9 Oct

It is impossible to leave Mawson’s many achievements without saluting the British, Australian (and) New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition  -BANZARE,  of 1929 to 1931. Mawson led these expeditions.

The 1926 Imperial Conference proposed that Great Britain  should claim control of  the Antarctic quadrant 45° – 160° E


Mawson led two summer expeditions to the continent. These expeditions, funded by all three countries were both geopolitical and scientific. The stated reason for the expeditions was to carry out further exploration and scientific activities in land claimed by Britain – but this  work would, of course, underline British territorial claims.  Mawson planed  to use air transport as well as his ship ‘Discovery’, to make geological and biological investigations rather than setting up land bases.

Extensive investigations were made along the 1550 mile coast line between 40 -160°E. Much of the coast line was mapped for the first time and it was confirmed that the coast  between Ross Island and Enderby Island was continuous

In the first season (1929-1930)  the aerial survey  discovered a previously unknown coast and land;  this Mawson named Mac.Robertson Land, in honour of Sir Macpherson Robertson, a keen supporter of Australia’s role in Antarctica who had donated a large sum to the expedition.

 On 13 January 1930 a party landed on  a small island lying west of the most northerly cape of Enderby Land. This island Mawson named Proclamation Island and here land  was claimed extending from 45 – 160°E, (excluding Adelie Land), for the British crown. A cairn and plaque commemorated the event.


Another Union Jack was dropped from the air onto the Antarctic on 25 January 1930 and a proclamation read claiming further territory.

Mawson wanted to continue the exploration, but his Captain (John King Davis), concerned about the remaining supply of coal,  insisted on returning north. ‘Discovery’ reached Australia in March 1st. 1930

In November 1930 ‘Discovery’ sailed from Hobart for a second season. On 4 January 1931 Discovery visited Cape Denison, allowing Mawson to revisit his  Australasian Antarctic Expedition  base of  twenty years previously . Magnetic readings were taken and it was discovered that the Magnetic South Pole had moved considerably since their last readings taken in 1914. The ship then sailed along the coastlines, using flights and landings to reinforce surveys taken from ‘Discovery’. The expedition returned in March 1931.

The  mass of scientific work  that was recorded  was vast. It took years to organize and report  and some results may still be unpublished! But much of the data was used by the British Council to claim sovereignty of the area  which was subsequently passed to Australia.

Mawson eventually retired from academic life aged seventy. he was made an emeritus professor of the University of Adelaide. But his active, varied life and interests continued-  these included farming forestry, regulation of whaling. He was much admired – a geology building and an ‘Institute for Australian Research’ were named for him in Adelaide

He died at his Brighton (Australia) home on 14 October 1958 aged 76. At the time of his death he had still not completed the editorial work on the papers  from his expedition. These were completed by his eldest daughter, Patricia – in 1975.  He is buried in the cemetery of St Jude’s ChurchBrighton, South Australia.

During his life he achieved numerous awards and honours, amongst these must be mentioned his Fellowship of the Royal Society and his  Founder Membership of the Australian Academy of Science.

6 Responses to “BANZARE”

  1. Stuart October 9, 2020 at 2:07 pm #

    I didn’t know very much about Mawson so I was interested to learn more

    • isobelpwilliams October 9, 2020 at 2:32 pm #

      It is surprising how little he is known about him her here ( G.B), when he achieved so much science and is so admired in Australia/New Zealand
      It is probably the old story — science does not excite as much general interest as exploration and danger

    • isobelpwilliams October 9, 2020 at 2:35 pm #

      I am pleased to increase appreciation of a very impressive man!

  2. alexanderlitsterdsc2631 November 21, 2021 at 12:06 pm #

    Hi. I have some photos from my grandfather’s collection of the BANZARE expeditions in 1929-31. I’m trying to find out if he was a crew member but so far drawing a blank. Anyway, the handful of pics I have include a shot of some of the crew on the way home from Melbourne and one which mentions Frank Hurley on the back. If you would like to see them drop me an email. Great site by the way.
    Regards, Colin Litster

    • isobelpwilliams November 22, 2021 at 9:18 am #

      Please send some -as well annotated as you can manage


      • Colin Litster January 3, 2022 at 1:10 pm #

        Hi. Apologies for the slow reply – I’ve only just seen your message. I can’t see where to attach photos via this contact page. Perhaps you can email me an alternative address?

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