Ian Landon-Smith, Glaciologist

Mawson 1962






Members of the party


The dog teams


Glaciological aims of the journey


Equipment and Food


Human food


Dog food


Loading of sledges


Daily Log


Mawson to Twintop


Twintop to Depot D


Reconnaissance from Depot D


The journey south from Depot D and return


The return journey Depot E to Mawson


Comments and Conclusions










General comments on routine and performance




Route map 1962 Journey

Amery Ice Shelf




This report covers the work done by the dog party in conjunction with the 1962 Amery Ice Shelf Traverse. The journeys made by the dog parties were as follows:



Mawson to Twintop (43 miles)

19 October to 21 October, 1962



Reconnaissance from Depot D onto iceshelf (20 miles)

21 November to 25 November, 1962



Unsupported journey south from Depot E and return (310 miles)

30 November to 19 December 1962



Return journey Depot E to Mawson via Dover’s old southern route (309 miles)

21 December 1962 to 10 January 1963



During the outward journey from Twintop to Depot E, the dog party travelled with the tractor trains and this section is covered in the report on the vehicle operations.


Work completed by the dog party was entirely Glaciological: namely, snow accumulation studies by pit investigations and stake measurements, and movement studies on the Ice Shelf with theodolite positioned stake lines.




From the first suggestions made in Melbourne in 1961 for a traverse to the Amery Ice Shelf, I had considered using dogs for the purposes of carrying out the required Glaciological work. My reasons for this choice were based on the many opinions expressed about the bad country on the land boundary of the Shelf. In fact, the Shelf itself, because of its narrowness and the size of the Lambert Glacier system, was thought to be heavily crevassed. Ross Harvey, who was in charge of dogs at Mawson during 1962 was much in favour of the trip and keen to participate. Plans developed during 1962 were finalised as follows:


The tractor trains were to travel via Twintop and Depot B to a position near the Shelf where an attempt was to be made to find a heavy vehicle route onto the Shelf. If successful, they were to establish Depot E on the Shelf about 30 miles from the western land boundary. From here, the dog party would head south and then return to Mawson after the tractor trains, using depots along the tractor train route for support. Kevin (Mumbles) Walker was to be the third member of our party. Ross spent many weeks before the trip preparing equipment and sledges. Mumbles and Ross spent days on the laborious task of making dog food blocks from powdered F ration. I am very grateful to them, especially as I played little part in these preparations.


I feel that the choice of dogs was a good one as, although no particularly bad country was encountered, the distances covered by the dogs, and their speed, made possible the completion of a work program which I would have originally considered ambitious.



ANARE aerial photo of Lambert Glacier.





1 Members of the party


Ian Landon-Smith

Glaciologist, Navigator


Ross Harvey

Radio Operator, dog handler


Kevin (Mumbles) Walker

Field equipment




2 The dog teams (extracted from original)




3 Glaciological Aims of the Journey

The Glaciological aims of the journey were to investigate snow accumulation by stake measurements and pit investigations. Relative and absolute movement of the Ice Shelf was to be studied using stake lines. An investigation of the transition zone along the land boundary of the Shelf was to be made and the position of tide cracks noted.


A detailed summary of Glaciological aims is set out in Orders and Information Amery Ice Shelf Traverse 1962.




A detailed list of equipment and food is not included in this report as it is adequately covered in other reports (viz. by Kirkby; Knuckey; Trail) upon which our food and equipment requirements were based.


Human food

As a basic reserve of human food, we took ANARE 12 man day packs (containing HF6 in place of Bovril pemmican). These packs were supplemented with extra HF6 bars, dehydrated vegetables, salt, jam, dehydrated fruits and vitamin tablets. I feel that the food requirements of any sledging party will differ due to individual tastes and whether the party is sledging in summer or winter conditions. The most important fact to remember is that any ready prepared food packs (e.g. ANARE 12 man day packs) may prove quite inadequate and unreliable. The 1962 ANARE packs contained no vitamin tablets and in almost every pack the salt container had broken and the salt lost. The meat ration in the packs is also insufficient. HF6 is quite satisfactory for high temperature work. In cold temperatures I feel that Bovril pemmican should be taken. A party undertaking a major sledging journey should thoroughly test their food requirements before leaving, by undertaking shorter trips.


Dog food

We carried four types of dog food:


           1. Seal meat


           2. F Ration blocks


           3. C Type New Zealand pemmican


           4. Australian pemmican


The F ration was made into 2lb blocks at Mawson from the loose, tinned F ration powder which, in the field, is quite inadequate in its original form as it will blow away in the wind. One 2lb F ration block contained the following:


           F ration powder     25 ounces

           Butter                              3 ounces

           Water                              4 ounces

           One of vitamin C tablet


Each dog was fed a 3lb portion of seal meat every third day and, on the other days, a 2lb portion of one of the prepared foods. Seal meat of course was the favourite food for the dogs and they seemed to work best on this, however, because of weight limitations, only a small amount could be carried. Of the other foods, the prepared F ration was the most satisfactory. The New Zealand pemmican was the only food which was unsatisfactory, and the day after being fed this, the dogs would suffer badly from diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting.


Loading the sledges

The equipment and food were equally divided between the two sledges in such a way that, if one sledge was lost, there was sufficient on the other to ensure the survival of the party. A polar pyramid was carried on one sledge, the spare Beche tent on the other. One Primus was carried on each sledge. Human food, dog food and fuel were equally divided between the two sledges. One sledge carried one sleeping bag and two down suits, the other two sleeping bags and one down suit.


All equipment, with the exception of the polar pyramid tent, sleeping bags, 12 man day packs, ice axes, spade etc was carried in the sledging boxes, these other items being strapped onto the top of the load with nylon tiedown ropes. The tiedown ropes were made up with an elastic section of bungee rubber. The dog food was partly carried in the forward sledging boxes (pemmican) and partly in the canvas seal meat bags in the front of the boxes (seal meat and F ration blocks). The fuel was carried in plastic containers in a rack on the front of the sledge. Dog lines were wound onto special holders and carried behind the fuel. One small sledging box contained four days food and was taken into the tent at mealtimes. The other small box contained all radio equipment and, when the radio sked was done in the tent, this was also taken inside. A shallow navigation box contained maps, altitude/azimuth ( tables, almanac, stopwatch etc as well as our personal items required daily – toothbrushes, powder, novels, diaries, etc. This box was always in the tent and one of us slept with it under our lilo.


For the 310 mile journey on the Shelf each sledge was loaded to approximately 950lbs




Mawson to Twintop

Friday, 19 October 1962


Covered 11 miles


Partially overcast with light drift – clearing.

We left Mawson after lunch, taking the dogs harnessed to empty sledges to Gwamm. At Gwamm, we reharnessed the teams to the loaded sledges which Ross and Mumbles had towed up by vehicle yesterday. Left Gwamm at 1515 farewelled by a small party that had followed us up by Snow Trac. We had an easy run to Rumdoodle over the blue ice, arriving at the caravan at 1830. For a first day’s run the dogs behaved remarkably well and gave us no trouble.



Saturday, 20 October 1962


Covered 13 miles


Cloudless, excellent weather.

Left Rumdoodle after the Katabatic had abated at 1130 and travelled to Hordern Gap where we arrived at 1700 and made camp under Mount Coates. Going was very hard today as we encountered deep, soft snow all the way along the Davids and tonight both dogs and we are completely exhausted. I measured all ablation stakes along the route.


Camp at Hordern Gap 20 October 1962, L-R: Ross Harvey and Kevin Mumbles Walker.



Sunday, 21 October 1962


Covered 19 miles


Excellent weather again.

We broke camp in 2˝ hours this morning and left the Gap at 1115. The day’s run has again been a hard one, much soft snow was encountered and the route was uphill all the way (2,000 feet climb). We reached Twintop at 1830 to find the Pid caravan completely full of drift which took us an hour of digging to clear. Again today, I have measured ablation stakes along the route and checked snow densities. The tractor party arrived tonight at 2300 having encountered many delays and difficulties with the heavy trains bogging in soft snow.



Twintop to Depot D (68° 58'S, 68° 54’E)

From Twintop to Depot D we travelled with the tractor train. The log covering this section of the journey is covered by Dave Carstens in his report.

During this trip Ross, Mumbles and I occupied the Pid caravan. The dog sledges and sledging boxes were loaded onto a Nansen sledge, and the dogs rode on a timber platform erected over fuel drums on one of the articulated sledges. The platform area was 7ft. by 7ft. and, although room was restricted, the dogs gave us little trouble. Fights were rare and only on a few occasions did a dog fall off the platform. Generally, the dogs were contented and quiet, especially when trains were in motion. Each night, the teams were put out on the field lines, well upwind from the trains. While travelling, one of us would always walk beside the platform, and frequently, we would run one team at a time beside the train. This had the twofold advantage of reducing the crowding on the platform and giving the dogs exercise. Some very low temperatures were encountered on the way out (-43°F) and both Flash Harry and Horhog became badly iced and dagged up. Mandy was on heat for the first fortnight and, despite Ross' efforts to avert the obvious, Winkin mounted Mandy on 2 November.

I completed 8 pits while travelling with the train and planted tagged accumulation stakes/route markers at 5 mile intervals along the route. Surface observations and snow densities were made at each stake site.



Reconnaissance from Depot D

From Depot D, it was necessary to establish a vehicle route onto the Ice Shelf. The two most likely possibilities for a route were via the bay to the north, or via the bay to the south, of the high domed peninsula which lay before us, and which extended some 30 miles into the Ice Shelf. The Snow Trac investigated the northern route, we the southern.



Wednesday, 21 November 1962


Covered 5.6 miles


4/8 cloud cover becoming 8/8 with whiteout.

The sledges had been prepared and packed yesterday and we left Depot D at 1145 to head due south. After covering 3 miles, cloud closed in resulting in complete whiteout, however, we continued until the downhill gradient began to increase and then made camp. Through the whiteout this evening, large areas of seracs can be seen to the north-east and south-east. To the east and south the plateau falls away steeply and I feel that we are very close to the boundary of the Shelf.



Thursday, 22 November 1962


No move


Complete whiteout all day.

This morning I dug and measured a pit. Ross and Mumbles roped up and reconnoitred to the east returning at midday. They reported heavy crevassing and steep ice and firm slopes about 2 miles away. This afternoon Mumbles and I roped up and walked south east to find identical conditions. In spite of bad light, we can see that we are on the north-west side of the bay and about 3 miles from the Shelf.



Friday, 23 November 1962


Covered 14.2 miles


Fine weather.

The Ice Shelf and the shores of the bay were clearly visible. We broke camp at 1130 and continued due south for a mile before encountering severe crevassing. From this point we could see the bay below us extending further to the west. I decided to head westward to the head of the bay and after travelling 3 miles in this general direction, avoiding domed areas, we found a valley sloping down onto the Shelf quite free of crevassing. Once on the Shelf we headed due east along the centre of the bay and made camp at 1730 having travelled 10 miles down the bay. The surface of the Shelf is good and, so far, appears free of crevassing. We conveyed our position to the Snow Trac by radio this evening, and they arrived at our campsite at midnight having circumnavigated the high domed peninsula after finding a route onto the shelf to the north.



Saturday, 24 November 1962


No move


Excellent weather again.

The Snow Trac left at 1300 to return to Depot D via our dog route. I completed a pit investigation this afternoon aided by Ross and Mumbles.



Sunday, 25 November 1962


Travelling with tractor train


Fine 20 knot wind

The tractor train arrived at 0330 via our route. They camped in till 1400 when we left together.



Travelling to Depot E (69° 09’S, 70° 09’E)

We travelled with the tractor train establishing Depot E on 27 November 1962. On 28 and 29 November, Ross and Mumbles packed and prepared sledges for the journey south. I installed a strain grid to study relative surface movement of the Shelf, assisted by Mark Single and Peter Trost and with the use of the Snow Trac.



The Journey South from Depot E and Return

Friday, 30 November 1962


Covered 13.4 miles south.


20 knot wind, medium surface drift – clearing.

The drift moderated slightly this afternoon and we made a start at 1330 heading due south. Later this afternoon the wind abated, making travel very much easier, but progress has been slow over the very soft snow surface and, with the sledges loaded to over 900lb, there has been no opportunity for riding. Encountered bad crevassing 8 miles from Depot E and our campsite tonight is still in a crevassed area. The crevasses have given us no trouble in spite of the fact that some are up to 40 feet wide and have crevasse bridges that have very insecure edges.


Dog Party L-R: Ross, Mumbles and Ian. Ready to leave Depot E to head south on Amery Ice Shelf.



Saturday, 1 December 1962


Covered 14.9 miles, due south.


30 knot wind with drift, 7/8 cloud

Made a late start at midday, delayed by Chomper chewing through another harness. We left the crevasses behind after 3.5 miles but going has been tough due to strong head wind, surface drift and soft snow. Horhog chewed his harness this afternoon and caused another delay. Tonight, there is no wind but there is a complete whiteout.



Sunday, 2 December 1962


Covered 15.6 miles


8/8 cloud, complete whiteout, snowing +26° F

Broke camp at midday. Navigation today has been a problem and, without the sun, we have been relying on the magnetic compass which is not very satisfactory. Our daily mileage is steadily increasing as the loads become lighter, however the surface is covered in soft snow. There is little evidence of wind scouring and this is obviously a very low wind area. We are, no doubt, now out of the area influenced by the katabatic from the plateau. Mumbles is suffering from severe snow blindness today – this is a real danger in whiteout conditions. The UV is extremely strong and the three of us are suffering from burning a blistering of the lips and face.



Monday, 3 December 1962


Covered 12.3 miles


Complete whiteout – clearing.

Because of bad light conditions, I decided to dig a pit this morning which I finished measuring at 1400 with the help of Mumbles as penciller. By this time Ross had broken camp and had the sledges packed. We left at 1430 and travel until 1800 when the cloud began to clear. I did a sun shot tonight while Ross and Mumbles did the radios sked outside.


Heading south from Depot E, Ian with sledge and Mumbles leading on skis.



Thursday, 4 December 1962


Covered 10 miles


Fine and colder (3° F to 12° F) 10 knot wind.

Broke camp at 1115 and travelled until 1830. We first sighted the Northern Prince Charles Mountains this morning and, during the day’s run, they have been becoming more and more distinct. During the run, I did a noon shot with the theodolite and used this to correct our DR navigation. In the tent, Ross is checking over and repairing all harnesses.



Wednesday, 5 December 1962


Covered 20.1 miles


Fine with 8 knot wind

This morning there is considerable rock outcropping visible about 20 miles to our east from what is no doubt Gilloch Island. Before leaving camp, I read angles to these and to two of the peaks of the Prince Charles’. The day’s run has been easier over a firmer surface and with the lighter loads we have been able to ride the sledges on occasions. Running beside sledges is tiring and difficult as the surface collapses underfoot and boots sink down to ankle depth. Leading on skis however is not a problem, as the surface is smooth and ideal for skiing. We have been taking turns in the lead, hour about on skis.



Thursday, 6 December 1962


Covered 20 miles


Partial whiteout, 20 knot wind, +19° F.

The surface has been very much better for travelling today, although there is a 5cm thick crust over a 2 cm deep cavity; this crust collapses, as a sheet, underfoot with a rolling report which frightens the dogs and at first caused us some apprehension until we dug a shallow pit and discovered the reason. During the day’s run the mountains have presented a magnificent spectacle and now Shaw and Fischer Massifs are in full view. To the south-east, Manning and Pickering Nunataks are visible.



Friday, 7 December 1962


Covered 18.5 miles on 160° M


Partial whiteout +24° F

Today’s run has been over an area of well developed waves in the surface of the Shelf. These are not visible, but the nunataks and mountains disappeared and reappeared with cyclic regularity as we headed south. Tonight, we must be camped close to the transition between the Lambert Glacier and the Ice Shelf. We are in line between Manning Nunataks and the Northern Prince Charles’.



Saturday, 8 December 1962


Covered 8.6 miles on 101° T


Stratus fog clearing to fine with 6/8 cloud.

We rose at 0800 and with the help of Mumbles I dug and measured a pit striking blue ice at only 120cm. After the pit was completed, Mumbles and I walked back half a mile to a place a stake online between references on Manning and the Prince Charles. I took almost an hour to place the stake, encountering great difficulty with the theodolite on the insecure surface crust. During this time, Mumbles built an 8 foot high cairn. When we arrived back at the campsite Ross had broken camp and had packed the sledges. We departed at 1615 and headed for the Manning Nunatak reference, placing two more stakes online at 4 mile intervals. We made camp at the last stake site. Fog has closed in tonight and temperatures has dropped to 0°F. This will be our further south camp at 71° 03’S.


Ian taking measurements in pit for study of snow accumulation rates on Amery Ice Shelf.



Mumbles at southern most camp site on Amery Ice Shelf – 71° 03’ South.



Sunday, 9 December 1962


Covered 18.4 miles heading north


Cloudless, warm.

Away to a bad start this morning with three minor dogfights amongst the Blacks in the first five minutes. Fortunately, we have been almost entirely free of fights since leaving Depot E and the dogs have caused us no trouble. Chomper and Horhog seem to have broken their habit of harness chomping which is a relief to Ross. I did a running fix today which showed our DR a half a mile out. Tonight, Mumbles and I dug a pit while Ross checked harnesses and sledges. Gilloch Island appears very close and there are considerable outcrops of rocks from under its icecap; bearings to the island show it well out of position as shown by the map.



Monday, 10 December 1962


Covered 16.3 miles


Fine becoming complete whiteout, warm (+22° F)

Completed measuring the pit this morning and we broke camp at 1330 and travelled until 1845 when we were forced to stop because of heavy snow, making navigation impossible.



Tuesday, 11 December 1962


Covered 13.9 miles


Complete whiteout, warm (+33° F)

Bad whiteout prevailed again today but we could see sufficient definition in the horizon to the north to steer by. We broke camp at 1145 and travelled until 1730. Going today has been extremely tough, there has been 4 cm of new snow on the surface and this was very sticky due to the high temperatures. I completed a pit investigation tonight. The temperature has fallen to 10° F tonight and Stratus fog has set in.



Wednesday, 12 December 1962


Covered 20 miles


Whiteout – clearing, temperatures +34° F daytime, +50° F night.

Awoke at 0900 this morning to find the temperature already at +34° F, water covered sledges and tent and it was snowing. We decided to postpone travel until tonight when the surface would be harder and drier, it would also give us relief from the strong UV from the whiteout conditions during the day. Slept and read during the day rising at 1900. We broke camp at 2100 after the radio sked and travelled through the night with the sun behind us. Shortly after leaving today, we had to stop for half an hour, turn the sledges on their sides and scrape the ice from the runners. This was our first encounter with icing up of the runners, no doubt due to the very high temperatures and presence of meltwater.



Thursday, 13 December 1962


Covered 20 miles


Fine, cold night, light fog at midnight.

We stopped at 0400, made camp and slept through the day. Ross and I dug a pit tonight and I finished the measurements at 2030. We broke camp at 2100 and again travelled through the night.



Friday, 14 December 1962


Covered 20 miles


A fine, cold night with light fog.

Stopped this morning at 0410. Ross is developing a slight fever and he has enlarged glands in the throat. We awoke tonight at 1600 with Ross no better; however, he was keen to travel and we left at 2030.



Saturday, 15 December 1962


No move


Fine and warm.

Ross’s fever became worse during the night’s run and, after we stopped at 0400, he was running a temperature of 101.8° F. He started taking Terramycin capsules every four hours and we decided to stay put until his temperature was back to normal. Tonight, Ross’s temperature is down to 99.4° F. Mumbles and I did the radios sked outside and then dug and measured a pit.



Sunday, 16 December 1962


Covered 21.5 miles


7/8 cloud, semi whiteout, cold.

Tonight, Ross was much improved and although he was still running a slight temperature he wanted to be on the move again. We intended to continue north for another day before turning towards Depot E, however the power cord feeding the ANGR9 developed a fault tonight and radio contact could not be made. As the power cord could not be repaired, we decided to head straight back to Depot E. We built a large cairn at the campsite and left a note of our intentions in case the Snow Trac came searching for us. Broke camp at 2115 and headed for the Depot on 307°T.



Monday, 17 December 1962


Covered 24.8 miles


Whiteout and low cloud.

We stopped this morning at 0500 and made camp. Awoke at 1800 and listened in on the Sony to Mawson and the caravan. Mawson is rather anxious about us as they believe Ross may still be ill. The tractor trains are not leaving Depot E until our whereabouts are known and the Snow Trac is waiting for the weather to improve to come and look for us at our last DR position. I feel that our present DR position is far from accurate as, due to whiteout conditions, it has been several days since we have seen the sun. I suspect our true position is further to the south, however, I am confident that we will pick up three day old track marks left by the Snow Trac during a run south from Depot E. Before leaving tonight I completed a pit investigation. We broke camp at midnight and continued on 307°T encountering bad crevassing for 20 miles.



Tuesday, 18 December 1962


Covered 14.5 miles


20 knot wind, surface drift – moderating.

We stopped this morning at 0800 having failed to locate Depot E or any vehicle tracks during the night’s run. We continued 3 miles beyond our DR position of the Depot in the hope of finding the tracks. The country which we traversed this morning is the worst yet encountered and the crevassing has been very difficult to see in the poor light. Several of the dogs fell through bridges and required pulling back to the surface by their traces. Mumbles turned over the white sledge in a crevice but no damage was done. After making camp here, the cloud began to lift and we found ourselves on the very edge of the plateau and obviously too far east of the Depot. I managed to do a noon shot through the cloud and another shot this evening. The position fix place us 14 miles from the Depot. Broke camp at midnight and headed on course for the Depot which we sighted from a distance of 8 miles.



Wednesday, 19 December 1962


No move – at Depot E


Fine and warm.

We arrived at Depot E at 0500 to find that the Snow Trac had left and was searching for us at our last reported position. John Freeman informed the search party of our arrival on a 0600 radio sked and they returned to the Depot arriving at 1430 whereupon we all went to bed. It is no wonder that we missed the vehicle tracks when trying to find the Depot as all tracks in the vicinity became completely obscured after a few hours of light drift.



Thursday, 20 December 1962


No move – at Depot E


Fine and warm.

The tractor party left on the return journey to Mawson at 0630. We then went back to bed until 1900. This evening Ross unloaded, checked and repaired sledges and harnesses; all the equipment is in excellent order in spite of the 310 mile run. Mumbles and I began measuring the deep pit which John Freeman had dug for us.



Friday, 21 December 1962


At Depot E


Complete whiteout.

This morning Ross completed work on the equipment while Mumbles and I walked 3 miles south with the theodolite and chain to measure the strain grid. When we returned to the Depot, I completed measurements of the deep pit while Ross and Mumbles prepared and packed dog food for the return journey. We slept during the day and awoke tonight at 1800, packed sledges and broke camp at 2350 to begin the return journey to Mawson.



The Return Journey Depot E to Mawson

Saturday, 22 December 1962


Covered 23 miles


Semi whiteout, calm becoming windy.

We travelled until 0730 this morning following the tractor tracks. The going was very easy as a film of ice covered the surface; this was the result of a fall of freezing rain last night. During the run I measured the accumulation stakes and checked snow densities. Today we are again camped in the bay of the ice shelf and there was a fresh 15 knot wind blowing off the plateau this morning. During the day, the weather has deteriorated. Tonight, there is no chance of moving as a 30 knot wind is blowing with heavy drift.



Sunday, 23 December 1962


Covered 5 miles


Heavy drift, clearing and then a blizzard.

The drift stopped tonight at 1900 and after the radio sked we broke camp leaving at 2230. By this time there was complete calm in the bay, however the surrounding plateau was still engulfed in clouds of drift. We only travelled until midnight when we were forced to stop, this time by very high winds and drift. We pitched tent in a wind gusting to an estimated 70 knots, very nearly losing the tent in the process.



Monday, 24 December 1962


Covered 13.5 miles


Blizzard abated by evening then fine.

We broke camp tonight at 2300, the blizzard having completely abated, and had an easy run through to Depot D travelling in bright sunshine. As sledge loads have been relatively light, we have been able spend quite a lot of our travelling time riding the sledges by sitting astride the loads. As midnight, and Christmas Day approached, with Mumbles out in front on skis, and Ross and I riding the two sledges, we suddenly and spontaneously broke into loud voice singing ‘Jingle Bells’ followed by several other carols. It was a surreal start to a Christmas Day we will never forget.



Tuesday, 25 December 1962


At Depot D


Partially overcast with light drift.

We arrived at Depot D at 0345 to find the tractor trains delayed here due to the bad weather. We slept through the day and tonight joined the tractor party in a pleasant Christmas celebration in the caravan. We returned to bed again in the tent at 2315.



Wednesday, 26 December 1962


Covered 20 miles


Lite drift this morning clearing to fine.

Awoke at 0700 and, after restocking with food, we left ahead of the trains at 1055. Today’s run has been a difficult one, the surface has been very soft and we have climbed over 1,500 feet. The trains have stopped short of our position tonight as they encountered many difficulties and delays on the steep gradient covered by soft snow.



Thursday 27 to December 1962


Covered 20.8 miles


Beautiful weather

Broke camp at 0900. Today’s run has been easier, fewer steep gradients have been encountered and the surface has been much harder. Tonight, the trains are still having bogging troubles and they are near our last night’s campsite.



Friday, 28 December 1962


Covered 22.3 miles


Another beautiful day

We were woken twice during the night, firstly by the Snow Trac passing through at 0400 followed by the trains at 0600. We rose when the tractors came through and broke camp at 0900. The surface today has been hard firm with large sastrugi at right angles to our path. We made fast time to arrive at Depot C at 1630 to find the tractor party camped here and asleep. Before retiring tonight, we restocked the sledges with human and dog food.



Saturday, 29 December 1962


Covered 26 miles


Perfect weather conditions

The tractors left at 0815 and we followed an hour later. It has been another good day’s run with similar surface conditions to yesterday. Stopped at 1800. We have been eating well during the run from Depot E; tonight, we had a three course meal complete with beer and anchovy savouries.



Sunday, 30 December 1962


Covered 26 miles


Perfect weather conditions

Broke camp at 0930 this morning after depoting five rations of seal meat and F ration blocks to lighten the load. We arrived at Depot B once again to find the tractor party asleep. This evening we spent several hours digging food out of the Depot which was very badly drifted in. Ross and Mumbles restocked the dog food and I restocked the human food from the tractor trains. We plan to travel light to Mawson, via the old Dovers southern route, taking eight days dog food and 10 days man food. This route is known to be heavily crevassed and unsuitable for the tractor trains. The tractor party awoke tonight and left in the Snow Trac at 2300 to reconnoitre around Depot Peak.



Monday, 31 December 1962


Covered to 19.8 miles


20 knot wind, light drift.

Left Depot B at 1300; after travelling 1 mile I fell breaking a ski stock and we had to return to Depot B for a replacement. We were underway again at 1330. The day’s run has been very fast with the wind behind us. Skiing parallel to the very large sastrugi is difficult and both Mumbles and I jogged ahead in preference to skiing. Ross has been suffering from severe snow blindness today and has not been able to lead. We made an unsuccessful attempt to locate the 90 mile depot tonight and we are located 1.5 miles beyond our DR position for this depot. At present the weather is deteriorating and the wind increasing.



Tuesday, 1 January 1963


No move


Blizzard conditions.

Remained in tent all day



Wednesday, 2 January 1963


No move


Blizzard conditions.

No improvement in the weather today. Ross thinks that Mandy has had her pups as she appears much skinnier. No doubt she has eaten them.



Thursday, 3 January 1963


No move


Blizzard conditions.

The wind has increased in strength today and we are wondering how long this weather will last. Nellie, Flash Harry and Horhog are icing up badly. Luckily, we have plenty of books to read: ‘The Time Machine’; ‘Men Without Women’ (very appropriate); ‘Tono Bungay’ and ‘From The Terrace’ (1000 pages).



Friday, 4 January 1963


No move


Blizzard conditions.

The bad weather continues. Our food supplies are running low. We have three days dog food and about a week’s man food left. Unless we can continue in the morning we shall have to return to Depot B to restock.



Saturday, 5 January 1963


No move


Blizzard conditions.

Surely this weather cannot continue for much longer! Tonight, Ross began to economise on the dog food and cut the F ration blocks into two, feeding each dog only a 1lb ration.



Sunday, 6 January 1963


Covered 19.8 miles


High winds, medium drift – clearing.

The weather began to moderate last night and this morning we decided to make a break for Depot B. We broke camp at 1130 and left to head back south into a 30 knot wind and light drift. We reached Depot B at 1700. Tonight, we have been replenishing our supplies. The tractor party has been working all day to remove the huge mounds of snow drift that have completely buried the trains.



Monday, 7 January 1963


Covered 30 miles


4/8 cloud, wind and surface drift – clearing.

Heading for home again, this time carrying 10 days dog food and about two weeks man food. Leaving the Depot at 1130 we made good time with the following wind to cover 30 miles in seven hours. There has been no sign of markers along the old southern route.



Tuesday, 8 January 1963


Covered 30 miles


1/8 cloud, 15 knot wind – moderating.

Another good day’s run. This afternoon we crossed a badly crevassed dome encountering crevasses up to 16 feet wide. There appears to be considerable crevassing in this area however it is confined to domed areas which are clearly visible and could be avoided easily for the purpose of vehicle travel. Tonight, we spotted a marker to the north-east of our campsite and after pitching the tent I walked about 1 mile in this direction. The marker was still about 2 miles from me at this point; it appeared to be a stack of drums – and corresponds to our DR position for the 50 mile depot.



Wednesday, 9 January 1963


Covered 40.2 miles


Beautiful weather.

Broke camp this morning 1130. Soon after leaving our campsite we encountered very large sastrugi which have been a characteristic of the surface conditions during the whole day’s run. The sastrugi (some 2 ˝ feet in height) have made the going extremely difficult for us as well as for the dogs, and we have been continually struggling with the sledges to prevent them from overturning. Three of the old trail markers were cited during the day’s run and I measured their heights for accumulation studies. The stakes were all in the firm snow and I feel that markers further south along the route have been completely buried during the last seven years. We overlooked the radio sked and travelled until 2100 tonight in an endeavour to reach the caravan at Fischers, however with about 2 miles to go, heavy stratus fog obscured the ranges. We carried on in spite of this but failed to find the caravan and made camp on blue ice with the visibility at about 100 feet. Tonight, after dinner the fog has lifted and we have found ourselves only a mile due west of Fischers with the caravan clearly in view. Tonight, tempers have been strained as the dogs have repeatedly pulled their lines out of the blue ice while being fed. How frustrating it is after travelling 40 miles to look up and see the caravan surrounded by any amount of soft snow for the dog lines.



Thursday, 10 January 1963


Covered 12 miles


Beautiful weather

Broke camp at 1230 and had an easy run over the blue ice to cover the remaining 12 miles to Mawson. We were met at Gwamm by Bob Nelson and Kevin Miller with Nellie’s two pups Horrie and Libby. They accompanied us down the ice slope to Mawson where we were met by the rest of the party. How different the station looked in midsummer and after a three month absence. Preparations for ‘change over’ were in progress and a holiday atmosphere prevailed. Our mission was accomplished. It was good to be home.


Comments and Conclusions



All the planned work was completed with the exception of the investigations along the boundary of the Shelf. A strain grid was installed near Depot E and remeasured after an interval of three weeks. A movement line was established between references on Manning Nunataks and the Northern Prince Charles. Ten pit investigations were completed on the Shelf. 56 accumulation stakes were planted on the outward journey and measured on the return trip. Snow surface observations and snow densities were checked at each stake site.



For DR we used an astrocompass and a sledge wheel. In white out conditions a magnetic compass was used. Three running sun shots were made during the journey on the shelf using a Kern DKM2 theodolite. In good light conditions our DR was surprisingly accurate (˝ mile misclose between fixes at Cd6 and Cd12) however, in white out conditions accurate DR proved almost impossible (11 mile misclose between Cd12 and Cd19 after 5 days of travel in white-out).


The navigation equipment was reliable, the only trouble encountered was that on two occasions the cyclometer was broken by the sledge driver falling over the sledge wheel.



Radio conditions were continually good, we had excellent communication with Mawson and frequently had 2 way phone contact 5 x 5. Almost every night Ross did the radio sked outside. On 16 December 1962 the power cord between the prayer wheel and the radio set developed a dead short and, because of this, we lost radio contact with the caravan and Mawson and had to return direct to Depot E. At the depot Ross and John Freeman repaired the cord; it had been broken in 12 places. These cords are not satisfactory for low temperature operation, they become stiff and brittle. Great care must be exercised when the radio is being set up to avoid kinking the cord. The Sony 8 transistor receiver proved quite invaluable. It not only supplied entertainment in the tent, but also enabled us to receive a time check for navigation purposes when the other radio failed and enabled us to listen into the Mawson broadcasts during this time.



Without exception, the fourteen dogs worked consistently well, and the three of us agree that not a bad word can be said of any of them. Early in the trip, Chomper, Sputnik and Horhog (all from the same litter) had the bad habit of chomping harnesses, however we managed to cure them of this. Mandy was pregnant during the trip and in spite of this she still worked fairly well, she dropped her pups during a 5 day blizzard only 80 miles from Mawson and, as we could find to trace of the litter, we assumed that Johnny and Sputnik had eaten them. The long haired dogs - Horhog, Flash and Nellie - all had trouble with icing and dagging in drift conditions especially on the outward journey with the tractor trains. Flash was the only dog who dogged badly and Ross found that a good wrench of the tail was the best way to relieve his discomfort. It would be a good idea to clip around the tails and crutches of the long haired dogs before going into the field. On one occasion, because of icing up, we could not harness Flash or Horhog and instead ran them with the traces fastened to their collars. We also had trouble with these two dogs on the first days run after the 5 day blizzard. On this occasion they were iced up badly around the crutch and began to bleed badly from the scrotum due to irritation and chafing caused by the ice. In spite of these icing problems, which really gave us little trouble, the long haired dogs were excellent workers. Fights amongst the dogs were rare and we had no serious fights after leaving Depot E for the journey south. Several of the dogs were notorious for harness tangling, Nellie probably being the leading offender; however, it is surprising how readily the inexperienced dogs learn to jump traces to avoid tangling.


As a form of transport dogs are quite exceptional. Travel is fast (3 to 4 mph) and it is possible to cover long distances. In one three day period on the return journey, we covered 100 miles. Our overall average daily travel distance from 30 November 1962 to 10 January 1963 was 14.8 miles.



Mumbles harnessing Flash Harry.



General comments on Routine and Performance

Because of the high temperatures in December and January and the continuous calm weather we encountered on the Ice Shelf, we endured few hardships. Our normal daily run was 20 miles and we could do this in 7 hours, this is approaching the endurance limit for dogs working continuously. Breaking camp in the morning would take us an average of 2˝ hours from awaking to departure. At night we would take about 2 hours from the time of stopping to the time of eating our meal. In general, we would take turnabout at the various duties of making and breaking camp, cooking, etc., a system which worked efficiently and well. During the days run, we would take turns in leading on skis hour about. Each one of us was familiar with the procedures for dead reckoning navigation and radio operation, in case any misfortune befell a member of our party.


The dogs proved to be a quick and efficient form of transport. I had ample time to do a pit investigation every second day (an operation taking some six hours) yet we still had time to travel our 20 miles per day and enjoy 8 to 9 hours in the pid at night. On the Shelf we travelled in all weather, complete white out or fine (high wind and drift being almost completely absent during this section of the trip). Hazards due to crevassing are slight when travelling with the dogs and although on several occasions in bad light conditions we temporarily lost dogs through crevasse bridges or turned a sledge over in a crevasse. Generally, the crevasses on the Shelf were well bridged; however, for an individual moving around in a crevassed area in poor light conditions, to be safe, one should be on skis or roped up or holding on to a sledge.


To sum up, travel with the dogs is an enjoyable and invigorating experience. They provide a fast and reliable means of transport and enabled us to complete a full work program.


The three of us agree that this trip has been a memorable one. Our three months in the field have passed all too quickly.



Ian Landon-Smith


Mawson, 1962




Route map 1962 Journey

Amery Ice Shelf


This is the same map that forms part of David Carstens’ separate Report on Journey to Amery Ice Shelf: October 1962 – January 1963.

The map can be viewed at this link.



Further Reading


Budd, William Francis; Landon-Smith, Ian Hamilton; and Wishart, Edward Robert (1966), The Amery Ice Shelf, a paper [see Abstract below] presented at the Eleventh Pacific Science Congress, Tokyo, 1966; can be accessed from Hokkaido University Collection of Scholarly and Academic Papers at:


(Professor Budd was ANARE Glaciologist at Wilkes in 1961 and at Mawson in 1964. Dr Landon-Smith was ANARE Glaciologist at Mawson in 1962. Dr Wishart was ANARE Glaciologist at Mawson in 1963.)



Abstract - The Amery Ice Shelf

This paper presents the results of measurements from 3 visits over successive summers (1962, 1963 and 1964) to the Amery Ice Shelf. These results illustrate the pattern of accumulation over the ice shelf, how the accumulation rate has varied over recent years, the velocity and strain rate distributions over the ice shelf, the elevation profile, the surface temperature profile, and the pattern of change in the position of the ice front.


The values of accumulation and ice movement are used to evaluate a mass budget of the Amery Ice Shelf and Lambert Glacier drainage system of the Antarctic Ice Cap. The results suggest a high ratio of gain to loss.