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Explorers reach polar huts

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Two Australian explorers have made it over dangerous sea ice to Mawson’s Huts in Antarctica, which have been inaccessible for several years.

Conservator Ian Godfrey and heritage carpenter Jon Tucker navigated 70km of sea ice on an amphibious vehicle to reach the huts.

Their visit was part of a privately funded expedition of nearly 30 scientists and others to commemorate the centenary of Douglas Mawson’s exploration of the Cape Denison area.

The Mawson’s Huts Foundation says this is the first time it has attempted such an ambitious and potentially hazardous crossing of the ice.

It was a joint operation between the foundation and the Australian Antarctic Division.

The huts on Cape Denison have been inaccessible for many years because an iceberg about the size of the ACT blocked the entrance to the bay.

Dr Godfrey said the trip across the sea ice was the journey of a lifetime.

“Mawson’s Huts seem to be in good condition but we may only have a day here so we’re doing all the essentials such as changing data loggers and assessing the condition of the building structure,” he said.

He was hopeful the success of this mission meant the Mawson’s Huts Foundation could resume annual visits.

Expedition manager Rob Easther said several of the scientists had planned to also make the full journey to the huts to conduct many of the experiments carried out there by Mawson’s 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic expedition.

However, weather conditions mean it’s likely the modern expedition team will have to leave the area sooner than hoped.