On a viciously wind-scoured outcrop of rock at Denison Point on Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica, there stands a set of buildings almost miraculously preserved for the last 104 years. The pre-fabricated wooden huts were erected by the members of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, which departed Hobart in December 1911 to map the coast of East Antarctica and pin down the location of the South Magnetic Pole. The expedition party had unwittingly picked a place subject to severe katabatic winds gusting 200 miles per hour (320 kph) and almost constant blizzards. Douglas Mawson, the expedition leader, called this ‘the windiest place on earth’ and he was not a man given to exaggeration.
Main Base, as it was known, housed the 18 men of the expedition. Through the winter of 1913 it would also serve as home to Douglas Mawson and the six men left behind to search for him after his disastrous loss of his companions Ninnis and Mertz. The huts (there were separate areas for the dogs and for scientific instruments) were pre-fabricated in Adelaide and Melbourne, then shipped to Antarctic for re-assembly.
Open Day at the Mawson’s Huts Replica
The Mawson’s Hut Replica on the Hobart waterfront has become a magnet for interstate and international tourists. Visitors to the Australian Antarctic Festival can enjoy free entry to the replica on Sunday, 11 September. The replica is furnished with authentic artefacts from the Heroic Era of Antarctic exploration. The Mawson’s Huts Foundation preserves the original site with expeditions for repair and maintenance every two years.