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Sanae - History

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Dronning (Queen) Maud Land was named in 1930 by the Norwegian Riiser-Larsen, after the Queen of Norway. Dronning Maud Land (DML) lies between longitudes 20° West and 45° East, and is bordered by Coats land in the West and Enderby Land in the East. It is divided into four main coasts (west to east) - Princess Martha, Princess Astrid, Princess Ragnhild and Princess Harald coasts.

Old Norwegian Station
Old Norwegian Station

Hannes Le Grange - First Sanae Team leader
First Sanae Expedition Team leader
- Hannnes Le GrangeHistorical transport - Huskies
Huskies were used for Transport

Sanae IIIUpper Air lab - SanaeIII
Upper Air Lab - Sanae IIITunnel - SanaeIII
Collapsing Tunnel - SanaeIII

  1. The decision was made to establish SANAE IV at an inland nunatak, subject to a suitable site being found. In view of the psychological and environmental advantages of the surface structure over the sub-surface option, it was decided to plan for a surface base. Vesleskarvet was chosen as the site holding the lowest environmental, health and safety hazards, and being the most suitable from a construction point of view. During the construction phase, which lasted from the summer of 1993/94 to the summer of 1997/98, the South African Air Force used the Sarie Marais base as a summer station from which to provide logistical (and Search & Rescue) support for the summer field parties and the construction team. SANAE 36 in 1997, was the first team to overwinter at Vesleskarvet. The base was completed in the summer of 1997 and SANAE 37, was the first team to enjoy all the facilities of the new base.

The chronological exploration of Dronning Maud Land took place as follows:

  1. Thaddeus von Bellinghausen (Russia) in his ships Vostok and Mirny, visited the area in 1819-21. He reported sighting of the ice shelf on 28 January 1820. He was thus the first to see DML, but claimed only to have observed the ice front and shelf.

  2. John Biscoe (British) in his ships Lively and Tula, visited the area and on 1 February 1831, recorded the appearance of land.

  3. Sir James Clark Ross (British) in his ships Erebus and Terror circumnavigated the continent and in 1843 was beset by ice in the Wedell Sea. On 4 February he reported the appearance of land many times.

  4. WS Bruce (British) in his ship Scotia, during the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition in 1902-04, discovered Coats land and guessed it to be a continuation of Enderby Land.

  5. Riiser-Larsen and Fin Lutzow-Holm (Norwegian) in their ship Norvegia with two aircraft, visited the area in 1929. On 15 and 16 January 1930, one of their aircraft flew over the most easterly part of DML. It was named Kronprins Olav Land. The aircraft were used extensively to photograph and sketch large areas of the coastline.

  6. Halvorsen (Norwegian) in his whaling factory ship New Seville discovered Princess Astrid Land on 23 January 1931.

  7. Borchgrevink in his ship Antarctic, discovered new land behind what was known as Kronprins Olav Kyst in 1931.

  8. Riiser-Larsen and Nils Larsen (Norwegian) on the 4th Norwegian expedition in 1931, again flew over large areas of unknown land, now called Princess Ragnhild Coast

  9. Lars Christensen (Norwegian) in his ship Thorshavn, dropped the Norwegian flag over Princess Harald Coast on 4 February 1936. He also observed a mountain range nearly 200 miles westward with summits up to 10 000 feet. These are the same mountains SANAE 37 visited during their educational trip south in April 1998.

  10. Ritscher (German) in his ship Schwabenland, with two large Dornier Wal flying boats (Boreas and Passat), took an estimated 1500 photographs covering an area of  about 250 000 km². All the films were subsequently destroyed during the war.

  11. In 1939, the Norwegian Government passed a royal decree which annexed the region between Coast Land and Enderbery Land. This was passed 6 days before the first German flight over the area.

  12. Operation Highjump (US), involving 13 ships and numerous aircraft, carried out aerial photography on Princess Astrid, Ragnhild and Prince Harald Coast in 1946-47.

  13. John Giaver (Norwegian) lead the Norwegian/British/Swedish Expedition in 1949-52. The team spent two winters at Maudheim and carried out the first inland surveys of DML. Geological, glaciological and topographical surveys were carried out. Aircraft were used to photograph large areas of the inland mountains.

  14. The International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58 saw a team lead by Luncke (Norwegian) and based at Norway Station, close to the SANAE III base. They conducted observations in meteorology, atmospheric science and glaciology. Extensive aerial photography was carried out and the resulting maps published by the Norsk Polar Institute are still the basis of current maps.

  15. The first South African National Antarctic Expedition was led by Hannes le Grange and  overwintered at the Norway Station in 1960.

  16. The first SANAE base (SANAE I) was built in 1962, very near the Norway Station. Since any base built on the ice shelf slowly moves with the ice shelf out to sea and gets covered by snow, SANAE I to III had a finite life span. SANAE I was a simple wood structure, erected on a wooden raft that served as a foundation.

  17. In 1969, an inland field base was established at the Borga mountains, 350 km south of SANAE I. From here most of the present areas of South African interest were investigated. This base closed in 1976.

  18. SANAE II was built in 1970-71 to replace SANAE I. Again a simple structure very similar to its predecessor was built, which by that time was buried under many meters of snow and ice. SANAE II suffered a similar fate.

  19. SANAE III was built in 1978-79. It consisted of large diameter steel pipes, designed to more easily resist the enormous pressure imposed by the steadily increasing mass of snow. A new field base to support the summer activities, was built at Grunehogna and christened "Sarie Marais". Sarie Marias was about 200 km south of SANAE III at the foot of the Grunehogna Mountains.

  20. When SANAE III started showing signs of structural collapse, it became necessary for the SANAP managers to initiate the planning of a new base to ensure South Africa's continued participation in activities on the continent. After receipt of the draft documentation of the Madrid Protocol of October 1991, it was decided to adhere as strictly as possible to Articles 1 and 2 of Annex 1 of the Protocol that deal with Environmental Impact Assessment. A feasibility study was conducted by consulting engineers and the following were considered as options for a new base:

    • A sea base utilizing a second hand drilling platform;
    • A sea front base in a natural bay;
    • A new base at the existing SANAE III base or
    • A new base on an inland nunatak (rocky outcrop)

Construction of SanaeIV
Construction of the New SanaeIV base

Completer SanaeIV base
Completed SanaeIV base on Vesleskarvet