Search for story behind mystery Antarctic cricket bat

Expeditioner demonstrating the signed cricket bat in use
Signed cricket bat (Photo: Justin Chambers)
Close-up of signed cricket batClose-up of the base of the signed cricket batClose-up of the top of the signed cricket batTom Maggs outside in the snow with a huskyTom Maggs with his face being licked by a huskyExpeditioner batting

A cricket mystery story is unfolding in Antarctica this Australia Day, after the discovery of a unique bat signed by the 1988 Australian and Sri Lankan test teams.

The rare piece of cricketing memorabilia surfaced at Casey research station a few years ago, after apparently being missing for several decades.

According to the bat’s inscription, it was signed in February 1988 during the Australia-Sri Lanka test at the WACA Ground in Perth, which Australia won by an innings and 108 runs.

With Australia playing Sri Lanka in Brisbane today, the bat will be removed from its glass display case at Casey station, for a special ceremonial appearance at the traditional Australia Day cricket match on the ice.

The bat bears the moniker of late eighties cricket legends like Alan Border, David Boon, Merv Hughes, Aravinda de Silva, Ranjan Madugalle and Arjuna Ranatunga.

It was dedicated to the “past and future Antarctic Expeditioners on the opening of the new Casey Station [in] 1988.”

Several theories have been put forward to explain its origin, and research by staff at the Australian Antarctic Division has turned up a few interesting clues.

Former expeditioners from the period say the bat almost certainly arrived in Antarctica with the late Tom Maggs, a much loved and respected dog handler and station leader at Casey.

In a surprising twist, Tom later became the father-in-law of an Australian cricket captain, when his daughter Bonnie married Tim Paine in 2016.

The rest of the story, including who gathered the signatures and how the bat made its way into Tom’s possession, remains a mystery to be solved.

The forecast for today’s game is cool, but sunny, with a low chance of blizzard delays.

The Australia Day cricket match is a perennial highlight of Antarctic expeditioners’ social calendar, with a traditional barbecue and dip in the freezing ocean likely to round out the day’s activities.

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