3 Jan 2010

Relics of early plane found in Antarctica

8:53 am on 3 January 2010

An Australian expedition has found what it believes to be the remains of the first aeroplane taken to Antarctica and abandoned almost a century ago.

Douglas Mawson abandoned the single-prop aircraft after it proved to be a failure during his 1911-14 expedition. His original wooden huts are now being restored.

On New Year's Day, 2010, an expedition led by Dr Tony Stewart found pieces of rusted metal tubing, matching that of the plane's fuselage, at low tide in Commonwealth Bay.

Mawson took the Vickers plane to Antarctica, without any wings, as a type of tractor to haul equipment across the ice, after it crashed in Australia on a demonstration flight, damaging the wings.

But as a tractor, with its wheels replaced by sled-runners, the Vickers was a failure, its engine seizing in the cold.