03 January 2010
The first plane in Antarctica
Australian researchers have found the remains of the first plane taken to Antarctica, in 1912, have been found by Australian researchers. Taken to Antarctica in 1912 the Mawson's Huts Foundation had been searching for the plane for three years. It was last seen in the mid-1970s, and it was only rediscovered on New Year's Day.
Australian polar explorer and geologist Douglas Mawson (later knighted) led two expeditions to Antarctica in the early 1900s, on the first one bringing a single-propeller Vickers REP aeroplane.
Mawson's dream of staging the first human flight over the Antarctic ice cap, less than a decade after the Wright brothers made the first powered flight, was shattered even before his expedition sailed. The plane crashed in a demonstration flight in October 1911. No one was hurt, but the wings were damaged. With no time for repairs, Mawson removed the wings and took the rest of the plane to use as a flightless "air tractor".
The 1911-14 Australian Antarctic Expedition used the plane to tow gear on to the ice in preparation for sledging journeys. But the plane's engine could not withstand the extreme cold and it was eventually abandoned.
Okay so it never flew in Antarctica. It was a shame the plane got totalled before it reached Antarctica but given that the engine could not handle the cold I fear that it would have come to a sticky end had it arrived intact. Still the article has given me a name to research. I know virtually nothing about Mawson so I will have to find out more about his explorations. It would seem that he has been overshadowed, in the UK at least, by the likes of Scott and Shackleton.