Meet the man who keeps the lights on at Mawson

Interview with a Mawson Sparky (Mr Geoffrey Wallace)

Is this your first trip to Antarctica? What brings you here?
No, my first attempt at coming south was when I was 21 and still an apprentice electrician — they didn’t want me. I persisted and was lucky enough to get the summer of 1984/85, which was quickly followed with a winter in 1986. Then there was a long gap before wintering again at Davis in 2015, then at Macquarie Island in 2017, and now at Mawson in 2019.

What is it like being an electrician here?
The work ranges from somewhat tedious periodical testing to being totally under the pump when it’s “Oh no, the Main Power House has just stopped”.

If not a Sparky what job would you do?
When I was younger it would have been a carpenter. Now that I’m not so young, it would be a furniture maker.

Best gig as a Sparky?
Working in the Antarctic of course.

What have been your best experiences in Antarctica?
Traveling to Amanda Bay in 1986 closely followed by a helicopter trip from Davis to the Larsemann Hills. Living on Macquarie Island was a David Attenborough experience everyday.

What do you love about Antarctica?
It’s not Melbourne. To be honest just walking outside every day is worth it. Also, the life style here is very simple, it’s like living in a small village.

Who inspires you?
My father, he’s a good man.

What have you learned living in a small community?
There is always something to do. If you get a chance to do something just do it.

If you were a car, what car would you be?
I’d like to be a Bentley R-Type Petersen 6½ ltr Supercharged Road Racer (look it up). I feel I’m more an old Land Rover, lots of faults but you just don’t want to get rid of it.

What is the ‘must have’ item that you packed for Antarctica?
My wife (Jan is the Station Doc)…closely followed by a selection of single malt whiskey, and an eReader.

If you could be someone else, who would it be?
I would be me, but me that can play music, speak other languages and spell (Jan would like me to be able to dance too).

What is in store when you return to home?
Build a new home, get a job and finish my Masters — maybe.

What is it you miss the most while in the Antarctic?
I miss my children and other family and friends. When I get home after a trip south I do enjoy the anonymity of not living in a small community.