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A Flight of the Imagination: Mawson's Antarctic Aeroplane


Lucas, A and Henderson, C and Leane, E and Kriwoken, L, A Flight of the Imagination: Mawson's Antarctic Aeroplane, Polar Journal, 1, (1) pp. 63-75. ISSN 2154-896X (2011) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2011 Taylor & Francis.

DOI: doi:10.1080/2154896X.2011.568791


When Douglas Mawson planned his Australasian Antarctic Expedition (1911¨C14) he took advantage of newly available technology. His proposal to use an aeroplane for reconnaissance of unexplored regions in Antarctica was an innovative strategy, a first in polar exploration. He ordered a French©\designed Robert Esnault©\Pelterie (REP) two©\seater monoplane from Vickers Ltd in England. When a test flight in Adelaide ended in a crash, Mawson was forced to revise his plans. He took the engine and fuselage south to use as a motorized sledge or ¡°air©\tractor¡±. This paper details the monoplane¡¯s history, including conflicting interpretations of the crash. It outlines the optimistic preparation for the aircraft¡¯s alternative role as a motor sledge in Antarctica, its disappointing performance and its eventual abandonment near Mawson¡¯s Huts at Commonwealth Bay. Finally, it documents clues that have prompted a renewed search for this important historical artefact. Summer projects to locate and salvage it, using ice©\penetrating radar and other detection methods, have been run in conjunction with other conservation projects conducted by the Mawson¡¯s Huts Foundation. We draw on archival research and new discoveries to piece together the fragmented history of the AAE¡¯s monoplane.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:air©\tractor, Antarctica, aviation, Bickerton, Mawson, Robert Esnault©\Pelterie, REP
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Australian history
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Understanding past societies
Objective Field:Understanding Australia's past
UTAS Author:Lucas, A (Dr Anna Lucas)
UTAS Author:Leane, E (Professor Elizabeth Leane)
UTAS Author:Kriwoken, L (Dr Lorne Kriwoken)
ID Code:70970
Year Published:2011
Deposited By:English, Journalism and European Languages
Deposited On:2011-07-05
Last Modified:2012-06-08
Downloads:3 View Download Statistics

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