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Douglas Mawson: BANZARE 1929-31

Sir Douglas Mawson made three expeditions to Antarctica including the AAE 1911-14 and BANZARE 1929-31. Explore these through the collections of the State Library of South Australia.


By 1927 the Australian government was ready to consider a claim on Antarctic territory - the Australian National Research Council established an Antarctic Committee which included Mawson. In 1929 the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) was formed with Mawson as commander and JK Davis, his former captain, as master of Discovery, Robert Falcon Scott's ship and lent by the British government. Landings to claim territory for Australia were planned, but made difficult by pack-ice preventing access to the continental land.

Like the Australasian Antarctic Expedition before it, BANZARE was a great scientific success. producing an enormous amount of data about the Southern Ocean to build on the already-significant Challenger expedition some 60 years earlier. It also proved to be very good for Australia. Mawson claimed for Britain all the land of East Antarctica between longitude 40 deg. E and 160 deg. In total, 42 per cent of the continent. In 1935, Britain transferred that claim to Australia.

The British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE), concentrated on oceanography, Antarctic and subantarctic marine biology, and Antarctic coastal exploration to the west of the Shackleton Ice Shelf.  The Norwegians were also actively engaged in the area whaling but were also making territorial claims.  The Australian government sent BANZARE south again for a second summer in 1931. Important oceanographical work was done again, and this time Discovery was able to land a party at Commonwealth Bay - Mawson claimed possession of King George V Land, between 142° and 160°E. Coastal charting was done; the expedition's plane enabled valuable sightings of land including Banzare Land, but pack conditions prevented close examination of this and other coastal stretches. Other proclamations of territoriality were made. In 1933 the Australian Antarctic Acceptance Act was enacted, becoming law in 1936. This established the Australian Antarctic Territory from 45°E around to 160°E with a narrow slice of French territory excepted. Another outcome of BANZARE's oceanographical program was the demonstration of an undersea land-platform which clearly indicated that Antarctica was a continent rather than composed of a series of islands.

Archival resources

PRG 523 Papers of Sir Douglas Mawson and those of his wife, consisting of correspondence, lecture notes, manuscripts, newspaper cuttings and photographs. Includes literary manuscripts. Includes PRG 523/19 (BANZARE meteorological log) 

PRG 951 Henderson, Walter, Dr Papers of Dr Walter Henderson comprising his copies of pamphlets and a book by Douglas Mawson, letters received and photographs taken by B.A.N.Z.A.R. Expedition photographer Frank Hurley

B 55765 Sir Douglas Mawson in his cabin on board the "Discovery" during the B.A.N.Z. Antarctic Research Expedition, 1929-31

B 55771 Men of the B.A.N.Z. Antarctic Research Expedition, 1929-31, grouped around a Union Jack flag, cheering and holding their hats in the air

Books about BANZARE


Was Antarctica won fairly? by Noel David Barrett. A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement of the bachelor of Antarctic Studies with Honours at the Institute of Antarctic and Southern ocean Studies (IASOS), University of Tasmania. 2007