian cargo plane. Traveling along side them, they discovered was a fellow adventurer, Norwegian Aleksander Gamme, who unbeknownst to them had been following their preparations with interest, determined to achieve the same goal.  After a day spent making final adjustments and modifications to their kit, all three explorers were dropped at Hercules Inlet at the edge of the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf, ready to start the 1,100 kilometres trek to the Pole.

Initial progress by the pair was slow, hampered by the unseasonably severe weather.  Pulling their 160 kilogramme sledges, the pair had to endure complete whiteout conditions, whilst battling against fierce winds and bitterly cold temperatures of up to 100 kilometres per hour, to cover the steep icy terrain.  Suffering with injuries and exhaustion the men pushed on, dropping caches of supplies for their return trip along the route.  After 62 days of travel the adventurers finally reached the Pole, ten days behind schedule and a number of days behind Gamme.  At 2,835 metres above sea level, getting to the South Geographic Pole, had involved struggling uphill into the face of the wind.  The men now faced an easier downhill journey in warmer more stable conditions but were left with only 28 days to complete the route back on limited rations.

By mid January both men were suffering; exhausted, dehydrated, and starving on their half rations. Aware that Gamme was still ahead of them, they pushed on, determined to complete the trek.  Unexpectedly, just before completing their journey, they were reunited with the Norwegian, who in a gesture of friendship had waited for them near the finish, and the three skied the final kilometre together into Hercules Inlet.  Arriving back on 26 January 2012, Australia Day, Jones, Castrission, and Gamme became the first to have covered the 2275 kilometres to the Pole and back without assistance in 89 days, with Castrission and Jones being the youngest to have successfully trekked to the Pole.

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Currently on display at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia.