An Antarctic celebrity who disappeared in mysterious circumstances is heading south again with the help of Guide Dogs Tasmania.

In 1991 a fibreglass collection dog, belonging to Guide Dogs Tasmania, became part of Antarctic folklore when she was stolen by expeditioners and smuggled south on the icebreaker Aurora Australis.

Given the name Stay, it quickly became a challenge for expeditioners from other stations to try and ‘dognap’ her and then boast of the heist by radio or more recently, by sending photos of her in her new home.

“The whole ethos around Stay was you tried to steal her and take her to another location,” Australian Antarctic Division chef and water craft operator Noel Tennant said.

 “She’d be at a station and people there would think ‘well this is her home now’ but no-one owns Stay and before long she’d disappear and turn up somewhere else.

“I’ve seen her slung under a helicopter in a cage pallet, I’ve seen her stashed in the back of a helicopter between Davis and Mawson on a so-called day trip.”

Stay visited every Australian Antarctic station, including sub-Antarctic Heard, McDonald and Macquarie Islands and even travelled internationally.

 “She fits into an Australia Post bag and that’s one of the ways she’s been sent from one place to another,” Mr Tennant said.

“She lost a leg during the shenanigans and one of our carpenters crafted a beautiful prosthetic wooden leg for her. She’s had a lot of adventures.”

The battered fibreglass dog was on the final voyage of the icebreaker Aurora Australis back to Hobart and then found her way to Europe. 

Stay on Nuyina delivery voyage

“Somehow she magically appeared in the Netherlands and made the maiden voyage on RSV Nuyina,” former expeditioner Lauren Wise said.

“It was really nice having that connection from the old to the new. She symbolises a kind of childlike playfulness and fun.”

A few years later, while on Macquarie Island, Stay disappeared and despite multiple searches, hasn’t been seen since.

It was a loss for the expeditioner community and for the guide dog charity itself, which has received nearly $3,000 in donations over the years from expeditioners in penance for stealing her in the first place.

Noel Tennant is heading south on RSV Nuyina’s Macquarie Island resupply voyage, which leaves next Tuesday, and asked Guide Dogs Tasmania if they were open to providing a replacement. They were. 

“While we don't condone the unauthorised relocation of our beloved collection dogs, Stay has undeniably brought joy, excitement and positivity to expeditioners, all while raising valuable funds for Guide Dogs Tasmania, for which we are immensely grateful,” Anna Presser, chief executive of Guide Dogs Tasmania said. 

“We’re delighted to continue Stay's legacy by providing a successor and eagerly anticipate following her adventures.”

Skulduggery and subterfuge

Brendan Hopkins is voyage leader and will share his cabin with the replacement Stay for the three-day trip.

“It will be really fun to have her back,” he said.

“There was always a bit of skulduggery and subterfuge, getting her from ship to shore and station to station.

“If you’d successfully captured Stay that would really boost station morale because we’d have her and the others didn’t.”

For the incoming Macquarie Island team – be warned. Stay may be yours to start with but you’ll have to work hard to keep her.