What Makes Mawson, Antarctica Interesting?
At a Glance
Area: 900 x 700 m
Population (2015): 60 (summer), 20 (winter)
Time Zone: UTC+5
GPS Coordinates: 67°36′10″S 62°52′26″E
What’s in the Name?
Mawson is named after Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.
Although legend had told of a vast southern land referred to as Terra Australis since the 1st century AD, the first sighting of Antarctica is invariably attributed to Imperial Russian Navy captain Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen in 1820. Captain James Cook missed the continent by only 75 miles in 1773.
1930s — Framnes Mountains named by Norwegian explorers financed by magnate Lars Christensen.
1930 — first British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE).
1930-31 — proclaimed British territory (and later became Australian Antarctic Territory).
1946 — Sir Douglas Mawson proposed and received approval for a permanent Australian base in Antarctica.
1947 — aerial photographs taken during the U.S. Operation Highjump (OpHjp).
1953 — station site chosen by Dr. Phillip Law.
1954 — Mawson station is built.
1960 — Napier Mountains are surveyed by by Syd Kirkby and Terence James Elkins.
1970s — large, steel-framed, modular buildings replace many of the original pre-fabricated huts.
The below images have been licensed through Big Stock Photo or borrowed from other resources for editorial purposes only.
• Wikipedia • Mawson Station webcam • Official website Australian Antarctic Division • Australian Antarctic Division’s Mawson Station page • Feature, CleanTechnica: “Renewables At The South Pole”
• A complete archive of curated articles is forthcoming on this destination (see page on Dhaka, Bangladesh for the model).
Mawson is typical of much of the coast of East Antarctica where the ice cap falls steeply to sea level. The main feature is the ‘katabatic’, or gravity wind which results from the drainage of cold air down the steep slopes of the ice sheet from the high interior of the continent. Temperatures range from 2.5°C / 36.5°F in January to −15.5°C / 4.1°F in August. Winds are predominantly from the east and south, with am average speed of 21 knots (nearly 40 kmh.) Gusts often exceed 130-140 knots. As it lies south of the Antarctic Circle, the sun does not rise at Mawson for six weeks (starting first week in June), and it does not set for the same length of time (starting early December).
There are no mining or exports from this area. Most of this is cover by the Antarctic Treaty. There is significant scientific research underway that includes middle and upper atmosphere physics, cosmic ray physics, geomagnetism, seismology, biology, meteorology, climate change studies, medicine and automated upper atmospheric sciences.
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With Antarctica lacking any permanent residents, there is no unique culture here. Inhabitants pass the time with work and hobbies. Visitors can learn more about the heroic Age of Antarctic exploration by visiting the former whaling station at South Georgia. The site features a museum and the remarkably well-preserved, abandoned expedition huts of Scott on Ross Island. Whaling was popular in the region from the late 1700s to 1966, with mostly Norwegian and British workers making up the settlements and whaling stations of Grytviken, King Edward Point, Leith Harbour, Stromness, Prince Olav Harbour, Husvik, Godthul, and Ocean Harbour. Whaling is no longer permitted, though illegal fishing remains a problem.
Only unorganized games are played in this region. No associated leagues have been formed.
Transport technologies in a remote area like Antarctica need to be able to deal with extremely low temperatures and continuous winds to ensure the travelers’ safety. Due to the fragility of the environment, only a limited amount of movements can take place.