The Literature of the Antarctic Heritage Trust and the Mawson’s Huts Foundation
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
Human endeavour exists within the context of time and space.
The context of time is lineal and ephemeral. An event takes place only once and is then the subject of oral, visual or written history. Its existence and immediacy is transitory in the context of time. Perhaps as a response to the transitory nature of human existence mankind seeks to maintain tangible links with the past. New Zealand holds closely to a written treaty that we see as a touchstone with our recent past. The Treaty of Waitangi is not only the cornerstone of race relations it has major ramifications in our country in all areas of economic and social reality. It defines who we are as a nation. It is a tangible connection with history.
Whether mankind reveres a treaty or the building in which that treaty was signed, it is universal that we hold as central and important such objects that take us closer to our transitory and ephemeral past.
Antarctica stands unique in that the first human dwellings built on the continent are still intact. In fact, all human endeavours in Antarctica have taken place within the space of just over two centuries and much of it is still in existence. Time has passed since the ‘Heroic Age’ of exploration, but, the actual dwellings connected with the Heroic Age of exploration are still with us. Those basic huts erected by Scott, Shackleton and Borchgrevink are tangible links with our past and as such take on an importance far beyond their physical entity. They are as powerful in our country’s collective consciousness as the Liberty Bell is for the United States or the Stone of Scone is for Scotland.
They have the power to fire the collective imagination and they remain potent symbols of our nation’s identity. As such they have an importance to New Zealand’s sense of national identity far in excess of their physical entity.
Our closest neighbour, Australia, has an Antarctic history equally as important to them and the preservation and restoration of their Antarctic heritage is similarly seen as vitally important to their sense of national identity. The importance of Australia’s greatest Antarctic explorer, Douglas Mawson, is esteemed so highly in their national consciousness that he features on their $100 dollar bill. Ed Hillary only features on our $5 dollar bill! Could this be indicative of the relative importance the Australians attach to their Antarctic history?
In Australia the preservation and restoration of Antarctic heritage is charged to the Mawson’s Huts Foundation. New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) was formed in 1987, nine years earlier than the Mawson’s Huts Foundation (MHF).
The AHT is an independent charitable trust based in Christchurch. The AHT is charged with the preservation and restoration of our Antarctic heritage. More specifically, it was created to care for sites important to the history of the Heroic Age of exploration located in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica
The Antarctic Heritage Trust and the Mawson’s Huts Foundation are effectively parallel societies undertaking comparable roles in neighbouring countries. Countries who share much in common in their development, nationhood and ethos on the international stage.
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