A 'mini' in Antarctica

This is a black-and-white photograph of a modified Mini Minor car at Wilkes station in Antarctica in 1965. The modified Mini is sitting on snow tyre-tracks against a backdrop of ice and rocks.

Educational value

  • Wilkes station is situated in Wilkes Land in Eastern Antarctica, which covers 2.6 million square kilometres of mostly glacial land and is the largest area of the Australian Antarctic Territory. The area surrounding Wilkes station comprises four peninsulas: the Clark, Bailey, Mitchell and Browning Peninsulas, as well as Robinson Ridge and many islands.
  • Wilkes station was named after the American explorer Charles Wilkes, who led the US Exploring Expedition in 1838–42 and who observed the phenomenon of the continental margin, which helped prove that Antarctica was a continent. Wilkes station was established on the western side of the Clark Peninsula by the USA in 1957; it was transferred to Australia in 1959, after the collaborative International Geophysical Year (IGY) project had ended.
  • Wilkes was used as a research station and between 1962 and 1969 researchers with the University of Tasmania used it to monitor cosmic rays. In 1969 Wilkes was abandoned as a base for research, having been replaced by the newly built Casey station, situated on the nearby Bailey Peninsula.
  • This photograph shows the resourcefulness of people when exploring and living in harsh inhospitable conditions. The Mini Minor car in the photograph has been modified by removing the tyres and placing it on caterpillar tracks that can cross the snow and ice.
  • The Mini Minor was a revolutionary small car first produced in 1959, which earned popular acclaim by winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967. It was popular with celebrities and stars, being driven by the Beatles, Queen Elizabeth II and Peter Sellers, which helped establish the Mini as the iconic motor car of the 1960s. Mini owners often modified their cars to suit their needs, for example by including hatchbacks and other features.
  • The isolated harsh rocky and icy environment that makes up Antarctica mean that special equipment is needed to explore and navigate the terrain. Minis are not the only cars to have been transported to Antarctica – an early motor car was shipped there during Shackleton's 1907–09 expedition, and Volkswagons and snowcats were also used in Antarctica during the 1960s.