Conserving and protecting Mawson’s Huts — one of Australia’s most significant Antarctic historic sites — is not an easy job. But a new, recently finalised management plan, aims to do just that.
The Mawson’s Huts Historic Site is the setting of the buildings, structures and relics of the Main Base of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (1911–1914), led by Dr (later Sir) Douglas Mawson. The site at Cape Denison is one of only six sites remaining from this era, and is the least disturbed.
Mawson’s Huts have received national recognition from their inclusion on the Commonwealth Heritage List (2004) and the National Heritage List (2005) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. They have also been inscribed on the Antarctic Treaty List of Historic Sites and Monuments, and designated an Antarctic Specially Protected Area within an Antarctic Specially Managed Area, under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
Amazingly, the huts are still standing after over 100 years of exposure to extreme cold and regular blizzards. Under the guidance of the previous management plan, the site underwent some major conservation works with the assistance of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation. These works included the over-cladding of the Main Hut, ice removal from the interior, fitting of a frame to help stabilise the Transit Hut, and artefact conservation.
The new management plan provides the framework to guide management decisions, and on- and off-site actions. It aims to protect and conserve the National Heritage, Commonwealth Heritage and other values of the Mawson’s Huts Historic Site, while allowing the fabric of the site to continue to represent both a moment in time and the passage of time.
Environmental factors are the main pressures on the site’s National and Commonwealth Heritage values; wind, humidity, salt, snow and ice, and the associated freeze/thaw action. During the life of the new management plan there will be further monitoring and analysis of these key pressures to inform work plans and the development of the next management plan.
The new management plan replaces the Mawson’s Huts Historic Site Management Plan 2007–12 and will be reviewed within five years.
Senior Policy Adviser,
Australian Antarctic Division