C. Commemoration of the Centenary of the AAE. Ceremony held at Cape Denison on 16 January 2012.
The Mawson’s Huts Foundation’s 2011/12 Conservation Expedition to Cape Denison, which was due to depart from Hobart on board the L’Astrolabe on 2 December 2011 was cancelled. This was because of the thick sea ice that is blocking the entrance to Commonwealth Bay and consequently there was no certainty that the expeditioners would be able to reach the Huts. Icebergs BO9B, BO9D & BO9F were the main cause of the problem, i.e., preventing the sea ice from leaving Commonwealth Bay (see image below). Currently, Iceberg BO9B is 48 km long and up to 22 km wide, a substantial chunk of ice indeed! The original iceberg B9B, from which BO9B originated and which collided with the Mertz glacier in 2010, was 97 km in length.
The latest image of BO9B can be found at:
Unfortunately the Centenary year for the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) got off to a bad start. However, the Aurora Australis, with a number of dignitaries on board departed Hobart on 5th January 2012 bound for Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay. Here it was planned to hold a Ceremony to mark the Centenary of the AAE on 8th January 2012 the date corresponding to the arrival of the AAE at Cape Denison in 1912. Once again ice conditions and the weather caused delays. The Aurora Australis could only get to within 20 km of Cape Denison and had to moor in the fast ice. While some personnel (including the Mawson’s Huts Foundation postmaster, Marty Passingham, and his assistant Dr Ian Godfrey) were flown into the Huts by helicopter on the 14th January, fog delayed the rest of the party. Finally, on 16th January conditions improved and it was possible to fly in the rest of the party.
The Centenary of the AAE and the many achievements of the Expedition were commemorated in a ceremony held at Cape Denison on 16th January 2012. The ceremony was held on Proclamation Hill, where Mawson asserted British sovereignty over the region, during a return visit in 1931. The ceremony was conducted by Dr Tony Fleming, Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, and included his reading a message from the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in which she recorded with pride the nation’s immense and lasting gratitude to the members of the AAE and acknowledged their significant contribution to science. Dr Fleming also unveiled a plaque to mark the centenary of the AAE and installed a time capsule containing a collection of messages and objects signifying the achievements of Mawson and his colleagues (to be opened in 2112). He made a moving speech acknowledging the contributions made by all members of the AAE including those at the Macquarie Island station, the Western Base in Queen Mary Land, the main base at Cape Denison, and the officers and crew of the SY Aurora.
Three types of cover were produced to mark the ceremony (Covers 6-8.). The covers, which feature the Centenary of the AAE stamps and the Icebergs gummed and booklet stamps, were postmarked at Cape Denison on 16 JUN 2012. An overprinted Centenary of the AAE minisheet has also been produced (Minisheet 9.)
Following the ceremony the postmaster, his assistant and the covers, which had been postmarked at Cape Denison on the 14th and 16th January, returned to the Aurora Australis by helicopter. On 17th January they were taken to the French Antarctic Station at Dumont D’Urville, again by helicopter. Dumont D’Urville is 233 km West of Cape Denison. After a 9-day stay at Dumont D’Urville the postmaster, together with his assistant and the covers were taken by helicopter to the French Antarctic supply ship L’Astrolabe on 25th January and then 7 days later, on 31st January 2012, they arrived in Hobart. Thus, to get to Cape Denison and back the covers were carried on two different ships and on two return ship-to-shore helicopter flights..
Accounts of the voyage to, and the events at, Cape Denison in 2012 can be found in blogs by: David Ellyard, National President of the ANARE Club: http://anarensw.weebly.com/david-ellyard-aae-report-2012-voyage.html;
Karen Barlow, ABC journalist: http://blogs.abc.net.au/news/in-mawsons-footsteps/ ;
& Tom Griffiths, historian and former Australian Antarctic Arts Fellow: http://ceh.environmentalhistory-au-nz.org/category/aae/
The 22nd Issue of the Australian Antarctic Magazine, which is dedicated to “Celebrating 100 Years of Australia in Antarctica”, can be viewed online: http://www.antarctica.gov.au/magazine
Click here to download PDF order form
Cover 4. FDI of AAT Elephant Seal stamp from WWF for Nature: 50 years minisheet from which all but the Elephant Seal stamp have been removed. The other three were non-AAT stamps. This allowed for a clear strike of the postmark, which is enclosed within the remaining frame of the minisheet. These covers have been signed by Kevin Stead, who provided the illustrations for the stamp and the cover. The designer of both the cover and the stamp was Simone Sakinofsky from the Australia Post Design Studio. The background for the minisheet is a scene from Macquarie Island, location not known.
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Cachets on reverse of Cover 4
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