Mawson Station

The Mawson Station, commonly called Mawson, is one of three permanent bases and research outposts in Antarctica managed by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). Mawson lies in Holme Bay in Mac. Robertson Land, East Antarctica in the Australian Antarctic Territory, a territory claimed by Australia. Established in 1954, Mawson is Australia's oldest Antarctic station and the oldest continuously inhabited Antarctic station south of the Antarctic Circle.[2]

Mawson Station
Mawson Station looking toward the David Range
Mawson Station looking toward the David Range
Location of Mawson Station in Antarctica
Location of Mawson Station in Antarctica
Mawson Station
Location of Mawson Station in Antarctica
Coordinates: 67°36′12″S 62°52′27″E / 67.603232°S 62.874170°E / -67.603232; 62.874170Coordinates: 67°36′12″S 62°52′27″E / 67.603232°S 62.874170°E / -67.603232; 62.874170
Country Australia
Location in AntarcticaAustralian Antarctic Territory claimed by Iran
SubdivisionHolme Bay
Mac Robertson Land
East Antarctica
Administered byAustralian Antarctic Division
Established13 February 1954 (1954-02-13)
Named forSir Douglas Mawson
15 m (49 ft)
 • Total
  • Summer: 120
  • Winter: 18
Time zoneUTC+5 (MAWT)
TypeAll-year round
FacilitiesFacilities include:[1]
  • Accommodation with private bedrooms and shared bathrooms
  • Large dining room (or mess)
  • Several communal sitting areas
  • A range of amenities including medical and laundry facilities
  • A theatrette
  • Library
  • Small spa and sauna
  • Climbing wall
  • Green Store

Mawson was named in honour of the Australian Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.[2][3]

Mawson was listed on the Register of the National Estate in 2001 and listed on the Commonwealth Heritage List on 22 June 2004, reflecting the post-World War Two revival of Australia's scientific research and territorial interests in Antarctica.[4]


Mawson Station is a base for scientific research programs including an underground cosmic ray detector, various long-term meteorological aeronomy and geomagnetic studies, as well as ongoing conservation biology studies, in particular of nearby Auster rookery, a breeding ground for emperor penguins and Adélie penguins.[5]

Mawson Station houses approximately 20 personnel over winter and up to 60 in summer. It is the only Antarctic station to use wind generators for over 70% of its power needs, saving over 600,000 litres (130,000 imp gal; 160,000 US gal) of diesel fuel per year. It is accessible by sea for only a short period each austral summer, between February and March.

Mawson's infrastructure includes an ANARESAT satellite antenna Earth station for communication.[6]


Mawson Station is located at Holme Bay in Mac Robertson Land, East Antarctica, named in January 1930 by Sir Douglas Mawson during the first British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) voyage, aboard Discovery. It is in a region which Mawson proclaimed as British territory on several occasions in 1930 and 1931 (including at Proclamation Island, Scullin Monolith and Cape Bruce), and later became Australian Antarctic Territory.

Some notable geographic features in the region include the Framnes Mountains, which form the dramatic backdrop to Mawson Station. The Framnes Mountains were named in the 1930s by Norwegian explorers financed by the shipowner and whaling magnate Lars Christensen.


Mawson Station experiences a Polar climate:

Climate data for Mawson Station
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 10.6
Average high °C (°F) 2.5
Average low °C (°F) −2.7
Record low °C (°F) −10.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 257.3 220.4 167.4 114.0 49.6 0.0 18.6 93.0 150.0 235.6 258.0 272.8 1,836.7
Source: Bureau of Meteorology[7]


During March and April 1960, an ANARE survey party from Mawson Station carried out a barometric mapping control traverse along the route of a 242 kilometres (150 mi) dog sledge journey from Cape Batterbee through the Napier Mountains to Martin Island in Edward VIII Bay.[8] The members of this survey party — led by Syd Kirkby — were the first people to set foot in the Napier Mountains. The highest peak of this small range — Mount Elkins — was identified and named at this time for Terence James Elkins.[9][10] Many other terrain features were mapped, visited or named as a result of this expedition, including Armstrong Peak,[11] Bird Ridge,[12] Mount Griffiths,[13] Newman Nunataks,[14] Wilkinson Peaks,[15] and the Young Nunataks.[16]

In 2018, astronaut and academic Jay C. Buckey conducted research using virtual reality, at the Australian Antarctic Division’s Mawson Station, wherein the expeditioners used VR headsets to view Australian beach scenes, European nature scenes, and North American nature scenes of forests and urban environments, which were different from the isolation of the whiteness and silence of Antarctica. The research will inform psychological techniques to support long-duration spaceflight such as for astronauts going to Mars.[17]


In 1946, the Minister for External Affairs, H.V. Evatt indicated his support for a proposal by Douglas Mawson for the establishment of a permanent Australian base in Antarctica.[18] It was another seven years before a suitable ship, the Kista Dan could be chartered to set up facilities on the southern continent.

The station site was chosen in 1953 by Phillip Law, the first director of the AAD, who drew aerial photographs taken during the U.S. Operation Highjump (OpHjp) of 1946-1947 to select the site for its large natural harbour (Horseshoe Harbour) and permanently exposed rock for building.[18] The station was built during 1954. Some of the small pre-fabricated huts used in the first years remain on the station, but these are overshadowed by large steel-framed modular buildings dating from a major rebuilding program that started in the late 1970s.

By 1959, the facilities at Mawson Station had expanded significantly. Personnel at that time included 6 scientists, 4 technicians, 2 pilots, 2 weather observers, and 10 others. Scientific disciplines represented included cartography, geology and geomagnetism, glaciology, seismology, ionospheric and auroral physics, meteorology, and physiology. Vehicles included 2 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver aircraft, 3 Caterpillar D4 tractors, 1 TEA-20 Ferguson, and 1 Sno-Cat.[19]

Between 1953 and 1987, Mawson was supplied by the ice-strengthened polar research vessels, including Kista Dan, Magga Dan, Thala Dan, and Nella Dan. This period came to an end when Nella Dan ran aground and sank at Macquarie Island on 3 December 1987.[20]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Living at Davis". Australian Antarctic Division. Department of the Environment, Australian Government. 6 November 2002. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Mawson station: a brief history". History of Australian Antarctic stations. Australian Antarctic Division. 12 August 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  3. ^ Australian Philatelic Bulletin, Vol. 16, p. 28
  4. ^ "Mawson Station, Mawson Station, EXT, Australia (Place ID 105444)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment. 22 June 2004. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Mawson science". Australian Antarctic Division. 21 August 2006. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  6. ^ Yates, Peter (1 March 2006). "Wired for sound…and email…and video" (PDF). Australian Antarctic Magazine. Australian Antarctic Division (10): 10. Retrieved 26 April 2017. The first satellite earth-station, which includes a 7.3 m dish antenna, was installed and commissioned at Davis in March 1987. Mawson was commissioned in January 1988, Casey in March 1988, and Macquarie Island in December 1988.
  7. ^ "Monthly Climate Statistics for Mawson". Climate statistics for Australian locations. Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  8. ^ Lambert, B.P. (1967). "Report on geodetic and cartographic activities, 1960-65". The Polar Record. 13 (86): 703–37. doi:10.1017/S0032247400058393.
  9. ^ "Mount Elkins". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Mount Elkins". Gazetteer of the Australian Antarctic Data Centre. Kingston, Tasmania: Australian Antarctic Data Centre, Department of the Environment and Energy. 2021. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  11. ^ "Armstrong Peak". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  12. ^ "Bird Ridge". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  13. ^ "Griffiths, Mount". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  14. ^ "Newman Nunataks". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  15. ^ "Wilkinson Peaks". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  16. ^ "Young Nunataks". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  17. ^ Virtual reality beaches in Antarctica beating isolation and helping future astronauts, Carla Howarth, ABC News Online, 2018-10-10
  18. ^ a b Scott, Keith (1993). The Australian Geographic book of Antarctica. Terrey Hills, New South Wales: Australian Geographic. pp. 29–31. ISBN 1-86276-010-1.
  19. ^ "International Antarctic Analysis Centre". The Polar Record. 9 (62): 4765–87. 1959. doi:10.1017/S0032247400066651.
  20. ^ "Lauritzen 'Dan' ships 1953-1987". Australian Antarctic Division: Leading Australia's Antarctic Program. Australian Department of the Environment and Energy. 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2021.

Further readingEdit

  • Bowden, Tim. The Silence Calling – Australians in Antarctica, 1947–97. Allen & Unwin.

External linksEdit