Half Sledge - Greg Mortimer, Mt Minto, 1988


Object Description

Half-sledge used by Greg Mortimer in the first ascent of Mount Minto, 1988. This is part of Museum Victoria's collection of artefacts from the modern era of Antarctic exploration.

Educational Value Statement

This is an important artefact from a notable expedition to Antarctica. It was used on the first ascent of one of Antarctica's largest mountains, Mt Minto. The expedition also represents the early stages of the modern era of private expeditions and tourism to Antarctica.

Greg Mortimer was the leader of the Australian Bicentennial Antarctic Expedition. The expedition numbered eleven people and also included mountain climber Lincoln Hall. This expedition sailed from Sydney on December 31 1987  in the 60 foot yacht Alan and Vi Thistlethwayte. The expedition landed at Cape Hallett from where they manhauled 150km to Mt Minto in North Victoria Land, before making the ascent of the mountain which at 4165km is the highest mountain in the Admiralty Range part of the Trans-Antarctic mountains. Greg Mortimer was also one of the first Australians (along with Tim Mcartney-Snape) to climb Mt Everest, in 1984.

People have long been fascinated by the frozen continent, for diverse reasons: national leaders were once interested in its strategic possibilities; scientists have always wanted to study its unique environment; and today tourists seek to experience its strange beauty.

The first maritime explorer to cross the Antarctic circle was James Cook in 1773. Cook's first two voyages to the Pacific Ocean were largely motivated by the desire to discover and chart the 'great Southern Continent'.

A century of maritime exploration followed before the first party landed on the Antarctic continent in 1895, led by Australian resident Carstens Borchgrevink. This began the so-called 'Heroic Era' of Antarctic exploration as European nations mounted expeditions to lay claim to Antarctic territory. Australians participated in expeditions under British explorers Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton in the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1911, Australia also sent its own expedition under Douglas Mawson. These expeditions were all organized on an ad-hoc basis.

After World War II Australia established an ongoing program of Antarctic exploration under the leadership of Dr Phillip Law. This led to the establishment of Mawson Station in 1954, the oldest continually occupied station in Antarctica.

A significant event in Antarctic history was the International Geophysical Year in 1957. Many countries sent expeditions to Antarctica for the first time, and at the height of the Cold War scientists from countries including Australia, the Soviet Union and the USA were able to work cooperatively. This renewed interest in Antarctica prompted a number of countries to question the territorial claims that had been made by Australia and other countries. Years of international negotiations led to the development of the Antarctic treaty, whereby territorial claims were put on hold, and all nations agreed to manage Antarctic affairs by consensus for peaceful purposes. Australia took a major role in these negotiations.

The Antarctic treaty initially left open the question of commercial exploitation of Antarctica, in which there had long been interest. Many of the first inhabitants of the sub-Antarctic regions were sealers and whalers. Other commercial intrusions were more unusual – Douglas Mawson named MacRobertson Land after the major sponsor of his expedition. Through the twentieth century, the attention of many turned to the potential resources of Antarctica, particularly its mineral reserves. Thus it was a remarkable achievement in the 1980s and 1990s when the Antarctic Treaty was extended to regulate fishing; provide protection for native flora and fauna, and to completely ban mining. Again, Australia was pivotal in the negotiation of these protocols.

Today Antarctica continues to be the home of scientific research, higlighted by the International Polar Years of 2007-2009 while the strange beauty of Antarctica is also drawing tourists in ever-increasing numbers.

Museum Victoria holds a significant collection of Antarctic artefacts and images, ranging from early maritime exploration of Antarctica through the Heroic Era of Antarctic exploration to the modern era of scientific exploration and Antarctic tourism. Objects in the collection have mainly been donated by expeditioners. The largest part of the collection was acquired from Dr Phillip Law, second director of the Anatarctic Division. Although the Antarctic collection consists of objects relating to Antarctic history, the natural history collections also include many Antarctic and sub-Antarctic specimens.

Catalogue Record


SH 940817


Overall Dimensions, Length: 166 cm, Width: 70 cm, Height: 35 cm


Fullname: Mr Greg Mortimer
FirstName: Greg
FamilyName: Mortimer
Role: Past Owner


Science & Measurement
Antarctic Exploration