French Navy lands Australian conservation team in Antarctica

A team of Antarctic expeditioners will start work today on Australia’s most important heritage site at the Home of the Blizzard.

Members of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation have been landed by helicopter from the French icebreaker L’Astrolabe at Cape Denison, a remote stretch of windswept coastline 2500km south of Hobart.

For the next month, they will be among the most isolated people on earth.

The team will carry out vital conservation works at the Mawson’s Huts Historic site, the collection of buildings left behind by the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition, led by Australia most famous Antarctic explorer, Douglas Mawson

The expeditioners will face sub-zero temperatures and near-constant howling winds, expedition leader Marty Passingham said.

“Antarctica is one of the hardest places on earth to live and work.

“The works we are able to complete this summer will ensure Mawson’s Hut, its surrounding outbuilding and artefacts will be preserved for as a living reminder of Australia’s Antarctic Heritage.

“Mawson described this as the windiest place on earth and it always lives up to its reputation. There’ as 50-knot breeze blowing at the moment and factoring in the windchill it’s about minus 12 outside.

“Just getting here and establishing camp is the hardest part of the expedition, so we’re thrilled to be able to get on with the job ahead.”

Mawson’s Huts Foundation CEO Greg Carter said the work at Cape Denison this summer had been supported by grants from the Australian government – and donations from ordinary Australians. Strong support is also given by the French Polar Institute, and the French Navy.

“This expedition has a tough job. I’m thrilled they’re been able to set up camp and are getting on with our ambitious program of works for this summer, we are very grateful for the support of the French in our expedition, and it really highlights the spirit of Cooperation in the Antarctic.”

Douglas Mawson is best remembered for his lone trek of survival after the loss of two companions on a sledging expedition. He arrived back at Cape Denison to discover his relief ship had sailed just hours before.




A team of conservation experts will venture to Australia’s remotest Antarctic outpost to carry out works on the relics of our first Antarctic expedition. One hundred and ten years since Douglas Mawson set sail from Hobart, the 2021/22 Mawson’s Huts Foundation expedition will spend five weeks in one of the harshest environments on earth in a bid to ensure the survival of the wooden huts they left behind.

Mawson’s Huts are a collection of wooden buildings constructed by the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition at Cape Denison, 2,500km south of Hobart. Mawson is best remembered for his lone trek of survival across the polar icecap after the death of two companions on a sledging journey. He arrived back at the hut only to see his relief vessel sail north over the horizon without him, leaving him stranded for another year. The huts site a largely untouched since Mawson and his men left it and are a listed heritage site.

The place he dubbed “the windiest place on earth” for its constant blizzards is so hard to get to it has not been visited by an expedition for six years. The team will camp on the Antarctic coastline hundreds of kilometres from the nearest Australian base. There are no showers or laundry facilities, they will melt ice for water and the camp toilet arrangements are best described as “basic”.


Chosen for their ability to thrive in the extreme cold and isolation of Cape Denison, the team is being supported by a grant from the Australian Government and logistical support from the Australian and French Antarctic programs. They will take advantage of the 24-hour sunlight during the Antarctic summer to complete a program of conservation works, erect an automatic weather station and conduct surveys of the area’s penguin population.

Mawson’s Huts Foundation CEO Greg Carter says:

“Mawson’s Huts are Australia’s most important historic site in Antarctica. The team’s work this summer will help ensure these examples of our priceless Antarctic heritage are preserved for the future. This work is not possible without the generous support of the Australian and French Antarctic programs and the support of the Foundation’s many donors and volunteers.


Expedition leader Marty Passingham says:

“Antarctica is never predictable. On previous trips, we’ve faced winds of over 100km/h, blizzards that went for days and temperatures down to minus 20. It can be a challenging place to live. The work we’re doing this summer is the culmination of 14 visits to the site over two decades This work is integral to the buildings’ survival.”

The team is made up of both Antarctic veterans and newcomers. They are in hotel quarantine and will depart Hobart aboard the French Antarctic program Vessel L’Astrolabe at the end of the week. The team is expected to return in late January.

TEAM: expedition leader Marty Passingham, of Hobart Tasmania; conservation team leader Ian Godfrey of Perth, Western Australia; materials conservators Karina Acton and Eoin Eoin O’Suilleabhain of Sydney; expedition doctor Roger Booth and base camp manager David Killick, both of Hobart.

Foundation CEO Greg Carter and expedition members are available for interviews prior to departure and during the expedition. Contact: Greg Carter 0411 484 101 OR 


File images and vision of the expeditioners and the Mawson’s Huts site are available: HERE.