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AAE collapsible dinghy

Vessel Number: HV000678
Date: c1910
Vessel Dimensions: 4 m × 1.2 m (13.12 ft × 3.94 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
The Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) collapsible dinghy is an item from this early 20th century expedition led by renowned Australian geologist Douglas Mawson, who was knighted for his achievements in leading the expedition. The vessel was probably made around 1910 and taken on the expedition from 1911- 1914. The manufacturer was Bair & Egerton Boatworks. Glen Cove Long island USA. Its actual use is unknown, but it helps interpret the type of detailed planning for all eventualities that is required for the success of these expeditions in a harsh environment.
DescriptionThe dinghy appears to have been a model made by Bair & Egerton Boatworks for retail sale that was adapted for its purpose by Mawson’s team. A later advertisement for the manufacturer notes that they made portable and folding boats. It is made of a wooden panels with flexible canvas joints and has a builder’s plate on the stem. It is about 3 m long, and folded down to a relatively flat package that was easy to store and transport.

In 1910 Mawson began to plan an expedition to chart the 3,200-kilometre-long coastline of Antarctica to the south of Australia. The Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science approved of his plans and contributed substantial funds for the expedition. The remaining funds were raised by public subscription and additional donations. The team selected for the expedition came primarily from universities in Australia and New Zealand. Key members of the expedition included Frank Hurley as official photographer, and Frank Wild as leader of the western base, names that became famous after Shackleton’s ill-fated 1915 expedition and the loss of ENDURANCE.

The expedition went south by ship with supplies that included this craft. They landed and built their main base at Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay, where eighteen men spent the winter of 1912 and seven spent the winter of 1913.
Coastal and inland sledging journeys enabled the teams to explore previously unknown lands. In the second half of 1912, there were five major journeys from the main base and two from the western base. It is not known if the craft was used, but as a collapsible craft it may have fitted with plans to take a compact vessel on a sledge that could be deployed off the ice for short trips in the sea as part of their coastal scientific studies. As a compact item when not in use it also fitted with storage limitations on board the ships and ashore.

Accomplishments were made in geology, glaciology and terrestrial biology and published widely, but the public’s recognition of the expedition is the tragic journey Mawson made with colleagues Xavier Mertz and B.E.S Ninnis. Just over four weeks into the trek Ninnis and most of the supplies were lost without trace, falling into a deep crevasse. Mertz died on the return and Mawson completed an epic journey of survival alone.

These huts at the base still stand – two intact and two as ruins: Mawson's Huts, now managed as an historic site by the Australian Antarctic Division. This craft is numbered A60166 and is an item on display in the Mawson collection of the Australian Polar Collection and the History of Science Collection, at the Science Centre in the South Australian Museum, and represents Mawson’s detailed planning for his scientific work undertaken over many expeditions to Antarctica.

Vessel Details
Current status:on public display
Deck layout:open
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:oar
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:monohull
Alternate Numbers

registration number: A60166

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