Dr Estelle Lazer
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
Significant sites associated with cultural heritage in the Australian Antarctic Territory can be found on the Antarctic continent and on Heard and Macquarie Islands in the sub-Antarctic.
Four key types of sites can be identified, as follows:
- sites associated with the sealing industry on Heard and Macquarie Islands, including the remains of domestic structures and associated artefacts, industrial activity, shipwrecks, graves and the skeletal remains of sealers who were buried on the islands
- sites associated with early scientific endeavour and exploration (1911–14), notably Mawson’s Huts, Cape Denison
- evidence of the British Australian New Zealand Antarctic Research Expeditions of Douglas Mawson between 1929 and 1931, which, while involving science and exploration, were also instrumental in providing Australia with its claim of 42 per cent of the continent; these expeditions covered a large portion of Antarctica, including visits to Cape Denison and Atlas Cove at Heard Island
- sites associated with the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions and agencies of other nations that established research stations after the Second World War. These include Atlas Cove at Heard Island, Buckles Bay at Macquarie Island, and Mawson, Davis and Wilkes stations on the Antarctic continent. Some of these stations are still occupied, like Mawson, Davis and Macquarie Island. Wilkes is not far from the modern base at Casey.
In addition, there is a considerable quantity of material associated with Australian cultural heritage sites that is held in collections in Australia. Some items are also held in collections outside Australia.
These tangible remains provide information about the history of human activity in a remote and hostile environment. The on-site material, in particular, faces a number of threats, including exposure to an extreme environment, climate change and isolation.