Polar Exploration

2011-2012 marked the Centenary of Australian Antarctic Exploration. This anniversary is established by the Australian Antarctic Division from the beginning of Douglas Mawson's expedition on 2 December 1911. Australian exploration of Antarctica has continued since that initial scientific voyage.

The University of Melbourne has a long connection with Antarctic exploration and study. The first salaried Vice-Chancellor, Sir Raymond Priestley was geologist on Ernest Shackleton's 1907-1909 expedition and also on Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated 1910-1913 expedition. During the latter, Priestley was marooned at Terra Nova Bay. He and his companions survived the winter in a small snow cave, living off seal and penguin meat. To illustrate public lectures he later gave on the subject, Priestley collected glass lantern slides from his expedition and others. Over 1,300 of these slides have survived and have now been digitised and are available on the University of Melbourne Archives Image Catalogue.

Phillip Garth Law was a lecturer in Physics at the University 1943-1948. Following this appointment, he became leader of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions, 1949-66 and then Director of the Antarctic Division, when he established the Mawson, Davis and Casey bases.

The University of Melbourne Archives holds a number of significant collections created by academics associated with Antarctica. The key ones are listed below. For further information in the online catalogue, click on the link below titled 'University individuals and other collections'

Sir David Orme Masson was a Professor of Chemistry at the University. In his capacity as President of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, 1911-1913 and the Australian National Research Council, 1922-1926, he was heavily involved in scientific enquiry in Antarctica. Indeed, a mountain range and island are named after him.

John Francis Lovering, a Professor of Geology at the University from 1969 to 1987, was involved in numerous expeditions with the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions in the 1970s and 1980s.

Fritz Loewe founded the University's Department of Meteorology in 1939. Prior to this, he had participated in the 1930-1931 Greenland Expedition under Alfred Wegener. Following his move to Australia, Loewe undertook several Antarctic expeditions, including the failed voyage of the HMAS Wyatt Earp.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and besides individuals a wide variety of Faculties and Departments of the University supported study in Antarctica. These include the Schools of Meteorology and Botany, whose records are held at the University of Melbourne Archives. See the links below for more details.

Polar Bear, 1932

Fritz Loewe collection, OSBA/698