My love and fascination for the Antarctic continent started 27 years ago at Eimeo Road State School in Mackay where I made a Year 2 school project for Mr Finney on Antarctica. I learned of the incredible creatures and the cold harsh climate in which they battle to survive.
Later in life, my apprentice master Kim Frost told me of his time spent in Antarctica. He described it as beautiful, pristine and untouched. Finally though, it was Blanche Renee D’Anastasi who sent me a screen shot of a ‘Jobs in Antarctica’ advertisement with a circle around it with the message “Oi, apply for this. Now”. Little did I know at the time this nudge from one of the most inspiring people in my life was the final piece of the puzzle which led me to the most beautiful and amazing journeys I could have ever imagined.
So, let me tell you a little bit about Blanchey. She is a marine biologist who studied sea snake ecology and conservation genomics and is a PhD scholar at James Cook University. She was a major contributor in securing the protection of the Coral Sea as a marine park and has also worked on sawfish and mangrove conservation in Borneo. She is also a Lane Beachley ‘Aim for the Stars’ scholarship awardee in support of her program called Deadly Science. This program is about ‘elevating the role of indigenous women from remote communities in science and leadership through field science in wild places’. By bringing together science and tradition Blanchey helps these young women ignite their spark to become leaders and role models to future generations.
Blanche is goal driven and has featured in stories covered by The Project, ABC news, radio interviews, podcasts and countless news articles, all centred around her passion for marine science and conservation as she builds a reputation as a force in the science and conservation community. Most of all though, Blanchey is passionate about wildlife. She has taken in, cared for and rehabilitated fruit bats, micro bats, frogs (some rare and endangered), mammals and reptiles, including sea snakes. Blanche is an ambassador for women in science and is also a talented artist. She is the most loving, caring and fiercely loyal human I know and she also happens to be my big sister.
So, you are all probably wondering why I felt the need to feature my sister in my Icy News article and the reason is this: she is the reason I am down here. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be able to tell you about learning to abseil down a cliff, or learning the skills for technical search and rescue in the most remote part of the world. I wouldn’t be able to tell you about the iceberg cruise swerving through the massive icebergs past the penguin colonies watching the chocolate brown baby Adèlies chasing the adults all over the islands for a feed and finally moving up beside the Sørsdal Glacier. It is because of that message from Blanche I can tell you of the incredible people I have met and had the absolute privilege of working and living beside for the past 9 months. Especially Dr Meg who is currently training me to be a competent surgical assistant and also helped me write this article.
So, if you need inspiration to take a leap of faith and do something life changing like coming to Antarctica or whatever your life passion is, look to the people who inspire you, or even use my inspiration on Instagram @seasnakeBlanche. I hope one day I can give someone inspiration to do something great and I hope if you are reading this you can do the same.
Luke D'Anastasi (Antarctic Expedition Mechanic)