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History of Wilkes Station Antarctica

The Vincennes Bay area (named for Wilkes' flagship), on the Knox Coast, Wilkes Land, was surprisingly short of visitors until very recently. Wilkes originally reported sighting land in the area, but this land was later sailed over by Ross. The area was not visited again until 1947 when the massive Operation Highjump made a major aerial mapping of large parts of Antarctica. This was the first visit and landing in the area.

The area was again visited in 1948 when the US Navy ships Edisto and Burton Island arrived in Vincennes Bay as part of Operation Windmill (Task Force 39). "Here were enough islands to name after every man aboard ship and still have some left over"[7]. These islands were soon to be known as the Windmill Islands, and the author of these words had a group of islands named after him. These ships only stopped for a few short days, enough time to take survey readings, and some quick geological exploration. But Frazier's words about the area would eventually become true. "This area had promise as a site for a future base, we felt. It was on solid rock and was accessible from the sea. It also afforded access to the continent. The islands extended in rows. Any one, adjoining the ice of the continent, would make an excellent base site."[7]

  Neil Simmons, [1964] supplied this sketch map of the local area drawn up in 1958.  He cleaned up the original and added the colour contours.

Double click on it if you want a larger view.

The area was not visited again until the next wave of international interest in Antarctica triggered by the IGY and IPY. In 1957 the United States Navy established an IGY station on Clark Peninsula called Wilkes. In February 1959 ANARE took over control of Wilkes from USARP. In 1969 Wilkes was closed  as a replacement station (Repstat), named after Australia's then Governor General Lord Casey, and built a few km to the SE of Wilkes, replaced it.  The story of how that came about is on the attached audio file  (See below) recorded by Dick Thompson who was Phil Law's Deputy from 1950-1964.

Here is a scale drawing of the station made at the time of the handover to Australia.  It was kindly provided by Winston Nickols of the 1968 party. Double clicking on it should enlarge it for easier readability.

dick Thompson edited with intro.wav
Wilkes Site Maintainer,
17 Dec 2016, 20:46