An iceberg nearly 100km long yesterday was preventing tourist ships from reaching Antarctica to mark the centenary of Australian explorer Douglas Mawson’s polar voyage.
Mawson, among Antarctica’s earliest pioneers, led the Australasian Antarctic Expedition between 1911 and 1914 — an ambitious scientific research trip that laid Australia’s territorial claim and presence on the icy continent.
He had been approached to join British adventurer Robert Scott’s team in the race to the magnetic South Pole, but declined.
Instead he set off from the city of Hobart on Dec. 2, 1911 with his own men to pursue more scientific goals. Mawson landed at Commonwealth Bay on Jan. 8, 1912, building a complex of huts at Cape Denison that stand to this day.
Three tourist ships that have been attempting to reach the cape as part of 100-year commemorations had to ditch their plans due to rare conditions caused by the mammoth iceberg, an official said.
The B9B iceberg is grounded at the cape’s entrance and preventing what is known as fast ice from moving as freely as normal, the spokeswoman said.
Calved from the Ross Ice Shelf in 1987, B9B is now in three major pieces and parts of it are frozen fast to the seabed, meaning it could clog Commonwealth Bay for up to a decade.
Rob Easther from the Mawson’s Huts Conservation Society said the tourists were experiencing authentic conditions.
“We refer to it as the ‘A’ factor, the Antarctic factor, it messes up a lot of people’s plans,” Easther told ABC Radio. “That’s what it’s always done and it’ll always do that. We’ll never outsmart it.”