The closest I will ever get to Antartica!

Hobart is a charming town, friendly, historical, easy to get around. It is the capital city of Australia’s island state, Tasmania. That makes it the most southern Australian city, right down on the edge of the Southern Ocean. I was there for four days with my delightful Mum and it was rather chilly! But while the air was cold, it was so fresh, as though no one had breathed it before!

The snow on Mt Wellington is nothing for those of you who live in snowy environments. For me it was a joy to look up at the mount and see the dusting of snow on top.

Snowy Mt Wellington, from the Tasmanian Botanic Gardens (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

Snowy Mt Wellington, from the Tasmanian Botanic Gardens (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

We had a lovely time, my Mum and I. Let me tell you about my Antarctic adventures.

Hobart is home of the Australian Antarctic Division, and I was delighted to find lots about the Antarctic and Macquarie Island. I have a fascination for these extreme areas.

Map comparing the size of Antarctica with Australia

Map comparing the size of Antarctica with Australia

Map comparing the size of Antarctica with the USA

Map comparing the size of Antarctica with the USA

Like many, I have read, in the warmth and comfort of my armchair, about Shackleton and Scott and Mawson.

Mawson is one of the great polar explorers. This extract from his entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography gives the bare outline of his incredible survival on one expedition.

Mawson took charge of the Far Eastern expedition, which included B. E. S. Ninnis and X. Mertz, but was to become the most extraordinary epic of lone survival. When 310 miles (499 km) out, Ninnis, with sledge and dog team, broke through the lid of a large crevasse and disappeared. With seriously depleted provisions Mawson and Mertz began their return, progressively using their dogs to supplement their food supply. It was not known then that the dogs’ livers were very rich in Vitamin A and potentially toxic. After twenty-five days on the return journey, and the combined effects of hard physical exertion and starvation, this toxicity may have hastened Mertz’s death. Mawson, himself seriously debilitated, discarded everything that was not essential for survival, except his geological specimens and records of the journey. Using a pocket saw, he cut his sledge in half and dragged it unaided the last 100 miles (161 km), taking another thirty days to reach Main Base. As he approached he saw the Aurora on the horizon; she had come and gone. A small party had waited to search for him; they remained for another year.

Mawson was instrumental in building a hut at Cape Denison, know as Mawson’s hut. It is still down there, being blasted and eroded by the constant winds. A replica has been built on the Hobart waterfront.

The photo below is a close up of the roof. The hatch in the roof was often used as an entrance when the hut became snowbound.

(Photograph copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

(Photograph copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

I was quite excited to see the (replica) darkroom that Frank Hurley used. Hurley was the photographer on Shackleton’s voyage, and has produced some of the most iconic images from that heroic age of polar exploration.

(Photograph copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

(Photograph copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

Meet Moby and Welf. They were the last huskies to be on the Australian base. Pretty good taxidermy job.

(Photograph copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

(Photograph copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

The Australian Antarctic division is also responsible for Macquarie Island, a sub-antarctic island, isolated out in the Southern Ocean. Imagine how the wind rattles and roars around it.  The Tasmanian Botanic Gardens have a building designed to showcase plants from the island. Outside the plaque reads

The westerlies that batter Macquarie Island sweep almost uninhibited around the globe — apart from the scatter of subantarctic islands no land breaks the great expanse of the Southern Ocean.

The climate of this island is severe, but varies little. The temperature hovers around 4 degrees above and below zero summer and winter. It rains 320 days a year, with snow in any season. Low cloud, mist and fog are almost constant, with an average of only two and a half hours of sun each day. In such conditions subantarctic plants thrive.

IMG_2805

It was chilly in the little house, but the plants were certainly thriving. There were vents that blew cold, misty air.

The fabulous Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery had an absorbing section on the Antarctic and subantarctic islands. Macquarie Island is unique as it is formed, not by glaciation, but by the tectonic plates pushing the oceanic rocks to the surface. It is listed as a World Heritage Area and an international Biosphere Reserve.

Feral animals, brought by sealers, had been a real problem on the island. Over the last few years there was an intense programme to eradicate them. First there were baits, then tracker dogs were used to sniff out the last of the rabbits and rats. These dogs and their handlers roamed the Island, hunting down the remaining pests. Now it is believed that the Island is free of feral animals and the vegetation and wildlife is showing good signs of recovery. It is a great story and you can read it in more depth here.

And imagine my delight when I opened a draw and found herbarium specimens of plants from Macquarie!

I have since found out that there is an artist programme in Antarctica. I wonder if I should apply…….

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About anne54

Botanic artist
This entry was posted in Travels and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to The closest I will ever get to Antartica!

  1. katechiconi says:

    Start stocking up with thermals now! I bet you’re sorely tempted!

    Like

  2. You should definitely apply! That would be amazing!!!

    Like

  3. worksonpaperart says:

    A fascinating post Anne 🙂 Why not give it a try…

    Like

  4. EllaDee says:

    Of course you should! In the meantime you’ve given me ideas of interesting things to see in Hobart that I’d hadn’t known about 🙂 (except for Moby & Wolf, thank you for the head up, I know to steer clear… I don’t do dead things, no matter how well rendered…)

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  5. lot of information. Thanks for sharing

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  6. acflory says:

    lmao – you’d better stock up on thermal underwear if you’re serious about going to Macquarie Island! Great post, btw.

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    • anne54 says:

      If you are a successful applicant for the Antarctic Artist programme they loan you the proper Antarctic gear. Not much call for it in everyday Melbourne! Glad you like the post.

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      • acflory says:

        Wow… can you blog from down there??

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        • anne54 says:

          I have a Telstra SIM, which makes it a little easier. Also we have WiFi in the hall where we work. So I should be able to blog, and intend to. One of the issues is that I don’t like using the WordPress app to blog. It doesn’t show the pictures as images, just the long code. That confuses me, 😉 and I can’t do a gallery of photos.
          Neither of our phones are with Telstra, so phone coverage is limited. This time we have bought a cheap prepaid phone that has a blue tick ~ a larger antenna, so we are hoping that will solve the phone issues in an emergency.
          And just for a grumble…..I know that Menindee is fairly isolated, although not as much as many other places. But you would think that we could get the NBN up and running at a faster rate.

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          • acflory says:

            Ah I see now. 🙂 But what device are you using the WordPress app on? Phone? Tablet? Or PC? The PC one has 2 options – visual [which would show the pics] and text [which is basically for entering HTML coding. Not sure how it words on the mobile devices though.

            As for the NBN… don’t get me started. Menindee will probably get the NBN a decade before Warrandyte does. -sigh-

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          • anne54 says:

            I am using an iPad. I can go through the WordPress site (ie not the app) but then I have trouble with the text!

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          • acflory says:

            I’m feeling very luddite. I have a Kindle Fire for reading ebooks but that’s all I use it for. Do you use your tablet when you’re out and about?

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          • anne54 says:

            YOU a Luddite???!!! You must be one of the most techsavy people I know! Usually I only use it at home, in the lounge room etc, and access my home WiFi. I am using it more because I have the SIM card. It is a bit heavy to carry easily in my handbag. I am about to write a post. Unless all goes well you might hear the screams of frustration all the way from Menindee!

            Like

          • acflory says:

            hmm… no screams yet. 😀
            Seriously though, I think that may be my problem – no WiFi at home and no sim card so I’m not getting any of the really whiz bang features. This may have to change. 🙂

            Like

        • anne54 says:

          Sorry, I thought your comment was about Menindee, hence the rant above! I just realised that you were talking about Antartica. The coverage may well be better down there than in Outback NSW!!

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  7. Great post, Anne. Lots to think about. What a wonderful experience for you and your Mum to experience together.

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    • anne54 says:

      It was a delightful time with Mum, just the two of us. I am very lucky to have this time with her, and I cherish it. She is quite fit and loved walking around seeing all there was to be seen.

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  8. I enjoyed the details in your post. I’ve been to the Antarctica peninsular and South Georgia and that was a trip of a lifetime. But it would be fascinating to see the other side. I’d like to visit Hobart and follow in your footsteps.

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