Walter Henry Hannam

AAE position: Wireless operator, mechanic

In their own words

Today marks the start in life that I have longed for since I was a child and read Nansen’s Furthest North … we hope to link up Antarctica for the first time with civilization.

— entry in Hannam’s diary for 21 November 1911, before AAE’s departure from Hobart

Walter Henry Hannam, born in Sydney in the mid-1880s, was educated at the Technical College in Sydney, gaining a science diploma. A foundation member of the Wireless Institute of Australia, he joined the AAE as wireless operator and mechanic on board Aurora.

Hannam helped to set up the wireless stations at Macquarie Island en route to Antarctica, from where radio contact was made with Australia on 4 January 1912. By that time Hannam was in Antarctic waters and did not learn of the success of his work until much later.

He was wireless operator at Cape Denison through the winter of 1912, and was able to receive messages from time to time. But it was not until 25 September 1912 that a message was finally communicated from Antarctica via Macquarie Island to the station on Hobart’s Queen’s Domain.

Hannam, who was awarded the Polar Medal for his part in the expedition, was also assistant magnetician for a time.

During the First World War, he served as a lieutenant with the Australian Motor Transport Corps. His life beyond the war is not known.