Operation Southern Discovery encompasses the ADF’s contribution to Australian scientific, environmental and economic interests in the Antarctic and offshore waters. An ongoing peacetime operation, it covers approximately 7 per cent of the world’s surface.
One of the lesser-discussed aspects of ADF operations, Operation Southern Discovery makes significant contributions to the support of Australian civilian and scientific organisations operating in the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD).
Hobart has long been an internationally recognised ‘gateway’ to the Antarctic region, which has helped solidify Australian claims to 42 per cent of the Antarctic landmass.
In addition to early British expeditions, notable Australian explorers have included Douglas Mawson, Edgeworth David and Griffith Taylor. These and other pioneers established a scientific tradition of exploration and scientific leadership, establishing Australia as a world leader in many areas of Antarctic sciences, contributing substantially to its influence in international discussion.
Because Australia lays claim to so much of the continent, operational boundaries capture Antarctic locations, the Southern Ocean south of 60 degrees south, the internationally recognised Australian EEZ of Macquarie Island as well as Heard Island, McDonald Island (HIMI) and the superjacent airspace.
ADF resources regularly attached to Operation Southern Discovery include:
- Air Force C17A Globemaster III aircraft providing a logistics air bridge from Hobart to Wilkins Aerodrome in Antarctica and return;
- Navy hydrographic capabilities to ensure safety of marine navigation and assist scientific research;
- Australian Army geospatial survey capabilities assisting infrastructure projects and airfield surveys; and
- Navy meteorological capabilities providing weather forecasting and climate research and analysis.
ADF involvement in Antarctica is consistent with the Antarctic Treaty's prohibition of any military activity other than the provision of personnel/equipment in support of scientific or other peaceful purposes.