Antarctica is a special place, and so are its surrounding seas. The region’s ‘other-world’ qualities — astounding ice formations, dangerous winds and numbing cold, vast fields of sea-ice, auroral spectaculars and stormy ocean waters — along with the unique and abundant wildlife of the Southern Ocean would be enough to justify this special status.
When we also consider the enormous contribution of the Antarctic to our knowledge of global processes, and its capacity to influence these processes, we have to acknowledge that understanding and protecting the Antarctic is a real imperative for Australia and the world.
I feel honoured to have been asked to take responsibility for Australia’s work in the Antarctic. The Australian program in Antarctica, long known for its enterprise, innovation and high-quality science, is now focusing attention on how we protect Antarctica’s natural qualities. This, in turn, can provide pointers to managing our global environment.
In addressing such weighty issues, we are finding that our answers come from small things. The signals we get from electronic probes into the atmosphere and ocean, from ice, soil and seawater sampling, from assessing penguin movements and contents of trawl nets, from close study of plant communities under sea ice or on subantarctic outposts, from what happens to our waste in Antarctica — all these and more are the sources of our steadily growing understanding of why Antarctica is so important to us.
To turn our back on the Antarctic is to turn our back on our own future. It’s as simple as that.
Dr Sharman Stone MP
Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Antarctic