Mawson’s Air Tractor

Mawson intended to take a plane to Antarctica for aerial surveying.  This was a time when human powered flight was new, and the publicity for the venture was much enhanced by the use of an aeroplane.  He took a French military plane, the REP monoplane, which was a steel-framed 2 seater powered by a 60 HP radial engine.

The plane crashed in Adelaide, and the wings were removed, the fuselage being taken as an air tractor to pull the sledges.  Bickerton worked on the plane all winter, and eventually in summer he tried it out.  It was almost impossible to start and steer, but it did go on two trips.  On the second trip a piston rod punctured the crankcase, and that was the end of that.

The fuselage was towed back to Boat Harbour, and the engine was taken back to Australia for sale (which never happened).  The frame was left sinking into the ice in 1913, and eventually disappeared in about 1975.

This is the story of the search for the frame over 3 years 2007-9.  The frame has now been located and awaits excavation ……

 [go back to the headings, then select Reports, and read till your eyes go sore]