In brief

Nella Dan aground on jagged Macquarie Island rocks
Nella Dan aground on jagged Macquarie Island rocks
Dr Jeff AytonGrey-headed Albatross on its nest overlooking the shoreCover image of Health of Antarctic Wildlife book.Cover of Geoff Mosley's book, Saving the Antarctic WildernessPhil Law and his book with Major Ian ToohillCover photo of Robyn Mundy's first book, The Nature of Ice.Tom Griffith's award-winning book 'Slicing the Silence'McMurdo station

Funding extended for ACE CRC

The Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) has received $20.1 million for a further five years of research. The funding will enable the CRC to build on its research into the role of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in global climate and the impact of climate change on the region, and to provide policy- and decision-makers with scientific information. The ACE CRC was one of 10 successful bidders for $243 million in CRC program funding, announced in August 2009. The ACE CRC is a collaboration between four core partners – the Australian Antarctic Division, CSIRO, the University of Tasmania and the Bureau of Meteorology – and a number of supporting partners.

Bravery awards

Former Australian Antarctic expeditioners involved in the rescue of passengers from the stricken resupply ship, Nella Dan, at Macquarie Island 22 years ago, have been honoured with an Australian Bravery Decoration.

The Group Citation for Bravery has been awarded to five men: Kenneth Stanley Barrington, Dudley Raymond Crowe, Timothy Gay, Gregory Dale Kenny and Alistair Andrew Scott. The men were members of the 35th Water Transport Squadron, attached to the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions, when the accident occurred on the evening of December 3, 1987.

The Nella Dan was anchored off the station at Macquarie Island when strong winds and huge seas caused her to drag anchor. The ship's hull ploughed into the rocky sea floor, bursting a fuel tank. The members of the Squadron sprang into action, sailing three Light Amphibious Resupply Craft into the huge seas to evacuate almost 80 Antarctic expeditioners and ship's crew.

The awards will be presented to the recipients by Her Excellency Governor General Ms Quentin Bryce AC at ceremonies in early 2010.

Director’s Awards 2009

During midwinter celebrations this year Australian Antarctic Division Director, Lyn Maddock, presented Director’s Awards to:

  • Simon Langdon, for exemplary attitude and work ethic in providing high quality support for air and seas cargo operations, and for Antarctic and subantarctic voyages and flights.
  • Matthew Sutton, for excellence in financial advice and support. Matthew was instrumental in preparing the new policy proposal for additional funding for the Antarctic Division, announced in the 2009 Federal budget.
  • Ian Phillips, for commitment and professional support to station life, in particular science related communications.

Antarctic doctor heads rural and remote medicine college

The Australian Antarctic Division’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jeff Ayton, has been elected the new President of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM). Dr Ayton has been ACRRM's Tasmanian Director since 2008 and will take over the national role from Associate Professor Dennis Pashen. 

Dr Ayton is a rural GP obstetrician and anaesthetist and has been Chief Medical Officer at the Antarctic Division for seven years. 

The College is the peak professional organisation for rural and remote medicine, providing training and education. It represents about 2500 Fellows, Registrars, practitioners and students across Australia.

Grey-headed albatross receives greater protection

The threatened status of the grey-headed albatross has been upgraded from vulnerable to endangered under national environmental law, as the species continues to face threats from fishing and habitat degradation.

Globally, the greatest threat to the species is accidental bycatch from longline, trawl, drift‑netting and trolling fisheries, and from degradation of breeding habitat by introduced species (such as rabbits on Macquarie Island).

Within Australian waters, the threat abatement plan has significantly reduced albatross bycatch in Australian Government-managed longline fisheries. But the species remains at high risk from other fisheries, especially those operating on the high seas, outside Australian jurisdiction.

The threatened status up-listing gives the species greater protection, because activities that adversely affect the birds are more likely to trigger national environment law. A new recovery plan is also being prepared.

Health of Antarctic Wildlife

Health of Antarctic Wildlife: A challenge for Science and Policy is a new book published by Springer and edited by Australian Antarctic Division scientists Dr Knowles Kerry and Dr Martin Riddle. The book provides a broad assessment of the health of Antarctica’s birds and seals, set against the background of available scientific and environmental information and the political and administrative processes in place.

The book was conceived during an international workshop on diseases of Antarctic wildlife held in Hobart. The workshop acknowledged that there had not been a disease outbreak in Antarctica that was positively attributed to human activity, but found that ‘there was a significant risk of the introduction of (exotic) diseases to Antarctic wildlife species and should it occur the consequences are likely to be serious and a response will be required’. The book is based on the papers presented at the workshop and also chronicles subsequent developments within the Antarctic Treaty and responses by Government and non-Government operators in Antarctica to protect wildlife against disease introduction. The 17 chapters are divided into two parts: Wildlife disease, which consists of reviews, case studies and health assessments; and External factors, which covers the environmental, administrative and legal aspects. The Appendices include methods for sample collection and analysis, response plans, reviews and other documents that are referred to in the book but are not readily available.

The book aims to cover the essential issues necessary for understanding health and disease relating to Antarctic wildlife and to provide ‘wise council’ in the management of human activities in Antarctica. It is targeted at veterinary and biological scientists, policy makers and administrators involved in protecting the health of Antarctic wildlife.

The book is available through a range of online outlets including Springer or by contacting martin.riddle@aad.gov.au 

Who saved Antarctica?

Twenty years ago the course of Antarctic history was changed when Australia announced it could not support the prospect of mining in Antarctica. Its May 1989 decision rejected the Antarctic minerals convention painstakingly negotiated by the Antarctic Treaty over the preceding six years. This action triggered a two-year diplomatic campaign resulting in adoption of the Madrid Protocol, which banned mining and ensured protection of the Antarctic environment. Various people and organisations have claimed credit for this turn of events, and others have pointed to the influence of external events such as the catastrophic loss of the Exxon Valdez in the Arctic. In Saving the Antarctic Wilderness Geoff Mosley tells the story from the perspective of one arm of the environment movement. The book makes the case that action to protect Antarctica is not complete until the continent is World Heritage listed. But that issue, which many would argue is politically unachievable and legally unnecessary, does not detract from the book. Mosley's revealing insights into how domestic environmental politics contributed to changing management of Antarctica is a story well worth telling. Saving the Antarctic Wilderness – the Pivotal Role in its Complete Protection (Envirobook, 2009) is available from Envirobook for $19.95.

Andrew Jackson, Honorary Fellow, ACE CRC

Oral history of Dr Phillip Law’s life published

The extraordinary life and times of Antarctic explorer and former Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Dr Phillip Law, has been recorded in a new book published by The Royal Societies of Australia and author, Major Ian Toohill. Dr Phillip Garth Law: his extraordinary life and times is based on many recorded interviews with Dr Law and his wife Nel between 1984 and 2007. Among his many achievements, the now 97-year old Dr Law led the Antarctic Division for 19 years and established Australia's three Antarctic stations. Major Toohill's book focuses particularly on this time and Dr Law's formative years, with a briefer section covering his later years. The original sound tapes and later videotapes have been deposited in the National Library of Australia. The book joins a growing collection published by Dr Law and others about his life and Antarctica. The book can be ordered from The Royal Societies of Australia for $45 (electronic order form or fax +61 (0)3 5489 3295) and is available at selected book shops.

Novel research

Former Antarctic expeditioner, Robyn Mundy, has published her first novel, The Nature of Ice, which tells the story of modern-day summer expeditioners at Davis, alongside the hardships and tragedies encountered by Douglas Mawson and his men. The two eras are linked by reproductions of Frank Hurley's iconic photographs from 1911–13 and extracts from early expeditioners' diaries and Mawson's letters.

Robyn's research for the novel included a visit to Mawson's Huts, and reading Xavier Mertz's journal and archived journals and papers from the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.

Robyn recently spent a year as a field assistant at the Auster emperor penguin rookery (near Mawson). Her stunning photograph of an emperor penguin huddle featured on the cover of issue 15 of this magazine. In this issue, one of her photos is featured in Freeze Frame. Robyn has made some 40 trips to Antarctica and her book draws on her impressions, observations and experiences of the continent. The Nature of Ice is published by Allen & Unwin and costs $26.99.

Australian Antarctic Arts Fellow wins PM's Prize

Former Australian Antarctic Arts Fellow, Tom Griffiths, was jointly awarded the Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History for 2008. Professor Griffiths won the $100 000 award for his book Slicing the Silence: Voyaging to Antarctica, written after his trip to Antarctica in 2002–03. The prize recognises outstanding publications which contribute significantly to the understanding of Australia's history.

Funding for Mawson’s Huts conservation

The ongoing conservation of Mawson’s Huts at Cape Denison received a boost in October with $486 000 in funding from the Federal Government’s Australia Jobs Fund. The money will fund two long-term and nine short-term jobs to remove ice and snow from the interior of the huts and recover, conserve and catalogue historic artefacts.

First flight to Casey via McMurdo

Australia’s Antarctic summer season began with a flight to Casey station via the United States’ McMurdo station in October.

Forty-nine Australian Antarctic Division personnel were on the flight including runway construction crew, station support and scientists.

The Antarctic Division’s Aviation Manager, Steve Daw, said the idea behind the early flight was to get Wilkins Runway operational early.

‘It takes about four weeks to get the runway prepared, so being able to get our construction crew in there early means our summer season can start sooner,’ Mr Daw said.

‘It also means the shipping program can be more flexible as the Aurora Australis doesn’t have to go to Casey and we are able to get station support staff in early to help prepare for the upcoming season.’

Antarctic conference

The University of Tasmania will host ‘Antarctic Visions’, a conference examining Antarctica from a cultural perspective, from 21–23 June 2010. Drawing on the arts, social sciences and humanities, the conference will focus attention on the ways we perceive and represent Antarctica. Connections with other disciplines – particularly scientific disciplines – are encouraged, as are new approaches to familiar challenges, such as the whaling and climate change debates. While the primary focus of the conference is on Antarctica, papers which combine Antarctic and Arctic material are welcome. Please email your paper (with short abstract) and panel proposals (including a brief biography for each participant) to Ralph.Crane@utas.edu.au by Friday 26 February 2010.

Station Leaders 2009–10

Casey – Narelle Campbell. Narelle has 23 years experience in print media, covering logistics, sales and marketing in senior management roles. She began her career at Rural Press Limited before moving to Fairfax Media where she was National Circulation Manager for Fairfax Business Media for seven years. In 2005 she became National Manager, Income Development, for Mission Australia. Narelle has degrees in social science and counselling and has worked as a volunteer for Missionbeat in Sydney, providing support to homeless people. Narelle has walked the Kokoda Track and completed high altitude climbs in Nepal, India, Africa and Chile. She was the Station Leader at Mawson in 2007–08.

Davis – Mike Woolridge (summer). Mike is originally from the United Kingdom and has degrees in electrical and electronic engineering and environmental science and a Diploma in Mountain Guiding. He has worked at the Australian Antarctic Division since 2002 in a support and coordination role, working closely with station leaders. Mike has been south several times since 1993 and has worked at all of Australia's Antarctic and subantarctic stations. He was the Senior Field Training Officer at Davis for four summers between 2002 and 2006. Before joining the Division he worked in outdoor and tertiary education in Victoria. He met his wife in Antarctica and they have two children.

Mawson – Mike Craven. Mike (aka ‘Duk’) studied chemistry and physics at university and spent four years as a teacher and five years as a co-manager in the hotel industry in Ipswich (Queensland). He first went to Macquarie Island in 1983 as the upper atmospheric physicist and followed this experience with winters at Macquarie Island (1985), Davis (1988) and Mawson (1991). In 1994 he joined the Australian Antarctic Division as a member of the Lambert Glacier Basin traverse team. This was followed by six summers on the Amery Ice Shelf as leader of the AMISOR hot water drilling teams. He was part of the Wilkins Runway management team in 2008–09. Mike and his wife Chris have undertaken several cruises to the Ross Sea and Antarctic Peninsula, where Mike acted as guide and lecturer aboard tourist vessels.

Macquarie Island – Jeremy Smith (winter). Jeremy spent 26 years in academia as a lecturer and later, Associate Professor at the University of New England in Armidale, NSW, where he specialised in biogeography and environmental studies. He has undertaken field research in Papua New Guinea, Sabah, Venezuela and eastern Australia and has authored more than 100 scientific publications in biogeography. This year marks Jeremy’s sixth year as a station leader, after previous stints on Macquarie Island in 1996, Davis in 2001 and 2003, and Casey in 2005 and 2007.