Discovery: Return To Mawson's Antarctica

Ep 1/4

Monday 16 December



Over four weeks in December and January, BBC World Service’s Discovery will be embedded with a team of Antarctic researchers on board an ice-breaker retracing the route of the first Australasian Expedition to Antarctica.

Between 1911 and 1914, Douglas Mawson explored a fiercely harsh part of Antarctica while the more celebrated Scott and Amundsen raced to the South Pole elsewhere on the frozen continent. Mawson’s expedition was dedicated to scientific study in the early Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration but his journey was fraught with horror and danger.

The 2013 Australasian Antarctic Expedition aims to repeat many of Mawson’s investigations around Commonwealth Bay and Cape Denison in East Antarctica where the original team set up their base. This remote area hasn’t been studied systematically for 100 years, so the expedition will reveal any changes that have taken place as a result of climate change.

The BBC’s Andrew Luck-Baker and Science journalist Alok Jha join the 26-strong scientific team led by Professor Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales. They study penguins, record the underwater songs of seals and deploy a robot submarine to sample the rich sea life under the ice.

A drone aircraft helps navigate the ship through a gigantic iceberg and visit Mawson’s original hut. Along with continuous recording of sea temperatures, sea ice thicknesses, wind speeds and pollution, the expedition aims to illuminate environmental change in this part of Antarctica, and the frozen continent as a whole.

For one month, Alok and Andrew will report on Antarctic science, history and the dramas of life on the ice in four special programmes on the BBC World Service, recorded as the journey progresses to bring the Antarctic to life for a global audience.