National Heritage: Introduction

Mawson’s Huts Historic Site is a national treasure. As the first base for Australia’s scientific and geographical discovery of Antarctica, it is the birthplace of and the forerunner to the work now carried out and supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.

The Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911 to 1914 was the first large-scale scientific inquiry after Federation. AAE expeditioners braved the isolation and severe climate to gather valuable scientific and geographical information. Two of their comrades perished in the attempt. The AAE made the first radio communication from Antarctica, and carried the first aeroplane to the Antarctic. Today, the Australian Antarctic Division has established an air service between Australia and Antarctica — the last two continents to be linked by air.

With more than a century since Mawson’s inspirational expedition, we need plans in place to preserve the sense of what the site was like when the AAE abandoned their huts to the elements in December 1913, while also allowing an appreciation of the powerful effects of a hundred years of exposure in the world’s windiest place at sea level. We also need to find ways to encourage Australians who may never set foot in Antarctica to appreciate the experiences and achievements of the men who lived there.

The site gained the highest level of Australian recognition, becoming a National Heritage place and a Commonwealth Heritage place. International protection was bolstered under the Antarctic Treaty System: the site is now contained in an Antarctic Specially Protected Area, and is governed by the Mawson’s Huts Management Plan as well as being listed on the Antarctic Historic Sites and Monument List [PDF].

To date, the Australian Antarctic Division has worked closely with the Mawson’s Huts Foundation and other bodies interested in the site and its story. We have provided funding, advice, staff and in-kind support, and facilitated access to enable conservation work.

In partnership with the Australian Antarctic Division, the Mawson’s Huts Foundation contributes to the management and promotion of the Historic Site. The Foundation has participated in expeditions to the site, and undertaken valuable heritage conservation works to conserve the unique historic buildings and artefacts at Cape Denison. They also provide valuable public education and promotion of Sir Douglas Mawson’s legacy.