Oral History Interview – John Gillies

Interview by: Ian Toohill
Compiled and edited by Alan Ryan (with assistance John Gillies)

John Gillies


I went to Mawson as a radio technician in 1967 returning via the Amery Ice shelf to drop off equipment for the wintering party then stop at Repstat to work for a few days in 1968.

In 1969 I went to the opening of Casey as senior radio technician. Returning via Dumont D’Urville and Macquarie Island in 1970.

In 2001 I went as an ANARE Club representative on Polar Bird for Voyage 7 to resupply Mawson and Davis then pick up the summer party from Heard Island.

In 2005/6 I went with Aurora Expeditions from Hobart on Marina Svetaeva to Macquarie Island, Commonwealth Bay and Mawson’s Huts, South Magnetic Pole, Dumont D’Urville, Mawson’s Hut inside visit, Auckland Islands and Bluff New Zealand.

In 2008 I went on a cruise with Peregrine expeditions as a guest speaker about Antarctic communications organised by Ray McMahon. It was from Ushuaia to places on the Antarctic peninsula and Deception Island across Drake passage and back.

I was ANARE Club President, in 2001 and 2002. Finishing editor of the book of THE HISTORY OF THE ANARE CLUB 1951 TO 2001 and editor of The ANARE CLUB journal AURORA from 2003 to 2013.

Mawson’s Huts Foundation Involvement

After hearing the Mawson’s Huts Foundation seminars and their proposal to build a replica of the hut I began a search for the wireless without success. I visited Germany in 2010 and found some similar equipment being restored in the Museum of Technology in Berlin. I was able to measure and photograph the equipment they had. I told the ANARE Club that I would attempt to build a replica as a project for the Club. I found Brian Harvey, past president of the ANARE Club had a lot of suitable material that helped in the building if the replica wireless that I installed when the hut was built in 2013 in Hobart. Brian also supplied some material to build the replica of the acetylene generator that was used for lighting and installed it in the rafters. A year Later I discussed with the curator of the hut that it showed how expeditioners lived but not any of the work that was carried out.  In 2014 I went to Geoscience Australia in Canberra and saw some of the old type of equipment that was used for the magnetic field measurements. I then built a model, of one of the sensors that could be operated by visitors, they could move a magnet past the sensor simulating a change in the field strength and seeing the mirror move, changing the position of the light on the recorder. This was installed in the passage near Frank Hurley’s darkroom.

Webmaster note: I would personally like to thank John for his superb efforts in scanning and passing on to me, passed copies of Aurora Journals for our website and his prompt actions in assisting members enquiring about specific articles or editions of Aurora, thank you