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The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) is a division of the Department of the Environment. The Division undertakes science programs and research projects to contribute to an understanding of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. It conducts and supports collaborative research programs with other Australian and international organisations, such as the Bureau of Meteorology and Geoscience Australia, as well as administering and maintaining a presence in Australian Antarctic and sub-Antarctic territories.

Their website includes articles on the Antarctic wildlife, threats, guidelines and they have blogs written by Australians at the three Australian bases in Antarctica: Mawson, Davis and Casey.


Under its charter the Australian Antarctic Division:

  • Administers the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands
  • Conducts research in high priority areas of Antarctic science
  • Coordinates and manages Australia's logistic program in Antarctica
  • Promotes Antarctic research in universities through grants and the provision of logistic support
  • Develops policy proposals and provides advice on Australia's Antarctic interests
  • Promotes Australia's Antarctic interests within the Antarctic Treaty System
  • Maintains a continuing presence in the region through permanent stations, the establishment of field bases and the provision of transport, communication and medical services
  • Acts as the primary source of Australian Antarctic information

Australian Antarctic programEdit

The Australian Antarctic Division leads the Australian Antarctic program (AAp) with four key goals:

  • Maintain the Antarctic Treaty System and enhance Australia's influence in it
  • Protect the Antarctic environment
  • Understand the role of Antarctica in the global climate system
  • Undertake scientific work of practical, economic and national significance

Research stationsEdit

Macquarie Island station in 1996

The AAD headquarters is in Kingston, Tasmania, just south of Hobart. The division's headquarters houses laboratories for science, electronics and electron microscopy, mechanical and instrument workshops, a krill research aquarium, a herbarium, equipment stores, communications and other operational and support facilities. The Chief Scientist since 2016 has been Dr Gwen Fenton.[1]

The AAD maintains three permanently manned stations on the Antarctic continent, and one on Macquarie Island in the subantarctic:[2]

Remote field bases operate during the summer research season supporting coastal, inland and traverse operations.


Researchers studying penguins while voyaging aboard the Aurora Australis


The AAD uses an air transport system, both for transport to and from Antarctica, and for transport within the continent. Aircraft for this system are provided and operated under contract by private sector operators. Services to and from Antarctica are provided, between November and February each year, by an Airbus A319-115LR operated by Skytraders. This aircraft operates to and from the Wilkins ice runway, situated some 65 kilometres (40 mi) from Casey Station.[3][4] Construction of a 2,700 m (8,900 ft) paved runway at Davis station was announced in 2018.[5]

Services within Antarctica are provided by a mixture of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Fixed-wing services are provided by Basler BT-67 and DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft operated by Kenn Borek Air.[6] These aircraft operate from Wilkins runway and from smaller snow runways at each of the three permanent stations, as well as any field locations which provide the necessary flat area of snow or ice. Helicopter services are provided by three Eurocopter AS 350 BA Squirrel helicopters, operated by Helicopter Resources.[3][6]

The Antarctic Flight RAAF operated from 1948 to 1963. Since its withdrawal, aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force operated infrequently in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands in the 1970s and 1980s,[7][8] Since 2016, RAAF C-17A Globemasters operate as required to carry high priority or oversize cargo that cannot be carried by the A319.[9][10]


The AAD uses the icebreaker RSV Aurora Australis, a multi-purpose marine research and resupply ship chartered from P&O Polar. The Aurora Australis was launched in 1989 and built by Carrington Slipways in Newcastle, New South Wales.[11] In late October 2015 the Australian government announced a plan to acquire a new ice-breaker to replace Aurora Australis by 2019.[12]

Territorial administrationEdit

The AAD is responsible, on behalf of the Australian Government, for administering the two Australian federal territories that lie in Antarctic or sub-Antarctic latitudes:

Although the AAD maintains a base on Macquarie Island, that island is not a federal territory but is rather part of the Australian state of Tasmania.


  1. ^ "Gwen Fenton becomes AAD's first female chief scientist". ABC News. 11 December 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Stations". Australian Antarctic Division. Archived from the original on 25 October 2010. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  3. ^ a b Sebastian, Scmitz (November 2010). "From Oz to Ice: Flight Operations of the Australia Antarctic Division". Airliner World. Key Publishing Ltd.
  4. ^ "Aviation". Australian Antarctic Division. Archived from the original on 4 October 2010. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  5. ^ "Site chosen for Antarctic year-round runway near Australia's Davis research station". ABC News. 18 May 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Intra-continental operations". Australian Antarctic Division. Archived from the original on 29 September 2010. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  7. ^ "Antarctic Flight". RAAF Museum. Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  8. ^ Wilson 1991, pp. 110–114.
  9. ^ "RAAF operates C-17 proof of concept flights to Antarctica". Australian Aviation. 22 November 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  10. ^ "C17-A Globemaster III". Australian Antarctic Division.
  11. ^ "Aurora Australis". Australian Antarctic Division. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  12. ^ Ikin, Sam; Bolger, Rosemary; Gamenz, Emilie (29 October 2015). "New $500 million icebreaker Australia's biggest investment the Antarctic program, Prime Minister says". ABC News. Retrieved 13 January 2016.


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