Islands to Ice exhibition

A new permanent exhibition celebrating Antarctica and the Southern Ocean opened at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery on 7 March. Islands to Ice: The great Southern Ocean and Antarctica was opened by the Tasmanian Minister for Arts, Lara Giddings, with some 450 invited guests in attendance. The opening was timed to coincide with the 94th anniversary of Roald Amundsen’s telegram to the world, sent from the Hobart GPO in 1912, announcing his successful journey to the South Pole.

The exhibition has five main themes:

  • Earliest perceptions: brings the narrative of the earliest human perceptions of the region to life through multimedia.
  • The Southern Ocean: presents still and moving images of the Southern Ocean, focusing on its role in climate. A huge diorama reveals the diversity of animal species in this region, from a bait-ball of fish to sleeper sharks, albatrosses and shearwaters.
  • The subantarctic islands: highlights two main subantarctic island groups under Australian jurisdiction — Macquarie Island and the Heard and McDonald islands — and briefly describes and illustrates 24 other subantarctic island groups.
  • Antarctica: the continent of ice: explores the different forms of ice, describes Antarctic flora and fauna, examines some of the scientific material used in Antarctica, and includes displays such as an ice-core sample and a touch drawer of animal specimens.
  • Humans in the Antarctic region: explores why people go to the Antarctic region and how they live once they are there. Artefacts from various expeditions are presented in the gallery, including early navigation instruments, whaling equipment, provisions lists, letters, paintings, personal items, and a sled from Borchgrevink’s pioneering 1898 expedition. There’s also the first Australian flag flown at the South Pole. Large objects include celestial and terrestrial globes, a blubber press from Heard Island, figureheads, scrimshaw, historic maps and documents, and a scale model of Mawson’s hut at Commonwealth Bay.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a 3D theatrette that gives viewers the feeling that they’re standing inside photographs taken by Frank Hurley during Mawson’s 1911-14 expedition. The images are part of a larger, rarely seen collection taken by Hurley using a stereoscopic camera and brought to life by academic Peter Morse (a recent AAD Arts Fellow) and Paul Bourke of the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.

The new exhibition is open from 10–5 daily except for Christmas Day, Good Friday and Anzac Day.

MICHELLE NICHOLS, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery