commonwealth Bay & Mawsons hut cruise

Commonwealth Bay & Mawson’s Hut onboard the Ortelius

IX Stories

For me, visiting Mawson’s Hut was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life. Only a few hundred people have ever set foot inside the hut and it was just so surreal. It was like Mawson and his men had just left…”

Voyage Summary

  • Name: David
  • Destination: Commonwealth Bay & Mawson’s Hut / East Antarctic beneath Australia and New Zealand
  • Expedition Vessel: Ortelius formerly Marina Svetaeva
  • Itinerary Name: Commonwealth Bay & Mawson’s Hut
  • Month of Travel: Dec
  • Length of voyage: 30 Days
  • 3 words that best describe the way you love to travel? Authentic as possible!

Ever since I was small, Antarctica had always loomed large in my mind as somewhere I needed to visit. The sheer wildness of the place has always fascinated me. I imagined in-your-face nature, and when I combined this with my readings of the great Antarctic explorers like Shackleton, Scott and Mawson, I just knew I had to see it for myself to be able to understand it.


I like to travel off the badelie penguin chickseaten track, and although tourist numbers are minuscule in Antarctica, I still wanted to do it differently than most people. That’s why I chose to go at the continent from the Australian and New Zealand side. Being Australian, I was always intrigued by the incredible survival story of Sir Douglas Mawson and his men, so when choosing an itinerary, I wanted to connect to the history of Antarctica as well as witnessing the scenery and wildlife.

In choosing a ship, safety was important to me so I made sure that the vessel had an appropriately ice-strengthened hull. Visiting one of the remotest places on earth, I wanted to ensure the ship was strong enough and that the company I went with had a good reputation. I also wanted to ensure that we had enough landings and maximise the time on land, which is why I chose a smaller boat.

antarctic cruise ship in commonwealth bay

Formawsons hut commonwealth bay antarctica me, visiting Mawson’s Hut was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life. Only a few hundred people have ever set foot inside the hut and it was just so surreal. It was like Mawson and his men had just left and it was that sense of the every day – a book by a bed, a kettle on the stove, that brought home to me that these were just ordinary men in an extraordinary situation.  

I was happily surprised at how interesting the sub-Antarctic islands were. It’s a long journey between Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica and these incredible islands broke up the journey perfectly. I was particularly impressed with Macquarie Island, which is almost like an Antarctic version of the Galapagos – absolutely teeming with wildlife that were not scared of humans at all. I remember sitting on one of the large beaches that were backed by a massive Royal Penguin colony. When we arrived, the penguins came down to look at us and started pecking at our boots and clothes! We also witnessed an unforgettable fight between two elephant seals.

macquarie island king penguins and sealApart from that, I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed being at sea. Days of sailing with nothing on the horizon turned out to be so rewarding – lots of whale and bird watching but above all a sense of serene purpose as we headed south into the Southern Ocean.

I loved every minute travelling on a small expedition vessel. When you choose an expedition like this, you are surrounded by a bunch of like-minded people. It doesn’t take long to connect with your fellow passengers, and I found that everyone who chose to go on an adventure like this one had an interesting life story. Apart from that, learning from the crew and expedition staff made every day rewarding. They come from a different world, one far removed from my life in the city, and their ability not only to share the information but their passion for what they did made a huge difference to the overall experience.

I would very much recommend this trip to anyone seeking adventure as long as they accept that there are long days at sea and that the itinerary has to be flexible by nature due to the weather. If you are ok with both of these things, then this trip is just incredibly rewarding. The wildlife spectacle is one of the highlights, as is magnificence of the scenery.

Spending almost a month at sea completely disconnected me from my normal life and that is exactly what makes this so special. This trip gives you the opportunity to slow down, enjoy the moment and connect with nature in a way that I never thought was possible.
Next, on my list, I’d like to visit the Kashmir region of Northern India. I’ve had some friend’s visit there and come back completely humbled by the experience.  

tourist walking in antarctica