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H8144 Sledge, full size, timber / metal / leather / natural fibre, made by L Hagen & Co, Kirkegaden 19, Christiania, Norway, 1911, used on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Douglas Mawson, Antarctica, 1911-1914. Click to enlarge.

Antarctic sledge made by L Hagen, Norway, used on Douglas Mawson's Australiasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914

This sledge is one of three in the Museum's collection from Mawson's 1911-1914 expedition. As a group they are typical of the three sledges used by Mawson on his epic journey with Mertz and Ninnis. They are a tangible and historic reminder of Australia's pioneering years in Antarctic exploration and research.

This sledge is one of the twenty Norwegian-made sledges used on the expedition. The wooden sledges, hauled by dogs or men, were used to carry camping supplies, food and scientific …


Object No.


Object Statement

Sledge, full size, timber / metal / leather / natural fibre, made by L Hagen & Co, Kirkegaden 19, Christiania, Norway, 1911, used on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Douglas Mawson, Antarctica, 1911-1914

Physical Description

Sledge, full size, timber, used on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Douglas Mawson, 1911-1914, made by L. Hagen & Co., Kirkegaden 19, Christiania, Norway, 1911

This sledge is mostly made of timber. It has 3½ inch (8.9 cm) wide runners curved at the ends for travelling over snow and ice. The runners have been damaged from the constant abrasive action with ice, snow and other hard surfaces which has gradually worn down and chipped the surfaces.

A level carrying frame is made with a set of timber rails, rectangular in section, which run parallel and above the runners. The rails and runners are joined by angular-shaped wooden supports attached with leather thonging threaded through holes in the runners and supports. Six crossbars, spaced approximately 14 inches (35.6 cm) apart and made from a similar timber, are attached to the top of the wooden supports with leather strapping and rope binding. The crossbars are braced underneath with short metal brackets and the crossbars are covered with protective leather where they join the upper rails. Plywood sheets measuring 415 mm x 265 mm are placed on the central section of the sledge extending from one crossbar to another, down the length of the sledge. These sheets are joined together with lengths of wire and attached similarly to the crossbars, to form a floor or platform to carry the load.

Two roughly-made plywood boxes are positioned at either end of the sledge. These have tin edge supports which hold them together and corner supports made from galvanised iron. The lids are made from plywood with a canvas cover nailed to the top of each box. The japara cover extends approximately 60 mm down the sides of the boxes and also acted as a hinge and flap at the edges. The larger box at the rear held scientific instruments while the smaller box at the front held the "primus" heater for cooking meals on sledging journeys. It has a small wooden compartment with tin strips around the edges and tin fixtures to hold specific objects in position. On the top surface of this box, wooden blocks are attached which acted as a support to hold the Nansen cooker in place.

Leather straps are wound the top rails. These have holes and buckles and were used to secure the load while in transit. The leather appears to be vegetable-tanned cowhide.

A wooden rail, round in section, extends around the front of the sledge and back to the first upright supports adjacent to the runners. Wide coiled towing ropes, of approximately 20 mm in diameter, are tied around the back and front upright supports of the sledge and joined with twine bound around both thicknesses. According to analysis of the timber undertaken in 2009, the sledge is made of hickory (Carya sp.).

Length 342 cm (134 inches = 11 ft 2 inches)
Width: 55 cm (21 inches = 1 ft 9 inches)
Height to top of larger box: 51 cm (20 inches = 1 ft 8 inches)


On the 2 central plywood sheets of the sledge is "Mawson, Adelaide" stencilled in black paint.
On a small plate on the back cross bar of sledge, visible after removal of a box : "L. Hagen & Co. / Christiania".



510 mm


550 mm


3420 mm



This 11 ft (3.35 m) sledge was made in Norway by L. Hagen & Co. of Christiania. Christiania was the original name for Oslo, the capital of Norway. The firm of L.H. Hagen, an important manufacturer of skis and other sporting equipment such as ice skates and rifles, had been in business since 1851. In the late nineteenth century Harald Hagen, b.1866 in Christiania, was a European skating champion.

This sledge is one of twenty Norwegian sledges ordered by Mawson in mid-1911 while in England organising the supply equipment for the expedition. In all the Norwegian order comprised nine 12 foot (3.66 m) sledges, nine 11 foot (3.35 m) sledges and two 7 foot (2.13 m) sledges. A further 17 Australian-made sledges were also ordered, thirteen of 12 feet (3.66 m) and four of 7 feet (2.13 m).

Douglas Mawson described the expedition's sledges in his book "The Home of the Blizzard", originally published in two volumes in 1915 but appearing in an abridged version in 1930. "Our sledges were similar to those of other British Antarctic expeditions; of eleven and twelve-foot lengths. The best were Norwegian, made of American ash and hickory. Others built in Sydney, of Australian hard woods, included mountain ash which tended to split and spotted gum which was strong but heavy. A decking of bamboo slats secured by copper wire to the crossbars was usually employed."

A light bamboo mast and spar were fitted to each sledge for a sail. At the front was the "cooker-box", containing in respective compartments the primus and bottle of spirit for lighting it, as well as spare prickers (to clear the gas holes), openers and fillers for kerosene tins, and repair outfits. The cooker-boxes were of three-ply board, with hinged lids secured by chocks and overlapped with japara to exclude as much drift snow as possible. An instrument-box was secured to each sledge near the rear, carefully fitted so that a capsize would not cause damage. Just behind this was a tray made of three-ply wood or aluminium on which the kerosene, contained in a number of one-gallon (4.55 litre) tins, was carried. Rear-most of all was a sledge meter (for measuring distance to aid navigation), made with a bicycle wheel attached, through a universal joint, to a crossbar at the tail end of the sledge. The middle section of the sledge, between the cooker-box and the instrument-box, was occupied by sleeping bags, food-bags, tent and other items, held firmly in position by buckled straps passing over the load from side to side.

Other sledges are known to have been made by the Hagen firm. Otto Sverdrup's Norwegian 1898-1902 expedition to the Arctic used them. The Oxford University 1921 topographical expedition to Spitsbergen used two 9 foot (2.74 m) sledges. Six Hagen sledges were sent down on the "Terra Nova" to search for Captain Scott's polar party in 1912. Hagen also supplied the skis for Amundsen's successful south polar expedition in 1911 and might have supplied the expedition's ten sledges.



Mawson's expedition left Hobart on board the sailing ship "Aurora" on 2 December 1911. The ship was packed with supplies. The sledges were lashed to the ship's chart-house, an extension of the bridge, and on the poop deck. A research station was established in Antarctica at Cape Denison on Commonwealth Bay and the stores were taken by sledge to the hut built by the 18 expeditioners during January 1912. The climate proved to be one continuous blizzard all year round, and the onset of wintry weather saw the men inside the hut adapting their sledging gear and instruments to the severe conditions. Canvas sledging harnesses were made for both men and dogs, and these were attached to the sledges by hauling ropes.

Some short sledging trips were initially made and in November 1912 the exploratory work began in earnest with six sledging parties organised, with three men in each party, to undertake mapping and magnetic observations. The sledging parties took three sledges each, and Mawson noted in his book "The Home of the Blizzard" that his party's sledges comprised a principal sledge of 11 foot (3.35 m) length with an instrument box, cooker-box, kerosene tray, mast attachment, mast (for a sail), spar, rigging, leather straps, and a decking of canvas and bamboo. A second sledge was of a similar length decked with Venestra (trade name for a form of plywood) boarding and fitted with straps, while the third was 12 feet (3.66 m) long with strong rope lashing and spare spars acting as decking.

Each of the sledging parties had similar equipment loaded onto the three sledges, included: a Willesden-drill tent; three one-man reindeer fur sleeping bags; cooking equipment including mugs, spoons, scales, matches and fuel; a repair outfit with spare copper wire, needles and thread to repair the harnesses, tents and clothes; a medical kit with bandages, ophthalmic drugs for treating snow blindness, scissors, forceps, scalpel and surgical needles; photographic equipment with a quarter-plate camera; and surveying equipment including a 3-inch transit theodolite, logarithmic tables, note books, maps, dividers, set squares, prismatic compass and clinometer. Other equipment taken included: binoculars, a hypsometer (for determining altitude), thermometers and specimen labels; "sporting" equipment including a 22-bore rifle, ammunition, knife, sharpening stone and fishing line; a waterproof clothes bag with reindeer skin boots (finnesko) stuffed with moisture-absorbent sennaegrass (a dry grass from Lappland) and spare clothing; a pick, spades, skis and boots, crampons, man harnesses and tow ropes. To set up depots they carried a depot flag and bamboo pole, stays, and damp-proof tins to deposit records at depots. A total of six one-gallon (4.55 litre) tins of kerosene fuel, nine weeks' supply of food for the men, and dried seal meat, blubber and pemmican for the dogs, were also packed. The total weight of the three laden sledges was 1,723 pounds (781 kg).

Several years after the conclusion of the 1911-14 Mawson expedition the Australian Museum in Sydney was given a collection of material including sledges and six boxes containing ice picks, crampons and clothing. It is believed that this material came from the Commonwealth Government. The material remained in storage there and in 1964 the Deputy Director, H.O. Fletcher, felt it should be given to a museum or society where it could be properly used and exhibited. He contacted both the newly-established Mawson Institute at the University of Adelaide in South Australia and the Antarctic Division of the Commonwealth Department of Internal Affairs, then based in Melbourne. Both institutions declined to acquire the material, so Fletcher contacted the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (the paretn institution of the Powerhouse Museum) which agreed to take three sledges. Three years later, in 1967, the Australian Museum again approached the Mawson Institute to offer the rest of the equipment.

This sledge was formerly transferred from the Australian Museum to this Museum in 1967. In 1983 comprehensive conservation work, and some restoration work, was undertaken by the Museum to repair the sledge.


Credit Line

Gift of the Australian Museum, 1967

Acquisition Date

15 June 1967

Cite this Object


Antarctic sledge made by L Hagen, Norway, used on Douglas Mawson's Australiasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 October 2021, <>


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