An Australian expedition has found the remains of the first aeroplane ever taken to the frozen Antarctic continent. The Australians are restoring 1911-14-expedition leader, Douglas Mawson’s main camp.
The aircraft, a British Vickers monoplane, was taken to Antarctica by Mawson’s expedition in 1911 but was eventually abandoned because the engine could not withstand the arctic temperatures. Adelaide Now says it was the first Vickers aircraft ever built.
Mawson had left the plane’s wings in Australia because of an earlier accident during a demonstration flight in Adelaide, which had damaged the wings. He intended to use the fuselage and engine as an ”air tractor,” and was used as a kind of motorized sledge for a time.
The BBC said the aircaft had been photographed in the 1970s, when steel struts from the fuselage were seen embedded in the ice.
The current expedition, the Mawson’s Hut Foundation, is working on repairing Mawson’s original campsite and his wooden huts on Cape Denison in Antarctica’s Commonwealth Bay. The team has been searching for the aircraft for three years. Team member Tony Stewart said
The biggest news of the day is that we've found the air tractor, or at least parts of it!
After the ”air tractor” was abandoned, the damaged Vickers engine was sent to England to the Vickers company, which later built many important aircraft types. Vickers was one of the major British arms manufacturers, and still builds military hardware. Stewart said it had been an:
Exciting search. Friday was possibly the only day in several years when the rocks were sufficiently exposed and the tide was low enough and we were here to see it.
The team is expected to return to Australia at the end of January, the Mawson's Huts website reports.