Antarctica: modern adventures | State Library of New South Wales

Modern Antarctic Adventures

In 1945, the Australian Federation was forty-four years old. Like many other nations, Australia was looking to the future after the turmoil of the Second World War. Several countries saw Antarctica as a potential source of territory, fishing and mineral resources.

Antarctic explorer and scientist Sir Douglas Mawson approached the Australian Government and lobbied for renewed exploration and scientific effort in Antarctica. Swayed by Mawson's arguments and influenced by the increasing United States interests in Antarctica, the government agreed, and a series of departmental committees was established. These quickly became institutionalised in 1947 as the Australian National Research Expedition or ANARE (Expedition later became Expeditions).

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After a series of reconnaissance flights, Australians established a base at Heard Island in 1947 and at Macquarie Island in 1948.  While these stations were established, Australians began a review of the Antarctic coast directly south of Australia, with the intention of setting up a permanent base on the mainland. It was to be the first permanent scientific base established on the main Antarctic continent.

The Kista Dan, c.1954

The Kista Dan, c.1954, by unknown photographer
Photo PXE 731/1832

In 1954, the Danish ship Kista Dan was chartered by the Australian government to take men and supplies south for the establishment of a base. The site was to be on the coast of  MacRobertson Land. The vessels LST 3501 (later renamed HMAS Labuan) and the Kista Dan became famous as the first vessels to run supply and relief expeditions from Australia to its Antarctic bases.

After an eventful journey south the men finally landed their stores and building supplies on an area behind what is now Horseshoe Bay in February 1954. A flag-raising ceremony was undertaken and Mawson Base formally opened. Australia’s occupation of Antarctica had begun.

Members of ANARE raising a cheer as Group Captain S.A. Campbell (centre) hoists the Australian flag on Heard Island, December 26, 1947   

Members of ANARE raising a cheer as Group Captain S.A. Campbell (centre) hoists the Australian flag on Heard Island, 26 December 1947, by unknown photographer
Photo PXE 731/1938


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Modern Antarctic Adventures is made possible through a partnership with Mark Burrows AO

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Modern Antarctic Adventures
Made possible through a partnership with Mark Burrows AO