Tag Archives: South Magnetic Pole

Akademik Shokalskiy

6 Jan
Douglas Mawson was the first to enable communication from the Antarctic mainland to Australia by setting up a relay station in Macquarie Island in 1911. This year, scientists and enthusiasts chartered the ‘Akademik Shokalskiy’ to follow Mawson’s 1911-14 expedition of ‘The Aurora’.

Mawson’s vision had been to make a series of bases on the costal margin of the Antarctic mainland directly below Australia. His purpose was to make scientific and geographical discoveries and especially, to locate the position of the South Magnetic Pole more accurately than on his previous attempt (1908).

However Mawson could only make one land base in Adelie Land and one ice-shelf base off Queen Mary Land

Mawson wrote, ‘Here was an Ice Age in all earnestness. A picture of Northern Europe during the Great Ice Age some 50,000 years ago’.

To-days plight of the passengers, scientists and crew of the ‘Akademik Shokalskiy’ has been shared with the rest of the world in real time and has confirmed that even modern, up to date, state of the art ice ships can become locked in ice, at the mercy of the elements, precisely as their predecessors, but happily aided by modern communication. This has enabled assistance to be mobilized with evacuation of  passengers and scientists by helicopter and then boat transfer to the ice breaker ‘Aurora Australis’.

History tells us that ships locked in sea ice are at the mercy of sea currents, wind force and ice thickness, combinations of which are unpredictable. We await the larger icebreaker ‘Polar Star’ to see if a channel can be made in the sea ice to the ice bound ‘Akademik Shokalskiy’

Aurora’s track.       Mertz Glacier as in 1911.

Queen Elizabeth Land

21 Dec

The decision by the Foreign Office to rename a 169,000 square mile chunk of the British Antarctic Territory, ‘Queen Elizabeth Land’ is a lovely ‘retro’ step.

Before the Antarctic Treaty entered into force in 1961, explorers named discoveries after their monarch/country routinely: Victoria Land, Queen Maud Land etc. When Mawson reached the area that contained the South Magnetic Pole in 1909 he took possession of it in the name of the British Empire and, in the Imperial Conference of 1926, he proposed that the Empire should control the Antarctic section between 45 and 160 degrees East (nearest to Australasia).

The Foreign Office decision, that rounds off the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, is bound to cause  diplomatic problems with Argentina. Argentina disputes British claims to the area and has its own claim to land some of which overlaps the newly renamed land.

Undoubtedly more to follow!