Ice in the Rigging: Voyage to the Antarctic

The Southern Ocean is a most forbidding stretch of water. Any ship that deems to cross it must be well prepared with a stout-hearted crew. Hobart has been a key port in the discovery and exploration of Antarctica.

Before the end of the 17th century, maps of the world featured either a void or an imaginary land around the South Pole. James Cook and Tobias Furneaux were the first to circumnavigate Antarctica. Whalers and sealers soon followed eager to exploit the sub-Antarctic islands and Southern Ocean.

Many of the vessels supporting expeditions to explore Antarctica in the early 20th century used Hobart as a port. Carsten Borchgrevink left Hobart in Southern Cross in 1898. His expedition was the first to spend a winter in Antarctica.

Roald Amundsen, the famed Norwegian explorer, on board the Fram, led the first expedition to reach the South Pole in December 1911, beating Robert Scott’s British attempt by five weeks. Fram returned to Hobart, where Amundsen telegraphed King Haakon of Norway with the news of his success.

Dog teams on the Fram after returning from the Antarctic, 1912 (Tasmanian Archives PH30-1-3275)

In 1911, Douglas Mawson launched the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. He sailed in Aurora from Hobart to Macquarie Island and Antarctica. What followed was one of the epic stories of Antarctic survival.

Many ships have served Australia’s Antarctic Program since 1947. These vessels have resupplied bases, transported scientists and have been the platform for scientific investigations. They have been the backbone of Australia’s national Antarctic endeavour.


This new exhibition at the Maritime Museum of Tasmania features some of the vessels that have made the perilous journey to the icy continent, in paintings, photographs, and superb models.

The exhibition can be found in the Exhibition Gallery at the Maritime Museum of Tasmania until Sunday 27 November.
Museum admission charge applies.