Tourists forking out top dollar to visit Mawson’s Hut for centenary celebrations this summer are likely to face disappointment as the “Antarctic factor” heaves an enormous icy obstacle in ships’ paths.
Expedition cruise ship MV Orion is due to start its 19-night Southern Ocean voyage on Thursday, with prices for the 100 passengers starting at $19,365 a person.
Orion expedition leader Don McIntyre said the Antarctic always had challenges but an iceberg the size of the ACT blocking access was “unique”.
“Whilst it’s not looking good, no one will know until we get there,” Mr McIntyre said.
“We always maintain a simple philosophy we work with the Antarctic factor. You cannot dictate terms with Antarctica, it lets you in at its pleasure you have to work with it, you can’t fight it.”
A 2500 sq km tabular iceberg was part of a much larger ice mass that broke free from the Ross Ice Shelf in 1987 but subsequently broke up as it drifted westwards.
Parts of the “B9B” iceberg have grounded on the approach to the Mawson’s Hut site at Commonwealth Bay.
Rob Easther, from the Mawson’s Hut Foundation, yesterday confirmed their expedition to continue preservation work on the historic hut had been cancelled for this year but they hoped to return next summer.
Former Tasmanian Chris Huxley is due to travel with his wife on the expedition and remains philosophical about his chances of getting to shore.
“I just think you’ve got to play the elements,” Mr Huxley said.
“I’m hoping, but I understand safety comes first.”
And he says that even if they can’t make it to Mawson’s Hut, he hopes he can still play a few overs of Centenary World Series Ice Cricket.
“Being a larrikin Australian, I’ve organised my brother to knock me up an old cricket bat the old fashioned kids-in-the-back yard sort,” he said.
“And I’ve got some stumps coming. We realised we couldn’t stick them in the ice so they’ll be in a piece of wood.”
Mr McIntyre said the nature of the cruise meant that passengers were told there was always a chance they wouldn’t make it to land at Commonwealth Bay.
“We’ve spent more time at Commonwealth Bay than anyone but I’d not like to make a prediction at this stage,” Mr McIntyre said.
Even if they don’t make it to shore, first-time visitors will still come away with a once-in-a-lifetime experience, he said.