Portrait of John Seaton while in the RAAF (Pittwater Online News)
In 1956 John went down to Antarctica with the RAAF and spent 12 months down there. It was the first time an Australian expedition had wintered-over with 2 aircraft.
On 28th November 1956 John, accompanied by radio operator Pat Albion, flew the Beaver south until, at 74 degrees south, he could see the southernmost peaks of the Prince Charles Mountains – beyond which “only the eternal white of the plateau could be seen.”
Lambert Glacier – first seen by John Seaton, 28 November 1956
( Ric Ruker, Australian Antarctic Division)
Seaton observed the sweep of ice around the eastern end of the Prince Charles Mountains and onto the Amery Ice Shelf. Later, he would write “The glacier is roughly 200 miles in length and varies in width from 15 to 40 miles”. Seaton had been the first to fly across and observe the whole of the Lambert Glacier, at that time thought to be the largest glacier in the world. It drains one-third of the entire Australian Antarctic Territory (the AAT).
1955-56 RAAF Antarctic Flight, L to R SGT Johanson, PLT OFF Seaton, SQN LDR Leckie, SGT Sundberg, FLT LT Clemence
(Doug Leckie Collection)
The 1956 wintering party accomplished a lot. They built the first hanger in Antarctica and flew throughout the year. The two pilots, Doug Leckie and John Seaton, clocked up a total of 1200 flying hours. During the year they transported 11 tons of food, fuel and equipment; they transported 150 passengers; flew 27 mapping sorties taking a total of 12,000 aerial photographs. Director Phillip Law was delighted with the success of the scientific program, made possible by the use of aircraft. For his exploration in the Antarctic John was awarded the Polar Medal.
Afterwards John spent six years flying for QANTAS, and later became general Manager of Solomon Islands Airways, where he established 21 airfields and a profitable little airline. For his work in the Solomon’s he was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth.
John Seaton, aged 90
(Pittwater Online News)
John Seaton is an Antarctic icon who will be greatly missed at future mid-winter dinners, where he was frequently the last man standing for ‘the call of the years’.
He is survived by his wife Barbara, and daughters Peta, Nicola and Tania.