On one of his winters to Mawson in 1983, He repaired the hanger door. He constructed a big brace on the interior framework of the big door to support it before finally getting it to rise again after it fell down. The door had fallen out of the ceiling and nearly killed the chippy from the 1982 party.
Dave turned it into a great storage area for vehicles and equipment and sealed all the holes and cracks with guzma foam. He also put some more skylights in the roof to let in more natural light. He found these skylights sheets in a box out the back buried is snow and ice. The Air Force installed a couple and obviously had plans to install the rest. This was the first time the hanger had been used by anyone for anything since the RAAF departed in 1961. Unfortunately though in the following years after 1988, Dave’s last winter there, some winterers started to use it as a dumping place for all the junk they didn’t want and one person ran a big vehicle into the door so now it can’t open safely and the door hasn’t been opened for many years. ANARE have now decided it should be a heritage building. To this day, Dave McCormack has been the only person to do any work on the hanger since the Air Force departed in 1961. Also as plant manager, Dave has gone south with the summer parties almost every year up until around 2014. When he visits Mawson, he takes people on tours of the RAAF Hanger.
Documents of records of the RAAF sorties and operations carried out by Antarctic Flight were retrieved from the hanger offices. Dave McCormack found one in the Station Commander’s office and no one knew it was there. He returned it to the Antarctic Division for archiving. I found another one of these in the Mawson library when I was there in 1974. I perused over some of their sorties.
In hindsight it is now easy to see why the Air Force left everything including flying log books behind. When Kitchenside’s crew left, he was expecting a replacement air crew. By the time he actually departed he would have known that his replacement crew’s postings had all been cancelled because of the lack of aircraft, but he would still have been thinking that another crew would come the following summer. He didn’t pack up for a permanent departure, he packed up for another crew to come later. The decision to abandon Mawson was made by the Air Board in a meeting on February 10, 1961, 1 day prior to his departure. The earliest he could have received that news was the day he departed. He left everything for the next crew but the next crew never came. The Air Board’s decision was based on the cost of the aircraft losses balanced against any gains the Air Force could make. The Air Force didn’t obviously care much for what they had left behind, they never arranged for ANARE to return all their belongings, they were simply abandoned.
When we departed in February 1975, the boxes of flying suits were still there. Dave McCormack returned to winter again in 1978 and those boxes, along with the woollen lined Irvine leather flying jackets, were no where to be seen. Someone from either of the 1975, 1976 and/or 1977 wintering parties souvenired everything.
Dave McCormack returned to winter again in 1988. During that year he went on the Autumn traverse out to the Northern Prince Charles Mountains to set up the new summer base ( later named Dovers). On that traverse he found the remains of the “250 mile depot”, put there by Doug Leckie in 1955/56 to support the 1956 field party led by Bill Bewsher and Syd Kirkby the surveyor. The depot had lots of stuff in it which Dave RTA’d. It contained a heavy woollen jumper and a jacket with Doug Leckie’s name tags on them and other bits as well.
These all disappeared from the Antarctic Division store some months after he got back.
The building though was one of the first buildings built at Mawson and it has withstood the test of time including all of the many howling blizzards and 100 knot plus winds. That’s 185 kilometres per hour plus, over 200 kilometres per hour winds that strike Mawson many times every year. It is still the only aircraft hanger on the Antarctic mainland. At the time it was built it was one of the biggest building structures on the mainland. That, after 63 years, the original carpenter’s workshop is still sitting on it’s temporary wooden sleeper pillars is nothing short of astounding.
Gallery. The following is a gallery of some general photos of the RAAF’s hanger including some internal photos. These have been provided courtesy of Dave McCormack. Dave made a special trip back to Mawson in 2017 just to take these photos for us.