The Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton experienced what many would consider the trip of a life time when it visited Antarctica as part of its 180 000km journey across 53 countries and 18 territories of the Commonwealth — the longest, most inclusive relay in the Games’ 76-year history.
The well-travelled baton, ably escorted by Shannon Stacey, and Games mascot ‘Karak’, the South Eastern Red-tailed Black cockatoo, were farewelled by Governor-General Major General Michael Jeffery and Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) staff, on board the Aurora Australis last December. A week into the voyage the baton sighted its first iceberg, an impressive 500m-long tabular berg, glimmering softly in the twilight.
The baton and Karak were kept busy throughout the voyage, meeting expeditioners and crew members who posed for official photos, some of which were posted on the Games website. On its arrival in Antarctica, the baton participated in a range of extreme sight-seeing activities, including a dive under the sea ice near Casey station and a helicopter flight. Antarctic expeditioners also escorted it on visits to Shirley Island and Browning Peninsula, where it encountered penguins and seals, and a trip to the abandoned Wilkes Station.
The Antarctic leg of the Queen’s Baton’s journey was coordinated by the AAD, while the Australian Government provided $15 million to fully fund the international and Australian legs of the relay. The baton’s trip to Antarctica provided an opportunity to showcase the work of the Australian Antarctic programme to the world, and to reaffirm Australia as a major participant in the Commonwealth.