Mawson’s Huts Foundation: Save Aurora Australis

The Mawson’s Huts Foundation (MHF) has joined the Aurora Australis Foundation’s (AAF) effort to save the vessel Aurora Australis.

Former Antarctic ice-breaker supply vessel built at Carrington Slipways, Aurora Australis. Photo by Bahnfrend.

They say that by the sale and scrapping of this former ice-breaker support ship, Australian Antarctic heritage is being lost forever.

Dr Melanie Van Twest secretary/director of the AAF says a lack of a coordinated heritage strategy or appropriate funding means Australia’s long and proud history of exploration and achievement in Antarctica is not being preserved or displayed for the information of Australians and international visitors.

Though the Australian Antarctic Division is mandated to manage its own history and material culture, it is not funded for this work and in recent years has handed of large collections of artefacts, maps and data to other national institutions.

Australia is rightly proud of its military history,” says Foundation Secretary Dr Melanie Van Twest.

As individuals and as a nation, Australia has a great story to tell about its wartime service.”

Australia has a similarly long and courageous story to tell about its Antarctic endeavours and achievements in exploration, science and global advocacy in Antarctica. And yet most Australians know little about this history, despite the tales of heroism and sacrifice that it contains.”

The Aurora Australis Foundation (AAF) seeks to preserve the recently retired Australian-built icebreaker RSV Aurora Australis. A heritage assessment has established the heritage significance of the ‘AA’, as the ship is known. The assessment confirms the RSV Aurora Australis “is of national heritage significance, principally for its historical significance and rarity value.” The ship meets criteria for inclusion on the National Heritage List and the Tasmanian Heritage Register.

The RSV Aurora Australis, which returned from its final voyage in March 2020, was the mainstay of the Australian Antarctic Program for 30 years, over which time the ship made over 150 trips to Antarctica, carrying thousands of expeditioners and millions of tonnes of cargo and litres of fuel to support Australian scientific research stations.

The AAF intends to create an Australian Antarctic Heritage precinct in Hobart, within which the RSV Aurora Australis will be a centrepiece and house displays on Australia’s Antarctic history of exploration and scientific research.

The Mawson’s Huts Foundation is supporting moves to keep the Aurora Australis in Hobart and looking after Australia’s Antarctic Heritage.

Hobart’s has a unique Antarctic heritage and history which must be maintained and promoted,” says MHF chairman David Jensen AM. “The Aurora Australis is part of this and having it remain in Hobart would be a valued Antarctic attraction for tourists”.