Ice axe, metal / wood, made by Leonhard Kost, used during the Sir Douglas Mawson's Antarctic Expedition, Antarctica, 1911-1914
This ice axe was used for cutting hand and foot holds in ice, and was used during Sir Douglas Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE), Antarctica, 1911-1914.
One of the objectives of this expedition was the exploration and charting of the largely unexplored coastline of Antarctica. This included meteorological and magnetic observations, and the collection of biological and geological samples. It also aimed to establish a wireless weather station to assist with weather forecasting. Sailing on the Newfoundland sealing vessel 'Aurora', the team entered a part of the world which was then little known.
The expedition was not without tragedy. During a sledding trip to the east of the base with Douglas Mawson, Xavier Mertz and Belgrade Ninnis, a crevasse swallowed up Ninnis, a team of six dogs, and the sled containing most of their food. The survivors began the arduous journey back to base, some 500 kilometres away, during which they ate the remaining dogs for food. Mertz died during the return, leaving Mawson to travel the 100 kilometres back to base alone.
Mawson later led the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expeditions (BANZARE), 1929-1931. The expeditions aimed to assert British territorial claims in Antarctica, and were responsible for the mapping of more than 3000 kilometres of what is now Australian Antarctic Territory coastline. The AA and BANZAR expeditions were two of the most important Australian scientific expeditions of the 20th century, laying the basis for Australia's later claims to almost 42 per cent of the Antarctic continent.
The ice axe is indicative of some of the equipment necessary to survive and work in the harsh conditions of Antarctica, and is associated with one of the region's great explorers, Sir Douglas Mawson. Along with related items in the collection, it gives insight into a story of adventure, hardship, and tragedy in a time of heroic Antarctic exploration. In addition it forms part of a collection that signifies Australia's immense contribution to exploration and scientific research of the Antarctic region.
Haywood, Elizabeth, 'Australian Antarctica: Celebrating fifty years of Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions', Australia Post, 1997
Mortimer, Gavin, 'Shakleton and the Antarctic Explorers: The men who battled to reach the South Pole', Carlton Books Ltd, Dubai, 1999
Australian Dictionary of Biography Online: http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au
Australian Antarctic Division: http://www-new.aad.gov.au/
The ice axe was made by Leonhard Kost, Basel, Switzerland. The company originated in 1866 and is still exists in 2006, specialising in sporting equipment.
1911 is the earliest date the ice axe was used. The axe was possibly manufactured in 1911.
The ice axe was used during the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914, and presumably by Douglas Mawson. It is part of a collection of objects donated to the Royal Australian Historical Society by the Expedition. It was acquired by the Museum as part of the Royal Australian Historical Society Collection in 1981 (RAHS #70).