Nat Map’s Surveying and Mapping Activities in Antarctica 1950s to 1990s
Aerial support by fixed wing aircraft was used by Australians in Antarctica from the late1920s. Helicopter support was introduced in 1960. Initially after World War II, fixed wing support was provided by the Royal Australian Air Force and later by various commercial aviation charter companies. Helicopter support was provided by numerous firms including initially: Trans Australia Airlines, Helicopter Utilities Pty Ltd, Jayrow Helicopters Pty Ltd and Vowell Air Services (Helicopters Pty Ltd). Under an arrangement between the then Director of National Mapping (Bruce Lambert) and the Director of the Antarctic Division (Philip Law) in 1958, National Mapping employed the surveyors and technical officers for ANARE to carry out surveys such as astro fixes, theodolite and Tellurometer traverses, survey position determination by satellite-based systems (such as JMR and GPS) and aerial photography sorties.
For survey and mapping related work by National Mapping staff, helicopters were used extensively to position survey parties in the field (often together with other professionals such as geologists and glaciologists). Also fixed wing aircraft were used as platforms for aerial photography operations. All arrangements for the chartering of aircraft used in Antarctica were undertaken by the Antarctic Division.
This section lists some of the early post World War II surveyors as well as the later Nat Map personnel who were known to be members of Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions. Also listed are some of the aircraft, pilots and engineers that supported ANARE operations.
These lists are not complete. Some of the material here does not directly relate to aviation supported Nat Map activities but is included to help build up an overall picture of Nat Mappers’ activities in Antarctica that were uncovered during the research. Some ANARE aviation detail unrelated to Nat Map activities is included for similar reason. Mention is also made of activities in some sub-Antarctic areas, namely Heard Island, nearby McDonald Island and Macquarie Island.
1947-1948: Australia’s first post World War II Antarctic expedition was to Heard Island led by RAAF Group Captain Stuart Alexander Caird Campbell. (Heard Island and nearby McDonald Island are barren, volcanic sub-Antarctic islands, located in the Southern Ocean about 4,000 kilometres south-west of the Australian mainland and about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica.) An RAAF Supermarine Walrus 11 HD874 Snow Goose (a 1930s design amphibious biplane powered by a single 775 horse power Bristol Pegasus engine) was to be engaged in aerial photography and reconnaissance flights over Heard Island. The aircraft arrived at Heard Island on 11 December 1947 on board the Canadian built 2,300 ton His Majesty’s Australian Landing Ship-Tank 3501 (later renamed HMAS Labuan) under Lt Commander George Manly Dixon DSC RANVR.
The Walrus aircraft carried out one reconnaissance flight of one and half hours duration on 13 December. The flight went over Mawson Peak on Big Ben that was found to be 2,000 feet higher than charted. On 21 December, when tied down during a hurricane; it was blown over and wrecked.
(The wreckage of the Walrus which had a non-standard metal hull was eventually brought back to Australia in 1980 by a National Mapping survey expedition led by Con Veenstra that visited Heard Island using the Department of Transport’s MV Cape Pillar. Between 1993 and 2002, the Walrus was restored. It is now held by the museum at RAAF Base Williams at Point Cook, Victoria.) 1947-48 RAAF Antarctic Flight included: Squadron Leader RHS Gray, Petty Officer TW Lidell (RAN), Corporal RD Jones, Leading Aircraftsman B Meek and Leading Aircraftsman CE Short. Also part of the RAAF Flight was the dedicated Walrus aircrew: pilot Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Donald Smith (1921-1948), camera operator Warrant Officer P Swan and wireless operator Warrant Officer George Charles Dunlop. There was also a civilian camera operator: David Eastman. (Flt Lt Smith was tragically killed in the crash of Catalina flying boat A24-381 on Lord Howe Island on 28 September 1948.)
1948: Surveyor Bob Dovers wintered at Heard Island to establish control for mapping.
1954: The Antarctic Division purchased two Auster Mark VI aircraft from the Royal Air Force after the machines had operated in Antarctica for the Norwegian-British-Swedish Expedition of 1949-52.
For Australia’s use in Antarctica, the Austers were operated with RAAF serial numbers A11-200 and A11-201. The maintenance and flight crew was provided by the RAAF Antarctic Flight: Flight Lieutenant Doug Leckie and Flight Sergeant Ray Seaver with support crew of Sergeant (airframe fitter) Frank Morgan and Sergeant (engine) Ken Duffel. The aircraft were used to assist in the establishment of Mawson base.
On 12 February 1954, both aircraft were severely damaged during a hurricane while onboard the supply vessel MV Kista Dan. Auster A11-201 was beyond field repair but parts from it were used to rebuild a barely flyable A11-200. (A11-200 was later lost overboard from the MV Kista Dan but A11-201 was returned to Australia and rebuilt.) Surveyor Bob Dovers wintered at Mawson and was also the officer in charge of the new base.
1955: Surveyor Bob Lacey wintered at Mawson.
1955-56: RAAF provided an Antarctic Flight group consisting of one Beaver aircraft (A95-201) and Auster (A11-201) to winter at Mawson base. Pilots were: Squadron Leader Doug Leckie and Flying Officer John Seaton. They were supported by Sergeants Geoff Johansen (airframes) and Gerry Sundberg (engines). The RAAF flight personnel and aircraft departed Melbourne on 27 December 1955 onboard the MV Kista Dan.
Flying commenced on 5 January 1956 and a total of 548 hours were flown in 301 sorties. These RAAF personnel were relieved in December 1956. The incoming 1956-57 RAAF commander, then Flt Lt Peter Clemence also went south for the 1955-56 summer to learn the conditions.
1956: Surveyor Morris Fisher wintered at Mawson.
1956-57: Surveyor Syd Kirkby wintered at Mawson base. Doug Leckie’s 1955-56 RAAF Antarctic Flight group was the first to have wintering aircraft in Antarctica and continued providing aircraft support until late November 1956. The Mawson hangar was built and Australia became the first nation to operate an aircraft throughout an Antarctic winter. The aircraft were used for extensive exploration and discovery flights and to transport the surveyor, geologist and geophysicist to many remote locations. On all these flight sorties to remote Antarctic areas there was no effective search and rescue capability in the event of either of the fairly primitive aircraft getting into difficulty.
1956-57: Peter Clemence’s RAAF Antarctic Flight group relieved the Leckie group in December 1956 and brought in an additional Beaver aircraft. This RAAF Flight operated two DeHavilland Beavers (A 95-201 and A95-202) and an Auster (A11-201) in support of ANARE operations from Mawson Base. RAAF Antarctic Flight personnel were: Squadron Leader Peter Clemence, Flying Officer Douglas Johnston, Flight Sergeant Ron Pickering and Corporal NW Nev Merideth. They travelled south on the MV Kista Dan on 17 December 1956 and returned in December 1957.
1958: Surveyor Graham Knuckey wintered at Mawson. RAAF Antarctic Flight personnel were: Squadron Leader Ivan Grove, Flight Lieutenant Bill Wilson with Sergeant GK Downer, Sergeant SA Manning, Sergeant AK Richardson and Sergeant O Maguire. This Flight operated two DeHavilland Beaver aircraft (A95-202 and A95-203).
1958: Responsibility for employing surveyors on Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions passed from the Antarctic Division to the Division of National Mapping under an agreement between the directors of these two commonwealth government divisions. In November 1958, ANARE trialled the use of helicopters for the first time in the field. A Trans Australia Airlines Hiller 12C (VH-UTC) without floats went to Macquarie Island on the deck of the MV Thala Dan and flew for the first time there on 1 December. Helicopter pilot was: Keith Cottee.
1959: Surveyor Chris Armstrong wintered at Mawson. To avoid restriction to summer operation of the expedition’s two RAAF Beaver aircraft due to the sea ice airstrip at Mawson deteriorating in high summer, they were both moved to an ice airstrip (Gwann) some two miles distant on a plateau above Mawson early in summer. Both of these wintering RAAF A95 DeHavilland DFC-2 Beaver aircraft (A95-201 and A95-203) were destroyed during a blizzard on 28 December 1959. RAAF Antarctic Flight personnel were: Squadron Leader Jim Sandercock, Flying Officer Geoff Banfield and Sergeants R Rippon, H McIntyre and S Bell.
1959: During January-February, Auster A11-201 was operated by Squadron Leader Doug Leckie with support from Corporals NW Nev Merideth and JS Williams. The expedition they supported was to resupply and take control of the Wilkes base (from the United States), overhaul an automatic weather station on Lewis Islet and explore the coast of Oates Land. Doug Leckie had already commenced working for the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electricity Authority and this trip (on secondment) was his last expedition with the RAAF but he later returned to Antarctica as a Pilatus Porter pilot for Forrester Stephen in 1970-71 and 1971-72.
1960: For the summer season, Trans Australia Airlines provided two Hiller 12C helicopters (VH-THB and VH-THC) to support ANARE operations. These aircraft travelled south on voyage 2 of the MV Magga Dan that departed Melbourne on 5 January 1960 to effect changeovers at Davis and Wilkes bases. Also on that voyage was ANARE’s DeHavilland DH C2 Beaver fixed wing (VH-PGL). Summer surveyor was Dave Cook. On 13 February 1960, Peter Ivanoff’s helicopter (VH-UTC) crashed at Ivanoff Head after being caught in extremely strong downward flowing winds. The pilot and passenger Dave Cook were slightly injured and the helicopter was destroyed. Ray Hudson was flying nearby in VH-THB and had considerable difficulty controlling that aircraft. During the season a total of 56 hours and 45 minutes were flown in 59 helicopter sorties. Helicopter pilots were: Ray Hudson and Peter Ivanoff. Helicopter engineer was: JV White.
VH-PGL pilot was: DeHavilland’s Richard Creswell (retired Wing Commander RAAF) and the engineer was: GW Clayton. The Beaver fixed wing (VH-PGL) was handed over to RAAF Antarctic Flight at Mawson on 3 February 1960 after completion of initial work at Davis where 18.10 hours were flown in nine sorties. VH-PGL was used by the RAAF Flight as a replacement for the two Beavers destroyed in December 1959. In the RAAF Flight the replacement Beaver was re-designated A95-202.
1960-61: Surveyor Syd Kirkby wintered at Mawson. Summer surveyor was Dave Cook. Two Helicopters Utilities Bell 47G-2 helicopters (VH-UTA and VH-UTB) supported summer season operations. Helicopter pilots were: John Arthurson (a former RAAF fighter pilot in Korea) and John Stanwix. Helicopter engineer was: a Mr Marshall. There were 224 short helicopter sorties flown for a total of 34 flying hours.
A major RAAF flight under Squadron Leader Jim Kitchenside travelled south on the MV Thala Dan on 10 January 1960 to winter at Mawson. The Flight took a Douglas Dakota–DC3 (A65-81 Ann Cherie) with it and on 1 February 1960 also took over ANARE’s DeHavilland Beaver aircraft (VH-PGL) as A95-202. The Dakota used jet assisted take off on several occasions. Extensive aerial photography and some terrain heighting flights were carried out. Both aircraft were destroyed in a blizzard at Mawson’s Rumdoodle strip on the night of 9-10 December 1960.
RAAF Antarctic Flight personnel were: Squadron Leader Jim Kitchenside, Flight Lieutenant Ted Bloomfield (navigator), Flying Officer Bill Hanson (air signaller), Flying Officer, Graham Dyke (pilot), Pilot Officer Ken Assender (pilot), Flight Sergeant Bert Carne, Sergeant Kev Felton, Sergeant Don Monks, Sergeant Mick Murphy, Corporal Bruce Harris, Corporal John Arthur and Leading Aircraftsman Basil Rutter.
(The Dakota was fitted a range of then state of the art equipment including a Marconi AD2300A Doppler radar navigation system, a Wild RC9 aerial survey camera for vertical photography and two Fairchild K17 aerial survey cameras for oblique photography. The Doppler navigation system allowed previously unattainable accuracy in navigation and, equally importantly, accurate determination of the geostrophic wind used to determine the inclination of the pressure plain being flown. The terrain profiles obtained were unprecedentedly accurate. Several terrain heighting flights were made including from Mawson to Casey Bay and Davis.)
(The flights were challenging as they were at flown at 12,000 feet without oxygen supply. During these flights several variables were recorded at regular intervals including: indicated air speed, outside air temperature, drift, direction, distance, pressure altitude and radar height. Although the field testing and use of this equipment was curtailed when the aircraft was destroyed, surveyor Syd Kirkby concluded that the exercise had indicated, with appropriate refinements, the system could be applied to small scale photogrammetric mapping. )
1961: Beaver fixed wing VH-PGL travelled from Fremantle on the MV Magga Dan on 24 January for a short summer season at Mawson, Wilkes and Chick Islet. Operating on floats, it flew 11.5 hours between 8 and 22 February 1961. Pilot was: DeHavilland’s Richard Cresswell and the engineer was: HJ Mountstephen.
1961-62: This summer ANARE party was under the leadership of Philip Law. It travelled south on the MS Thala Dan that sailed from Melbourne's No 3 North Wharf at 1745 hours on Friday 22 December 1961. The expedition included Nat Map's Tommy Gale who was the expedition hydrographer. Helicopter Utilities Bell 47G-2 helicopters (VH-UTA and VH-UTB) again supported summer season operations in Antarctica. Summer surveyor was Syd Kirkby. The expedition carried out the first comprehensive survey of Oates Land and obtained data that allowed the mapping of some 300 miles of coast and 20,000 square miles of unknown territory. New Landings were made at eight places. A total of 143 helicopter hours were flown in 329 sorties. The 47G-2 helicopters were very marginal in the high terrain encountered (some peaks exceeded 10,000 feet) and that led to the development of some highly innovative methods of taking off from high stations, namely shuffling the machine to the upwind side of mountains and hurling it over the edge and translating downward motion into airspeed and lift. Helicopter pilots were: John Arthurson and John Stanwix. The helicopter engineer was: Arthur Chapman.
The RAAF Antarctic Flight operated a DeHavilland Beaver (A95-205-formerly VH-PGL). The aircraft, pilots and maintenance crew sailed from Melbourne onboard MS Thala Dan on 22 December 1961 and returned on 8 March 1962. Operating on floats, the Beaver flew some 80 hours in 24 separate sorties including some 1,800 miles on photographic missions between 29 December 1961 and 16 February 1962. The aircrew captured some 10,800 aerial photographs. The RAAF Antarctic Flight comprised: Squadron Leader NF Norman Ashworth, Sergeant AK Alan Richardson and Sergeant J Ron Frecker.
MS Thala Dan returned to berth at Melbourne's No 2 North Wharf at 1945 hours on Thursday 8 March 1962 at the conclusion of the expedition.
1962-63: ANARE operations were supported by two Bell 47G-2 helicopters (VH-UTA and VH-UTC). These aircraft were again supplied by Helicopters Utilities Pty Ltd but only after it won a case in the New South Wales Supreme Court to restrain the awarding of the contract to the Australian National Airlines Commission (TAA) on the grounds the a commonwealth statutory authority was ineligible to tender for a commonwealth government contract. Summer surveyor was Syd Kirkby who recalled undertaking aerial photography, terrain profiling and several astrofixes in King George V Land and Wilkes Land. Between 29 December 1962 and 6 March 1963 a total of 128 hours and 47 minutes of helicopter flight time was undertaken. Helicopter pilots were: John Arthurson and John Gillies. The helicopter engineer was: Arthur Chapman.
The RAAF Antarctic Flight operated a DeHavilland Beaver (A95-205) on floats. The aircraft, pilots and maintenance crew sailed from Melbourne onboard MV Thala Dan on 22 December 1962 and returned on 11 March 1963. A total of 66 hours was flown in 25 sorties between 5 January and 6 March 1963. The RAAF Antarctic Flight comprised: Squadron Leader JR John Batchelor, Pilot Officer Garry Gordon Cooper, Flight Sergeant AK Richardson (engines and airframes) and Corporal DD Tiller (electrics and instruments).
After its 1962-63 expedition, the RAAF Antarctic Flight was disbanded and owing to commitments in Malaya and later Vietnam the RAAF’s role in close aircraft support for ANARE operations ceased. However, the RAAF subsequently made long range flights to Antarctica.
1964: Surveyor John Farley wintered at Mawson and surveyor Keith Budnick wintered at Wilkes. There was no fixed wing aircraft flying for ANARE in 1964.
1964-65: Helicopter Utilities provided three Bell 47G-2 helicopters (VH-UTA, VH-UTB and VH-UTC) and pilots for ANARE’s DeHavilland Beaver fixed wing (VH-PGL). (The Beaver had used RAAF registration A95‑205 when previously operated by the RAAF’s Antarctic Flight.) During this season helicopter safety concerns reached an almost disqualifying level with the requirement for their fuel reserves and onboard survival equipment limiting the payload to 70 lbs per helicopter which was already at its limited maximum range if landing at altitudes above 3000 feet. The first operational helicopter flight was on 3 January 1965 and the last flight was on 26 February 1965.
During this expedition a survey baseline was established by Tellurometer traverse from the Mawson base station through Baillieu Peak, Fram Peak, Leckie Range and Rayner Peak to a mountain near the eastern border of Enderby Land.
The three helicopters flew a total of 394 hours and 20 minutes in 342 sorties. Initially based at Mawson, the Beaver’s work included some low level trimetrogon aerial photography in the Prince Charles Mountains using Wild RC9 aerial survey camera serial number 616. The Beaver also provided transport for Tellurometer parties, particularly to the more remote survey stations not practically accessible by helicopter. On 7 February 1965, the Beaver broke through sea ice when attempting to take-off near the M V Nella Dan off Cape Boothby in the Edward VIII Gulf. The aircraft was recovered and returned to DeHavilland in Sydney for restoration and repair. During the expedition the Beaver had flown a total of 66 hours in 32 sorties (34 hours on survey work, 22 hours on photography, 6 hours on reconnaissance and 4 hours on geology work).
Fixed wing pilots were: Harvey Else and John Whiting. Fixed wing engineer was: Ted Nash. Helicopter pilots were: John Arthurson, George Treatt and Brian Saw. Helicopter engineers were: Ron See and Lindsay Smith. On this expedition, members of Nat Map's summer season Tellurometer survey party were: Syd Kirkby, John Farley (who wintered at Mawson in 1964), Rod Maruff and surveyor Max Corry who went on to winter at Mawson in 1965.
1965-66: The ANARE summer expedition on the MV Nella Dan was supported by one Helicopter Utilities Bell 47G-2 helicopter (VH-UTB) and a Beaver fixed wing aircraft. There was only a light field program that summer hence only one helicopter. On the voyage south a wave broke over the deck of the Nella Dan and smashed a wing on the recently restored Beaver (VH-PGL) and the aircraft was rendered unserviceable for the season. The era of ANARE’s use of piston engine Beavers was thus ended. The first operational helicopter flight was on 10 January 1966 and the last flight was on 12 February 1966. During this period some 55 hours and 54 minutes of helicopter time were flown. Helicopter support operations were curtailed on 13 February when a 130 knots blizzard at Mawson tore the helicopter from its tie-downs on the back deck of the Nella Dan and led to the tail rotor blades being bent. Helicopter pilot was: George Treatt. Helicopter engineer was: Graham Dalitz.
1966: Surveyor John Quinert wintered at Mawson. There was no fixed wing aircraft flying for ANARE in 1966.
1966-67: Surveyor John Manning wintered at Mawson. In the summer season two Helicopter Utilities’ Fairchild Hiller FH-1100 turbo helicopters (VH-UTB and VH-UTZ) supported survey work carried out in the Framnes Mountains by surveyors John Quinert and John Manning. (Registration VH-UTB had been reassigned from the Bell 47 to the Hiller.) This was the first time that ANARE’s operations had been supported by turbine powered helicopters. The first operational helicopter flight was on 7 January 1967 and the last flight was on 22 February 1967; only 19 hours were flown during the expedition. On the voyage south an engineer test ran one of the helicopter engines without a pilot on aboard. Unfortunately the engineer did not realise that on that particular aircraft one of the foot pedals had to be sightly depressed to ensure there was no torque being transmitted to the tail rotor. In the event the pedals were left level and the aircraft screwed around on the deck of the Nella Dan and went over the side and was left hanging at about a 45 degree angle. Fortunately it was recovered by one of the ship’s cranes. Helicopter pilots were: George Treatt (chief pilot) and J Zwoyny. Helicopter engineers were: Lindsay Rogers and Graham Rip Tadgell. There was no fixed wing aircraft flying for ANARE in 1967.
1967-68: Survey party comprised Max Rubeli, Max Corry and George Hamm (incoming Officer in Charge of Mawson base for 1968) who undertook a coastal traverse on the eastern side of the Amery Ice Shelf. John Manning undertook astronomic observations on the western side of the Amery Ice Shelf. Helicopter Utilities provided three Fairchild Hiller FH-1100 helicopters (VH-UHD, VH‑UHE and VH-UTZ) to support operations.
The first operational helicopter flight was an ice reconnaissance from the MV Nella Dan on 13 January 1968 and the last flight was on 10 March 1968. A total of nearly 293 helicopter hours were flown. Helicopter pilots were: George Treatt (chief pilot), R Hamilton and Jack Palmer. Helicopter engineers were: A Hank Hendry and Gordon Douglas.
1968: Surveyor Max Rubeli wintered at Mawson. This was the last time a Nat Map wintering surveyor was stationed at Mawson for mapping surveys. There was no fixed wing aircraft flying for ANARE in 1968.
1968-69: Helicopter Utilities provided three Fairchild Hiller FH-1100 helicopters (VH-UHD, VH‑UHE and VH-UTZ). Initially based at Mawson, the aircraft later worked from an autonomous summer camp set up on ice near Landing Bluff on the eastern Amery Ice Shelf once sea ice conditions allowed ship movement to that area. Afterwards the helicopters operated from Beaver Lake, Moore Pyramid and the Larsemann Hills as well as Davis and the French station at Dumont D’Urville. Helicopter flying commenced on 1 January 1969 and ceased on 18 March 1969. A total of 407 helicopter hours were flown mainly in the Prince Charles Mountains. (Summer survey party comprised John Manning, Max Rubeli and Jeff Fox). Helicopter pilots were: Peter Hunt (chief pilot), Harvey Else and Brian Harriss. Helicopter engineers were: Joe Gaston and Frank Tarr.
A Beaver DHC-2T turbo prop fixed wing aircraft (VH-UKL) charted by ANARE from DeHavilland at Bankstown was used for aerial support in the 1968-69 season. This was the first time a turbine fixed wing aircraft had been used by ANARE. It operated in the Prince Charles Mountains from 4 January to 14 February 1969 and was based at Landing Bluff. The aircraft’s flying time for the season was 91 hours. Beaver Pilot was: Tony Mousinho and the Beaver engineer was: John Tester.
1969-70: Jayrow Helicopters provided three Hughes 500 helicopters (VH-BLN, VH-BLO and VH-SFS) for the summer season based at Moore Pyramid in the Prince Charles Mountains. Summer survey party comprised Max Rubeli, Chris Hutchison and Eddy Burke. Helicopter flying went from 6 January to 1 March 1970 and was undertaken over Davis, Amery Ice Shelf, Mawson, Moore Pyramid, Beaver Lake and Stinear Nunataks. A total of 240 helicopter hours were flown. Fixed-wing aircraft was Forrester Stephen’s Pilatus Porter (VH-FSB); this was the first time this aircraft type had been used by ANARE. Around mid-February 1970 VH-FSB suffered significant airframe damage after hitting rough ice at Moore Pyramid. The damage rendered the aircraft unserviceable and it was flown back to Mawson base without load for later return to Australia. As a result of its unserviceability, during this summer season VH-FSB flew a total of 40 hours 20 minutes. Helicopter pilots were: Peter Clemence (chief pilot), Lance Yeates and Phil Cooke. Helicopter engineers were: Peter Smart and Dave King. Fixed wing pilot was: Jeff Lewis. Fixed wing engineer was: Reg Mason (seconded from Department of Civil Aviation for this summer expedition).
1970-71: Jayrow Helicopters provided three Hughes 500 369HS helicopters (VH-BLN, VH-BLO and VH-SFS) to support ANARE summer operation, including the Prince Charles Mountains survey party (John Manning, Norm Edwards and John Ely). The expedition departed Melbourne on the MV Nella Dan on 12 December 1970. Helicopter flying was undertaken from 28 December 1970 and a total of over 282 helicopter hours was flown. The fixed-wing aircraft was Forrester Stephen’s Pilatus Porter (VH-FSB). Between 29 December 1970 and 25 February 1971, VH-FSB flew 127 hours and 20 minutes during 127 separate sorties. Helicopter pilots were: Vic Barkell, Howard Bosse and Cliff Dohle. Helicopter engineer were: Dave King and Eckhardt Schneider. Fixed wing pilot was: Doug Leckie.
(In February 1971, Vic Barkell, Cliff Dohle and Eckhardt Schneider were involved in the dramatic Heard Island rescue of Ian Holmes, a field assistant with a French-Australian expedition that was placed on the island by the MV Gallieni. On 10 February, Holmes had fallen down a crevasse on Gotley Glacier and broken a leg. To rescue him, the MV Nella Dan had to proceed at full speed from Davis to Mawson base, collect Vic Barkell and Cliff Dohle together with engineer Eckhardt Schneider as well as two Hughes 500 helicopters and go on to Heard Island; a distance of around 3,000km. Ian Holmes was trapped in a tent on the glacier for some 11 days. On 21 February, he was winched out of the crevasse by Eckhardt Schneider from Cliff Dohle’s hovering helicopter (VH-BLN). The winch was a makeshift device that prevented access to the aircraft cabin. Holmes was then carried under that aircraft to a safe landing area where he was transferred to Vic Barkell’s aircraft (VH-BLO). Thanks to this extraordinary rescue effort Ian Holmes was safely returned to Australia via Mawson base on the MV Nella Dan that berthed in Melbourne on 16 March 1971.)
1971-72: Summer survey party on Prince Charles Mountains comprised John Manning, Eddy Burke, Mick Skinner and Andrew Greenall. These Nat Mappers and aircraft support travelled south on the MV Nella Dan. Three Hughes 500 369HS helicopters were provided by Jayrow Helicopters, namely: VH-BLN, VH-BLO and VH-SFS. The helicopters were based at Mt Cresswell in the southern Prince Charles Mountains and flew a total of 543 hours in 791 sorties. Helicopter pilots were: Peter Clemence (chief pilot), Vic Barkell and Ron Newman (pilot/engineer). Helicopter engineers were: Eckhardt Schneider and Jim Marsh. Fixed-wing aircraft was Forrester Stephen’s Pilatus Porter (VH-FSB). Between 27 December 1971 and 17 February 1972, VH-FSB flew 193 hours and 40 minutes. Fixed wing pilots were: Doug Leckie and Vic Barkell who did about 10 hours of relief flying in the Porter between the sixth and eleventh of January 1972 as Doug Leckie had become unwell after contracting a virus on his voyage south. Fixed wing engineer was: Ian Northcott.
In early1972, a separate party went south in the MV Thala Dan to relieve Casey base and return via Macquarie Island. Jayrow Helicopters provided two Hughes 500 helicopters (VH-CHD and VH-CHK) for that task. Between 16 January and 5 February 1972, these helicopters flew 78 hours on ice reconnaissance and support work. Helicopter pilots were: Howard Bosse and John Byrnes (who sadly died on 19 February 1978 in a helicopter accident at Wandiligong, Victoria during fuel reduction burning-off operations). Helicopter engineer was: Dave King.
1972-73: Fixed-wing aircraft was again Forrester Stephen’s Pilatus Porter (VH-FSB). Three Hughes 500 helicopters (VH-CHD, VH-CHK and VH-SFS) were provided by Jayrow Helicopters. All aircraft flew from a base camp at Mt Cresswell in the southern Prince Charles Mountains. The survey party comprised Nat Mappers John Manning, Simon Cowling and Reg Helmore. Between 20 December 1972 and 23 February 1973 a total of nearly 462 helicopter hours was flown in 795 sorties. Helicopter pilots were: Vic Barkell, Terry Ellis and John Bicton. Helicopter engineers were: Peter Smart and Terry Gadsen.
A start was made on flying high altitude vertical photography in the Pilatus Porter. The aircraft was flown to its maximum ceiling (21, 000 ft) and block photography was flown over the southern Prince Charles Mountains for the first time. Wild RC9 aerial survey camera (serial number 616) was used and colour Kodak 2445 film trialled. Extensive barometric levelling was carried out in conjunction with visits to mountain areas by Bureau of Mineral Resources geologists. During this summer season VH-FSB was flown for 208 hours. Fixed-wing pilot was: Errol Driver. Fixed-wing engineer was: Jim O’Connell. (On one aerial photography flight in the Porter, navigator John Manning was suffering from influenza and collapsed due to oxygen deprivation when the excess moisture in his mask froze. Camera operator Reg Helmore had to resuscitate John while pilot Errol Driver quickly spiraled the aircraft down to below 10,000 feet where there was sufficient oxygen to breathe normally.
Also in 1972-73 Jayrow Helicopters provided two Hughes 500 helicopters (VH-BLN and VH-BLO) to support the MV Thala Dan’s relief voyage to Casey station. These aircraft flew a total of 29 hours in 82 sorties. Helicopter pilots were: Peter Clemence and Gerry Leatham. Helicopter engineer was: K Kelly.
1973: A decision was made to provide survey support for an international glaciology program operating on Law Dome situated on the Budd Coast of Wilkes Land south of the Wilkes station. Wintering surveyor was David Bruce.
1973-74: ANARE’s summer season was supported by three Hughes 500 369HS helicopters provided by Jayrow Helicopters Pty Ltd (VH-CHD, VH-CHK and VH-SFS) as well as Forrester Stephen’s Pilatus Porter fixed-wing aircraft (VH-FSB). All aircraft were taken to Mawson on the MV Nella Dan. Summer survey party comprised: Nat Mappers John Manning, Andrew Turk, Terry Mulholland and Geoff Wood. High altitude block photography was carried out over the northern Prince Charles Mountains by Terry Mulholland and Geoff Wood flying in VH-FSB. During this summer VH-FSB flew a total of 199 hours. The helicopters were based at Mt Cresswell in the southern Prince Charles Mountains and flew a total of 564.49 hours in 662 sorties. Helicopter pilots were: Ron Newman (pilot/engineer), Gerry Leatham and Vic Barkell (who was later incapacitated after he fell at a base camp and broke an ankle). With Vic incapacitated ANARE aviation officer Col Scott did a limited amount of helicopter flying. Helicopter engineers were: Dave King and Jim Marsh. Fixed-wing pilot was: Errol Driver. Fixed-wing engineer was: Ian Northcott.
(One of the Jayrow helicopters (VH-CHK) crashed on Burke Ridge when a skid caught as the relatively inexperienced pilot tried to move the aircraft to the right along the ridge in the face of a severe updraught. The aircraft tumbled over the ridge on to rocks but did not catch fire. Andrew Turk and the pilot Col Scott, the only persons on board, were slightly injured. The aircraft was destroyed at a cost to taxpayers of $96,200.)
Also in 1973-74, two Hughes 500 369HS helicopters provided by Jayrow Helicopters Pty Ltd (VH-BLN and VH-BLO) travelled south in the MV Thala Dan to support the relief of Casey station. The helicopters flew 54.02 hours in 250 sorties. The helicopter pilots were: Terry Ellis and John Byrnes and the helicopter engineer was: Jim Robertson.
1974-75: Fixed-wing aircraft was Forrester Stephen’s Pilatus Porter (VH-FSB). Three Hughes 500 369HS helicopters (VH-CHD, VH-BLN and VH-BLO) were provided from Jayrow Helicopters; that company’s last contract with ANARE The expedition travelled south in the MV Nella Dan. Operations that summer were in Enderby Land from a base at Knuckey Peaks where generally poor weather was experienced. (On 29 December 1974, helicopter VH-CHD was destroyed at a cost of $98,637 when pilot Gerry Doyle attempted to take off with one skid still tied down. On 21 February 1975, the rotors of VH-BLN and VH-BLO collided on the helideck of the Nella Dan; resulting in damage costing $23,912 and rendering VH-BLO unserviceable for the rest of the season.) Helicopter pilots were: Peter Clemence, Gerry Leatham and Gary Doyle. Helicopter engineers were: Keith Angel and Laurie John. Fixed-wing pilot was: Gus Van Scalina. Fixed-wing engineer was: Bardell Bose. Summer survey party comprised Nat Mappers Rom Vassil and Oz Ertok nominally for aerial photography with Bob Goldsworthy, Steve Bennet and Mike Morgan nominally for geodetic traversing. The Pilatus Porter flew a total of 48 hours in 44 sorties. The helicopters flew a total of 337 hours 45 minutes in 536 separate sorties during the season.
(Early in this expedition, high altitude aerial photography operations were flown in the Pilatus Porter over Enderby Land from the Knuckey Peaks base. The pilot Gus Van Scalina, navigator Rom Vassil and camera operator Oz Ertok were all wearing oxygen masks, thermal clothing and gloves as the cabin temperature in the unheated and unpressurised Porter was below minus 40 degrees Celsius. After completing one photography run and with the turboprop Porter cruising at 20,000 feet on auto pilot during the second run, Rom noticed that the pilot was no longer making heading corrections when requested. Rom looked at the pilot and to his horror saw that Gus was unconscious. Oz was still busy working over the camera view finder when he received a firm tap on the shoulder from Rom and advice that Gus had collapsed. Although he served as a technician in the Turkish Air Force prior to coming to Australia in 1971, Oz was not a pilot and had no formal flying experience; neither had Rom. But this was a desperate situation and something extraordinary needed to be done. Oz left the camera and his oxygen supply and sat in the right side seat of the Porter. He noticed Gus had a bad colour, his head was flopped to one side and that his oxygen mask was pushed to the side of his face off his mouth and nose. In the right side seat, Oz noticed he had no oxygen mask as he sat behind the aircraft’s dual controls.
He knew that to save Gus’s life and to remain conscious himself the aircraft had to quickly descend from its 20,000 feet operating level to below 10,000 feet where there was sufficient atmospheric oxygen to breathe normally. But Oz wasn’t sure how this could be done on autopilot and whether he would be able to control the plane if he switched off the auto pilot. A decision was needed and only Oz could make it. With some trepidation he switched off the auto pilot and pushed the control column forward to commence the descent. Almost immediately, the aircraft began to shake violently. Fortunately Oz had the presence of mind to recall that the Porter needed a high power setting to maintain 20,000 feet and during the initial descent this setting had caused the aircraft to over speed. Oz then operated the throttle lever to reduce engine power and by flying manually descended the aircraft to 9,000 feet where the crew could all breathe without oxygen.
Oz then flew the Porter back to Knuckey Peaks that was about 120 kilometres distant. The flight time was about one hour. Oz also contacted the base on the aircraft radio to advise of the situation. Once over the base, Oz circled the area three times to reduce the fuel load. Fortunately as the aircraft was circling Gus regained consciousness and although not fully recovered was able to land the aircraft. Gus’s landing of the aircraft was forced by Oz who despite prompting to the contrary knew such a manoeuvre was well beyond his own capabilities.
After this incident (that was promptly reported to Australian aviation authorities) further high altitude (on-oxygen) flying was prohibited by the Department of Civil Aviation due to the pilot’s recent medical history. Gus later flew the Porter back to Mawson. Here unfortunately, on 23 January 1975 at the Gwamm airstrip on the plateau above the base it was blown over during a blizzard in the night, rolled several times and was destroyed at a cost of $125,000. The heavy Wild RC9 aerial survey camera was carried onboard the aircraft in its mounting frame. Such cameras can only be placed but not secured in the mounting. As the aircraft rolled around in the storm the camera came out of its mounting and caused further damage as it was thrown around the cabin. Later the camera was returned to the manufacturer in Switzerland for repair but was never able to operate again with its original metric precision.)
1975: Martin Kros wintered at Casey to remeasure the 1973 glaciology strain grid and undertake additional geodetic observations on the Wilkes geodetic network.
1975: For the relief of Casey station, Jayrow Helicopters provided an Aerospatiale Alouette III (VH-BLP) and a Hughes 300 (VH-GMD). The helicopter pilots were: Vic Barkell and Keith Kelly and the helicopter engineer was: Dave King. The relief expedition travelled south in the MV Thala Dan. The Alouette flew 12 hours 18 minutes in 61 sorties and the Hughes aircraft that was there as a backup did no flying.
1975-76: ANARE’s summer season was supported by three Hughes 500 369HS helicopters (VH-BAD, VH-BAG and VH-PMY) provided by Vowell Air Services (Helicopters Pty Ltd) and a Pilatus Porter fixed-wing aircraft (VH-FZB) provided by Forester Stephen (by then Forrestair-a division of HC Sleigh Limited). The expedition operated from a base near Mt King. The expedition travelled on the MV Nella Dan that departed Melbourne on 8 December 1975 and returned on 9 March 1976. The summer survey party comprised John Manning, Carl McMaster, Oz Ertok, Mick Morgan and Andrew Greenall. This party surveyed in Enderby Land. The photography party (Mick Morgan and Ozcan Ertok) operated a Wild RC9 aerial survey camera and achieved the equivalent of two seasons’ aerial photography output and helped make up for loss of production due to the unavailability of VH-FSB the previous year. Helicopter pilots were: Vic Barkell, John Sonneveld and Ross Hutchinson. Helicopter engineers were: Kevin Gibson and Stefan Berson. Fixed-wing pilot was: Dick Tippet. Fixed wing engineer was: Bardell Bose. The helicopters flew a total of 528 hours in 819 sorties and the fixed wing flew 148 hours in 54 sorties.
1976: The MV Thala Dan left Melbourne early in January 1976 on her Casey relief voyage. Vowell Air Services (Helicopters) Pty Ltd provided Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopters (VH-AJJ and VH-PMO). Helicopter pilots were: Andy Anderson and Brian Miller (a former US Army pilot). The Helicopter engineer was: Siggy Harris. The helicopters flew a total of 47 hours in 183 sorties.
1976-77: Bruce O’Connor went to Macquarie Island (and returned) on MV Nella Dan. He was there until end of March 1977; doing almucantar and satellite observations at old International Geophysical Year stations. Andrew Greenall was also there for a short time. However, there was no aircraft support for this expedition. (Macquarie Island is a sub-Antarctic island located in the Southern Ocean about half way between New Zealand and Antarctica. It has been part of Tasmania since 1900 as is managed as a Tasmanian State Reserve.)
1976-77: Vowell Air Services (Helicopters) Pty Ltd provided three Hughes 500 369 HS helicopters (VH-BAD, VH-BAG and VH-PMY) to support ANARE summer operations based from Mount King in Enderby Land. The aircraft travelled south on the MV Nella Dan. Operations were also supported by Forrestair’s Pilatus Porter fixed-wing aircraft (VH-FZB). The helicopters flew some 1,036 sorties for the season with a total of 626.05 flying hours. The fixed wing aircraft flew 148.10 hours in 81 sorties. Helicopter pilots were: Vic Barkell, Brian Miller and Bill English (Vowell Air Services manager). Helicopter engineers were: Jim Robertson and Steve Jacobs. Fixed wing pilot was: Dick Tippet. Fixed wing engineer was: Holger Nimz who was on leave from Talair, a Papua New Guinea regional airline.
1977: During January and February two Vowell Air Services (Helicopters) Pty Ltd Bell 206B Jet Ranger helicopters (VH-PMO and VH-PMR) went south on the MV Thala Dan to support the relief of Casey station. The helicopters were used mainly on ice reconnaissance work. A total of just under 35 hours was flown in 89 sorties. Helicopter pilots were: Ross Hutchinson and John Sonneveld. Helicopter engineer was: Kevin Gibson.
1977-78: Vowell Air Services (Helicopters) Pty Ltd again provided three Hughes 500 369 HS helicopters (VH-BAD, VH-BAG and VH-PMY) to support ANARE summer operations that were also supported by Forrestair’s Pilatus Porter fixed-wing aircraft (VH-FZB). The expeditioners and aircraft travelled south on the MV Nella Dan that departed on 2 December 1977 and returned to Melbourne on 3 March 1978. The aircraft operated in Enderby Land. The helicopters flew a total of 537 hours and the fixed wing flew 130 hours and 10 minutes. Helicopter pilots were: Leigh Hornsby, Brian Miller and Frank Elrington (a former Army pilot). Helicopter engineers were: Roger Wilson and Gavin Cochead. The fixed wing pilot was a serving Army officer: Captain Chris Galvin. The fixed wing engineer was: Forrestair’s M O’Grady.
1978: Vowell Air Services (Helicopters) Pty Ltd provided two Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopters (VH-FJC and VH-PMR) for the relief of Casey station. This expedition departed Melbourne on the MV Thala Dan that sailed south on 10 January 1978. Before reaching Casey the Thala Dan called at Commonwealth Bay on 18 January where stores and people were landed for urgent maintenance work on Mawson’s Hut. (Some 12 hours and 45 minutes of helicopter flying were involved in that task in 41 sorties.) The Thala Dan then proceeded with the Casey relief. Helicopter pilots were: Vic Barkell and Steve Jacobs (a former Vowells engineer). Helicopter engineer was: J Taylor. The Thala Dan returned via Macquarie Island and berthed back at Melbourne on 13 February 1978. The total of 61 hours and 19 minutes of helicopter flying was done in 259 sorties.
1978: Wintering surveyor at Casey was Peter Quinn.
1978-79: Owing to financial constraints ANARE’s Enderby Land program was not continued this season. Instead operations were carried out around Davis and Mawson. The expedition departed Melbourne in the MV Nella Dan on 7 December 1978 and returned to Melbourne on 10 March 1979. Vowell Air Services (Helicopters) Pty Ltd provided three Hughes 500 369 HS helicopters (VH-BAD, VH-BAG and VH-EQJ). There was no fixed wing aircraft this season. Nat Map surveyor Brian Murphy made extensive summer season surveys in the Vestfold Hills including Doppler fixes, a Tellurometer survey, heighting by reciprocal vertical angles and a site survey of the Davis Station. Helicopter pilots were: Vic Barkell, Mike McCallie (who was killed in helicopter accident in Canada in 1985) and Gordon Nezick. Helicopter engineers were: Kevin Gibson and Ray Buller. The helicopters flew a total of 474.85 hours in 1,320 sorties.
1978-79: For the Casey relief voyage, Vowell Air Services (Helicopters) Pty Ltd provided two Bell 206B Jet Ranger helicopters (VH-PMO and VH-PMR) that were taken south onboard MV Thala Dan. One of these aircraft was fitted with a vertically mounted 70mm Hasselblad camera and photography was captured over: Casey Station at 110 metres and 750 metres; at 5,000 feet over the Bailey, Clarke, Mitchell and Browning peninsulas; spot photography of survey stations on the Swain Islands (which had been premarked by Peter Quinn who wintered at Casey in 1978).
Both helicopters were used to transport Nat Map survey personnel Peter Quinn, John Sutton and Peter O’Donnell and survey equipment to Thompson Island where JMR satellite fixes were made. Helicopter pilots were: Leigh Hornsby and Bob O’Callaghan (a former RAAF pilot who drowned when swept off rocks in Western Australia in June 1981). The helicopter engineer was: Graham Holliday.
1979-80: Operations were conducted from Mt King field base in Enderby Land and were supported by three Vowell Air Services (Helicopters) Pty Ltd Hughes 500 helicopters and the Forrestair Pilatus Porter fixed-wing aircraft (VH-FZB). The project leader was Syd Kirkby and the summer surveyors were Drew Clarke and Barry Sloan. Load capacity limitations on the helicopters greatly restricted their deployment on operational tasks. The fixed wing pilot was: John Marsden.
(When taking off with Syd Kirkby on board during a flight in Enderby Land, the six dogs chained to the cargo tie downs broke free and five of them to rushed to the rear of the aircraft to settle some scores with Noogis the lead dog. This break-out happened just as the Porter was becoming airborne and created a very dicey situation for the pilot as the five dogs of about 100 lbs each moved practically instantaneously aft by around 10 feet. After the aircraft had been stabilised there came from the pilot an expletive laden account of the intricate and hugely compromised ancestry of the dog.)
1980: John Corcoran wintered at Casey. Vowell’s Hughes 500 369HS helicopter (VH-BAD) was badly damaged.
1980: Central Australian Helicopters Hughes 500 369D helicopter (VH-TIY) was used to support a National Mapping expedition to Heard Island and McDonald Island that travelled south on the Department of Transport’s MV Cape Pillar under Captain Gordon Maxwell. The expedition departed Fremantle on 29 February and returned on 7 April 1980. Major objectives of the 1980 Nat Map expedition were to carry out a bathymetric survey of the Heard-Kerguelen plateau and precisely survey key points on Heard Island and McDonald Island and Iles Kerguelen to establish a territorial baseline between France and Australia across the Kerguelen plateau. The party included personnel from the Bureau of Mineral Resources and ANARE. The helicopter was used for reconnaissance flights and for aerial photography sorties using a vertically mounted 70mm Hasselblad camera. Helicopter pilot was: Des Ross and the helicopter engineer was: Roy Rayner.
1980: Syd Kirkby was officer in charge of the Mawson base (he departed Australia in November 1979 and returned in March 1981.)
1981-82: During a summer trip Drew Clarke and Barry Wright undertook additional block aerial photography in Kemp Land and Enderby Land. Drew Clarke reoccupied glaciology movement sites and undertook JMR positioning on remote mountains.
1982: Bob Goldsworthy wintered at Casey.
1981-82: Nat Mapper Paul McCormack was on MV Nella Dan’s Voyage 4, a marine geophysical voyage that left Hobart on 31 December 1981, called at Davis during 16-20 January 1982, called at Mawson during 24-27 January 1982 and then carried out 35 days of marine geoscience work before stopping briefly at Mawson on 2 March 1982 and returning to Hobart on 15 March 1982. During this voyage helicopter support was provided from the Davis summer party.
1983: Peter James wintered at Casey.
1984: Oz Ertok wintered at Mawson while engaged directly by the Antarctic Division on temporary release from Nat Map. During this expedition he made preparations for the base’s use of the Inmarsat satellite communications system that commenced operation at all ANARE bases around 1985.
1984: Jim Clarke wintered at Casey.
1985: On 9 March 1985, Nat Mapper Brian Murphy with ANARE’s Ian Marchant and Rod Ledingham attempted an aerial inspection of the proposed 1986 field program area. They flew off the MV Nella Dan from the Shackleton Ice Shelf in Vowell helicopters. At the Russian/Polish base of Dobrowolski one of the helicopters developed a fault and Rod Ledingham and one of the pilots had to spend a few days on the ice until the fault was rectified by the helicopter engineer. Helicopter pilots included: Jerry Findlay and the helicopter engineer was: Ashley Lewis. Also in 1985, Graeme Lawrence wintered at Casey.
1985-86: Eric MacGibbon spent the summer season working in the Vestfold Hills from Davis base.
1986: Between 14 January and 5 March 1986, an ANARE field party of 22 people established a new field base at Bunger Hills about 450 kilometres west of Casey. The party travelled south in the MV Nella Dan. During that period a field program of geology, geomorphology and biology work was carried out. The party included Nat Mappers Brian Murphy, John Corcoran and Tiernan MacNamara. Vowell Air Services (Helicopters) Pty Ltd provided the two Hughes 500 369 HS and one Bell 206B Jet Ranger helicopters (VH-BAD, VH-BAG and VH-PMR, respectively) that supported the operation. Helicopter pilots were: John Robertson, Mike Tavcar and Graham Scandrett and the helicopter engineer was: Ashley Lewis.
Also in 1986, Oz Ertok wintered at Macquarie Island (while again engaged directly by the Antarctic Division). He was placed there on 6 December 1985 by HMAS Stalwart that resupplied the island at that time as the MV Nella Dan had been caught in pack ice further to the south for some six weeks. As with his 1984 Mawson work, during this expedition Oz was on temporary release from Nat Map to the Antarctic Division to install an Inmarsat communications system and to fulfil the role of communications officer.
1986-87: Helicopter Resources (formerly Vowell Air Services (Helicopters) Pty Ltd), introduced the Aerospatiale AS350B Squirrel helicopter for use by ANARE expeditioners.
1987: Eric MacGibbon wintered at Casey.
1988-89: Bob Smith spent a summer season in Antarctica.
1988-89: Vic Barkell flew an Australian registered Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter in support of the firth Chinese Antarctic Expedition. In February 1989, that expedition established the permanent Zhongshan Station on Prydz Bay in the Larsemann Hills area of Princes Elizabeth Land in East Antarctica. The station was named for Sun Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) (1866-1925) the revolutionary founder of the Republic of China. This was to be the last of Vic’s 15 expeditions to Antarctica; later in 1989 he suffered a stroke that ended his 46-year flying career.
1991-92: Oz Ertok wintered with Greenpeace expeditioners at the Greenpeace World Park base at Cape Evans on Ross Island. The base’s primary communication system was by an Inmarsat MCS9000 satellite system that provided telex and telephone capabilities. Maintenance of this system was one of Oz’s primary roles. He also installed solar panels on the Inmarsat tower and installed a wind generator on a separate tower as well as batteries for solar and wind energy storage. The base was established circa 1985 and was dismantled at the end of this expedition.