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Showing posts from August, 2013

Taking flight

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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 better money-spinner. It was a shrewd move. Only ten years before, the Wright Brothers had famously made the first powered flight; the technology had advanced swiftly since then, and with it public excitement about the possibilities of air travel. Sadly it was not to be. During a test flight on the morning of a public display over Adelaide racecourse — with the South Australian Governor scheduled to be first in the air — the Vickers plane crashed, apparently not helped by the pilot having ‘been very late at the Naval and Military Club the night before’. Disgraced, the airman was sent home, the wings stripped off the plane, and the engine and body were …

The first of the expedition gear arrives!

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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 today’s kit really stand out as state-of-the-art? Having teams take observations with antique tools and in Edwardian garb will make a fascinating comparison. As a result, one of the first orders we made was for reproductions of the gear used by the original expedition. 

Fittingly, it was the replica equipment that was the first of the AAE orders to turn up at the University of New South Wales this week. On a blustery Sydney afternoon, a three-metre long wooden crate arrived from UK polar equipment company, Snowsled. We couldn’t wait to see the first of our purchases. In spite of the threat of rain, we unpacked the case out on the docking bay. Inside we found a tent, c…

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

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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 of headaches after another. I optimistically thought this would be somehow different. In an age of instant communication, making arrangements would be so much simpler. Not quite. Thankfully though I’m not reaching for the aspirin on too regular a basis.

We’re following a well travelled path. In 1912, five Antarctic expeditions were in a race to describe an entirely new continent. It was the heyday of science communication. All the teams used the latest technology to enthral a public thirsty for news from this new frontier. Planes, motorised sledges, wireless radio, film and sound recordings were all used to relay new discoveries back to civilisation. The reports…