Building the base

The first boat to go ashore at Commonwealth Bay
The first boat to go ashore at Commonwealth Bay. Mitchell Collection, State Library of NSW (Photo: Percy Gray)

In their own words

We were soon inside a beautiful, miniature harbour completely land-locked. The sun shone gloriously in a blue sky as we stepped ashore on a charming ice-quay – the first to set foot on the Antarctic continent between Cape Adare and Gaussberg, a distance of about two thousand miles.

…The rocky area at Cape Denison, as it was named, was found to be about one mile in length and half a mile in extreme width. Behind it rose the inland ice, ascending in a regular slope and apparently free of crevasses – an outlet for our sledging parties…. To right and left of this oasis, as the visitor to Adélie Land must regard the welcome rock, the ice was heavily crevassed and fell sheer to the sea in cliffs, sixty to one hundred and fifty feet in height.

…Close to the boat harbour was suitable ground for the erection of a hut, so that the various impedimenta would have to be carried only a short distance. For supplies of fresh meat, in the emergency of being marooned for a number of years, there were many Weddell seals at hand, and on almost all the neighbouring ridges colonies of penguins were busy rearing their young.

As a station for scientific investigations, it offered a wider field than the casual observer would have imagined. So it came about that the Main Base was finally settled at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay.

– Douglas Mawson, The Home of the Blizzard

The SY Aurora anchored at Commonwealth Bay in 1912 [silent video]

Cinematography by Frank Hurley. © Australian Antarctic Division

[Video]

SY Aurora anchored at Commonwealth Bay

Video transcript

This page was last modified on July 3, 2014.