New book brings icebreaker legacy to life

Through Ice & Fire book cover showing photo of Aurora Australis in sea ice.
'Through Ice & Fire' helps mark 30 years of Antarctic service for Australia’s icebreaking ship Aurora Australis. (Photo: Pan Macmillan)
Sarah during her trip to Davis research station in 2017 standing on the sea ice at the bow of the Aurora Australis.

A tale of ice, fire, heaving seas and human endeavour, will help mark 30 years of Antarctic service for Australia’s icebreaking ship Aurora Australis.

Through Ice & Fire, published today by Pan Macmillan, was written by former Deputy Voyage Leader and scientist, Sarah Laverick. Sarah is also a member of the family who built the icebreaker in their Newcastle shipyard.

“My husband’s family regaled me with astounding stories of the problems they faced during the icebreaker’s construction,” Sarah said.

“This inspirational seed eventually grew into an overwhelming urge to tell the Aurora’s story.”

To help with her research for the book, Sarah visited the Australian Antarctic Division several times and travelled to Davis research station on the Aurora Australis in late 2017.

She interviewed dozens of voyage leaders, scientists, captains, crew, engineers and many others involved in the ship’s history. Sarah also pored through family scrapbooks, voyage reports, library and image archives and much more.

“I struggled under the weight of this mixed blessing,” she said.

“The hardest part was deciding what not to include in a single readable book about the ship.”

While the book is structured around the dramatic voyages in the ship’s 30 year history, Sarah said these events were the exception rather than the rule, with much of the Aurora’s life an “exercise in quiet, routine accomplishment”.

Today, Sarah’s efforts are rewarded with the publication of what is, essentially, an inspirational human story in the face of besetments, rescues, strandings, earthquakes, fires and explosions.

Through Ice & Fire is available in all good book stores and from Pan Macmillan