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Antarctica: modern adventures

Mawson Base

In February 1954, the Kista Dan was stuck fast in the ice off Mac Robertson Land. After digging and blasting of the sea ice around the ship, the Kista Dan was freed and it finally anchored in Horseshoe Bay, on 11 February. 

The site for Mawson base had been chosen in 1953 by Phillip Law, then Director of ANARE, for its access to the sea, its rock (rather than ice) foundation and access to a glacier for fresh water. The site also provided easy access inland.  

On landing, the men gathered together and Phillip Law made a short speech.

‘In the name of her majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Government of Australia I raise the Australian flag on Australian Antarctic Territory; and I name the site of this new ANARE station ‘Mawson’ in honour of the great Australian scientist, Sir Douglas Mawson.' - Phillip Law

Louis Edward Macey papers related to Antarctica, 1947-1984

The expeditioners then unloaded stores for the establishment of Australia’s first base on the Antarctic mainland. The cargo included two Auster planes operated by an RAAF team and 27 huskies, bred and trained on Heard Island. Weasels (small, red, tracked vans) were used for transport. 

By 17 February all stores and equipment had been unloaded. By early March the floor of the works hut, an aluminium shelter, had been laid and the walls were up. Linoleum floors, foam mattresses, tables, chairs and a gas stove made it home.

On 22 February, the Kista Dan left and the first ANARE expeditioners were left alone at the new base.

Louis (Lem) Macey, radio operator and second in charge noted the departure in his diary;

'We all piled into the ‘Rodger Vincent’ and drove alongside the ship and yelled insults etc to each other and away went the good old ‘Kista.’ We returned to camp and John and Bob D entered the kitchen to be greeted with a terrific explosion caused by the tin of King Sound salmon blowing up in the oven where Geoff had put 4 or 5 tins to thaw out before going to the ship - a fearful mess in the oven and the remaining tins were practically round with pressure.’  - Louis Macey



Made possible through a partnership with Mark Burrows AO