For the first time in 5 years a passenger cruise ship stands a good chance of reaching Mawson’s historic hut in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica after two large icebergs have moved out of the way

Douglas Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1912 remains one of Australia's greatest stories of adventure and survival in the coldest and windiest place on earth - Antarctica. Today the only evidence of the expedition are two timber buildings, Mawson’s Huts in Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica.

Australian Antarctic Explorer Douglas Mawson had been captured by the raw beauty of Antarctica and participated in several expeditions. On his Australasian Antarctic Expedition, he barely survived and had to overwinter under most severe conditions.
Australian Antarctic Explorer Douglas Mawson had been captured by the raw beauty of Antarctica and participated in several expeditions. On his Australasian Antarctic Expedition, he barely survived and had to overwinter under most severe conditions.

Since 2011 a large iceberg, 97 km long and known as B9B, has blocked the entrance to Commonwealth Bay. Last year it was joined by another huge iceberg known as C15. Experts estimated that the bergs could be sitting there for another decade, making access to the historic site impossible. Fortunately those predictions have proved incorrect and reports say that the icebergs have broken up and shifted, enabling expedition ships to enter Commonwealth Bay for the first time in 5 years.

One of the first ships to make use of the good conditions is the 54-passenger ship Akademik Shokalskiy which departed Hobart, Tasmania on 9 January, for a 26-day journey to East Antarctica which will take them also into Commonwealth Bay. When weather conditions allow passengers of the Shokalskiy will have the chance to visit Mawson’s Huts for the first time in 5 years. Their visit will take place 104 years after Douglas Mawson establish a “station for scientific investigations” there in 1912. During his time he found a convenient ice-quay there and named the pace Cape Denison.  From here he and his men went on exploratory trips.

An old picture of Mawson’s Base around 1912. Among his men was also a Swiss guy named Xavier Mertz. He lost his life 1913 while on an exploratory trip with Mawson.
An old picture of Mawson’s Base around 1912. Among his men was also a Swiss guy named Xavier Mertz. He lost his life 1913 while on an exploratory trip with Mawson.

While providing a unique opportunity to passengers to see this historic site, the journey will also raise money for Mawson’s Huts Foundation, which has been maintaining the basic timber structures since 1997 at a total cost of more than $8 million.

Mawsons Hut

Source: Dr. Katja Riedel