Tim Bowden is a broadcaster, radio and television documentary maker, historian and author. A former Tasmanian, he is well known for hosting the ABC-TV listener and viewer reaction program Backchat from 1986 to 1994.

Tim Bowden has been broadcasting, writing and researching Australian activities in Antarctica, following his first visit to Mawson, Davis and Casey stations under the Antarctic Division’s Humanities Program on Icebird in 1989.

In 1993 he was commissioned by the Antarctic Division to write the official history of ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions) The Silence Calling — Australians in Antarctica 1947–97, published in June, 1997.

Bowden also presented six half-hour documentaries Breaking the Ice (on then-current ANARE operations) on ABC-TV in 1996, and wrote and narrated a second documentary The Silence Calling in 1997, as a companion to his written history. He has now visited Antarctica eight times as a journalist and film maker, and guest historian on tourist voyages to the Ross Sea, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Tim Bowden received an Order of Australia for services to public broadcasting in June 1994. In May 1997 he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Tasmania.

Antarctic impression

“As a boy growing up in Hobart I used to dream of going to Antarctica, as I watched the little red ‘Dan’ ships head down the Derwent River in the late 1950s on their voyages of re-supply and exploration.

It was simply not possible for ‘outsiders’ to visit the ANARE stations until the 1980s because the ships could only accommodate the expeditioners. This changed when larger ships like Icebird and Aurora Australis became available, and the remarkable Humanities program enabled artists, writers, journalists and camera crews to make what must be one of the last great journeys left on the face of the earth.

The memories of my first visit in 1989 to Mawson, Casey and Davis are strangely still more powerful than any experienced on subsequent visits. First impressions tend to be like that. The huskies were still at Mawson, the old wooden mess hut was still in use — although the massive two-storey centrally heated ‘red’ and ‘green’ sheds were under construction. Not knowing then that I would become the ANARE Jubilee historian, I was lucky to experience how things had been since the early 1950s, before re-building and modernisation transformed the stations.

This experience transformed my personal and professional life, and I was to immerse myself in Antarctic history until the advent of the 21st Century — and beyond.

ANARE’s first Director, Dr Phillip Law, has best described the intense personal legacy of a sea voyage to Antarctica:

“I think most who go to the Antarctic for any length of time go through some sort of personal reassessment. A sense of feeling infinitesimally small in the face of the magnitude of nature.”