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Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
29 October 2006
A voyage to Antarctica to carry out critical conservation work to preserve Mawson’s Huts is back on track today after being temporarily halted by a large 150 km long iceberg that blocked a vital access route.
The Australian Government has helped fund a team of Australian conservation experts to travel to the icy continent to undertake urgent repairs on Australia’s only heritage listed link to the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.
The French vessel L’Astrolabe departed Hobart on October 21 and having reached the edge of the ice on Wednesday, was making good progress through the floes until encountering the huge iceberg yesterday.
But the mission was only delayed for about six hours while helicopters were sent out ahead of the vessel to find the best route through the ice.
They were expected to arrive at the French base this afternoon when the Australian team of experts will then be transported by helicopter to the base.
The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the Australian Government's aim is to preserve the wooden buildings in perpetuity but without urgent attention they could eventually be destroyed by the strong winds in a region that Mawson himself described as "the home of the blizzard".
For the past 95 years the historic Mawson's Huts at Cape Denison 2,600 km south of Hobart have withstood the extreme Antarctic elements in what is generally considered to be the windiest place on earth.
Renowned explorer and geologist Sir Douglas Mawson set up camp at Cape Denison during the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition and the huts are listed as a National Heritage site, as well as being of international significance.
"The work being undertaken this summer will finalise a major part of the programme to stabilise, repair and protect the historically-significant artefacts contained in the buildings,” Senator Campbell said.
“This work is being carried out by the Mawson's Huts Foundation with the full support of the Australian Government and is a wonderful example of private enterprise and the Government working together to conserve Australian heritage."
The Mawson's Huts Foundation has been given a $320,000 grant by the Australian Government to help fund the project and the work will also benefit from considerable logistical support provided by the Australian Government Antarctic Division.
“The contents of the huts remain largely as Mawson and his men left them in 1913. They are an immensely valuable part of Australia's Antarctic history and it's essential they are properly conserved," Senator Campbell said.
The six member works party, headed by an expedition field leader and materials conservator Dr Ian Godfrey from the WA Maritime Museum, includes three heritage carpenters, a photographer/cook/journalist and an artist. The team is due to return to Australia on December 24.
Rob Broadfield 02 6277 7640 or 0409 493 902