In brief

Change of Government

A federal election in November 2007 resulted in a change of government, with a new Prime Minister, new ministers and new government departments. The Australian Antarctic Division is now part of the Department of the Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts and the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Mr Peter Garrett.

Pew Fellowship

A flexible fisheries model that provides for an ecosystem approach to krill management will be the focus of Dr Andrew Constable's research this year, after he was awarded the prestigious 2008 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation.

Dr Constable’s research, conducted through the Australian Antarctic Division’s Southern Ocean Ecosystems program, will ensure that the rapidly growing Antarctic krill fishery will not impact negatively on the recovery of threatened whale populations or the survival of other Antarctic creatures.

'As factors such as predator numbers, krill abundance and climatic conditions change over time, this computer-based model will allow us to see the impact of tightening or loosening krill fishery restrictions so that we can minimise negative effects on the Antarctic ecosystem,' he said.

Australia Day Awards

Australia Day Awards were this year presented to the 26-member Australian Delegation to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The team was made up of members from a number of government departments and industry groups, including 11 from the Australian Antarctic Division. The award recognises the delegation's significant contribution to the conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources through their individual and collective efforts in CCAMLR and its Scientific Committee.

Antarctic Division sea ice scientist, Dr Tony Worby, was also recognised for his role as Chief Scientist and Voyage Leader of the highly successful Sea Ice Physics and Ecosystems Experiment (SIPEX), conducted between September and October 2007.

New pocket ‘doctor’ for first aid in Antarctica

Expeditioners in the Australian Antarctic program (AAp) now have a new pocket guide to first aid to call upon. The seventh edition of the Australian Antarctic First Aid Manual, released in April, provides a succinct yet comprehensive guide to managing most conditions encountered in Antarctica, such as frostbite, broken bones, altitude sickness and appendicitis. The manual was authored by former Senior Medical Officer, Dr Peter Gormly (now retired), of the Australian Antarctic Division's Polar Medicine Unit (PMU), with contributions from past and present medical officers in the PMU.

Because of the remote and hostile nature of Antarctica the manual includes advice and procedures beyond the usual limits of first aid, such as stitching up wounds and administering injections and oxygen. The manual builds on and updates medical advice incorporated in previous editions — the first of which was published in 1979 as the ANARE First Aid Manual. The new edition takes into consideration new Australian Resuscitation Council Guidelines, updated cold injury management guidelines, changes in AAp medical support kits, and includes new chapters on mental health first aid and recognition of altitude illness in the deep field.

World Meteorological Day

Australian meteorological staff in Antarctica released a weather balloon from the historic balloon shed at Wilkes (near Casey), to commemorate World Meteorological Day on 23 March. The theme for this year's event was 'Observing our Planet for a Better future', which underscored the importance of monitoring meteorological and hydrological phenomena to help countries achieve sustainable economic development. World Meteorological Day commemorates the entry into force of the World Meteorological Organisation, which is designated as a specialised agency of the United Nations System.

Vale Edith Fanta

On 7 May 2008, Dr Edith Fanta of Brazil lost her battle with cancer. Dr Fanta was well known in the Antarctic science community and served with distinction in both the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). She was the Chair of CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee from 2005 until her death. Her dedication to Antarctic science and her enthusiasm for the work of SCAR and CCAMLR were considerable. She was a friend to us all and will be greatly missed.

Advice-bound in Antarctica

Twenty years ago Peter Beck, a well published observer of Antarctic affairs, described Antarctica as 'a continent surrounded by advice'. While somewhat tongue in cheek, it is true that there is no shortage of ideas to guide the response of Antarctic policy makers to the unique challenges of Antarctic affairs. Two recent books illustrate the point — one from the perspective of the environmental lobbyist, the other from that of academic commentators.

In his book Antarctica: securing its heritage for the whole world, Geoff Mosley makes the case for inscribing Antarctica on the World Heritage List. The book recognises past achievements in Antarctic environmental protection, but argues that these measures fall short without Antarctic World Heritage listing. Antarctic Treaty parties would not disagree about Antarctica’s values, but are skeptical of the application of the World Heritage convention — they take the stance that because of the special legal and political circumstances of the Antarctic, special arrangements need to apply. Mosley takes a more optimistic view and suggests options for overcoming the likely objections.

Looking South: Australia's Antarctic agenda is an edited collection of papers presented at seminars that looked at Antarctic policy from the Australian perspective. The project reflected on the 20 years that had passed since the publication of Australia's Antarctic policy options in 1986 and considered the way ahead. The papers examine issues relating to Australian approaches to Antarctic policy issues, such as sovereignty, influence in the Antarctic Treaty, enforcement of law in Antarctica, scientific challenges, climate change, management of tourism, and Southern Ocean fishing.

Both volumes address contemporary issues relevant to policy makers and illustrate the range of perspectives that inform the development of Antarctic policy. Through forums such as the Antarctic Treaty, such commentary can influence how the international community responds to Antarctic issues. While many issues may not have simple solutions, the advice that surrounds Antarctic affairs demonstrates the willingness of others to engage positively in Antarctic policy debate.

Geoff Mosley’s book is published by Envirobook in the Viewpoints series. Looking South is published by Federation Press.

Candle power for Earth Hour

Australia's Antarctic stations were lit by candle power for one hour during Earth Hour on Saturday 29 March. The Earth Hour initiative, which aims to raise awareness of the contribution of coal-fired power to greenhouse gas emissions, originated in Sydney last year. Staff on our Antarctic stations are always seeking ways to reduce energy consumption and minimise waste. For example, equipment and lights are turned off when not in use, wind turbines at Mawson reduce the station's reliance on fossil fuels, solar power is used at Davis in summer for hot water and the laundry, and powdered and concentrated food and drink are used to reduce plastic packaging.

75 years of the Australian Antarctic Territory

February 2008 marked the 75th anniversary of the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT). At approximately 5 800 000 sq km in size, the AAT is the largest territorial claim on the continent and covers much of east Antarctica.

The Australian claim is based on discovery and a long historical association with this part of Antarctica. South Australian geologist, Douglas Mawson, led the 1911–1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition, which established bases at Commonwealth Bay and the Shackleton Ice Shelf. The expedition explored extensively along the coast and claimed the land as British territory. From 1929 to 1931 further claims to sovereignty were made by the British, Australian and New Zealand Expedition, again led by Douglas Mawson.

On 7 February 1933, the British Government issued an Order-in-Council, placing the Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia. To give effect to the Order-in-Council the Australian Parliament passed the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act 1933. The Act came into operation by Proclamation in 1936. Adélie Land was defined in 1938 as comprising the area between 136ºE and 142ºE and, accordingly, the AAT comprises two ‘sectors'.

The Australian Antarctic Division’s 75th Anniversary website has a range of images, maps and documents from the early expeditions, video footage of Douglas Mawson reading a proclamation, and links to further information on the Antarctic Treaty.


On page 28 of Issue 13 of the Australian Antarctic Magazine a photo was incorrectly captioned as being of Don Butling when it was actually Don’s colleague, Harry Black. The editor apologises for this mistake and thanks Don for providing a new photo (right).