Antarctic video gallery

Science under COVID-19

The Australian Antarctic Division is finding ways to maintain critical science, even as the COVID-19 pandemic slows the pace of activities in Antarctica.

Science under COVID-19

Video transcript

The pandemic has slowed the pace of Australia’s activities in Antarctica

With fewer boots on the ice this summer…

we’re finding ways to maintain our critical science

Data about whales gathered in the Southern Ocean…

is informing our international science partners virtually

Microscopic animals and plants collected from lakes and soil in Antarctica…

are being reared for research in AAD labs in Tasmania

Ice cores drilled in one of Antarctica’s snowiest places…

are analysed for their climate clues back in Hobart

And despite our unexpected new working conditions…

Our research is still being published in leading journals.

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Cold Comfort

Cold Comfort

Video transcript

Imagine travelling in a tractor convoy deep into Antarctica as the temperature drops below minus 40.

The Australian Antarctic Division is planning an inland traverse through the ice, at 10 kilometres an hour.               

Anthony Hull, AAD Traverse Systems Project Lead:
To do that for approximately 1200 km, you’re looking at about 12 to 14 days of travel.

The convoy will travel from Casey Research Station to the site of the search for the million year ice core.

To make the journey, expeditioners will need somewhere to live and sleep, in a home away from home.

Taylor Brothers Marine has won the multi-million dollar contract to assemble the vans in its Hobart workshop.   

Phil Taylor, Director of Taylor Brothers Marine:
We’ve had a long association with the Antarctic Division, my first job with them was in the early 1980s so it’s been a bit of a long relationship.

Planning the seven traverse and remote station vans has been years in the making.
Piecing them together is a painstaking task.
The priority is staying safe and staying warm.     

Phil Taylor, Director of Taylor Brothers Marine:
The Antarctic Division gave us what they wanted in a model and we’ve taken that and detailed that and added the bits that we can provide assistance with.”

Anthony Hull, AAD Traverse Systems Project Lead:
This is where people will come in out of the cold. It’ll be their sanctuary where they’ll warm up, they’ll fuel up with food and to have a layout in a space where people aren’t standing next to each and elbowing each other, it’s vital we get this living space right.”

The vans will be delivered later this year before their first journey south.   

Anthony Hull, AAD Traverse Systems Project Lead:
No doubt when we get this delivered to Casey Station and finally assemble it on the sleds and put the whole capability together, then we can see the whole picture, and that will be a very exciting moment.

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Worlds Apart

Worlds Apart

Video transcript

Dr RHYS HARDING, Davis research station

I came down on the Aurora Australis icebreaker in October last year, so I was the ship's doctor for the voyage down south and I've so far been the doctor on station, probably a little over eight prior to the coronavirus outbreak, there were no specific public health measures in place at that time. It has been such a strange and a very surreal experience to observe the pandemic outbreak from down in Antarctica.

We realise that we are some of the very few on the planet who are essentially unaffected by COVID-19 and so we find ourselves living in this parallel world, just goes on as normal for us. Of course everyone has had concerns about the health and well-being of those back home. We're not immune to the same, you know, anxieties that a lot of other people are probably experiencing because of the pandemic and the way that it's taken its grip, and that can be quite hard to manage, you know, not only as individuals but also as a community when you are so alienated from this global disaster.

In saying that we do feel quite safe here in Antarctica. I mean, safe is a very fluid term because Antarctica is such a dangerous place, but we feel very safe being removed from the COVID-19 virus.

Antarctica is the only COVID-free continent and it's very important that it remains that way. I imagine this is going to be a huge challenge for all national Antarctic programs over the next 12 months or so.

There's only 24 of us here. I'm the only medically trained person. I have four lay surgical assistants to assist me. One's a plumber, a carpenter, I have a diesel mechanic and a fitter and turner, but ultimately if we had one very unwell person, particularly with a severe respiratory illness, it would overwhelm the station.

When everyone here was informed of the decision to have to stay another four months for an extra summer season, there were definitely mixed responses. It wasn't a complete surprise given what we had come to know and what we were observing from flow-on effects from around the world with regards to you know, shipping and aviation changes, but it did hit some expeditioners quite hard.

Ultimately this is something beyond our control and I think we really have to view this as an additional opportunity to just make the most of this beautiful place. The reality is that we will come home to a different world but we are trying to not let that consume us whilst we're trying to enjoy life on this frozen continent. We'll take it day by day. It's obviously a very rapidly evolving situation in Australia and across the world, so all we can try and do is make the most of being here and see what it has in store when we kind of get back off the ship.

Yeah, can we shake hands? Can we do that? Can i give my mum a hug? What are we allowed to do? I've got this feeling that I'm going to get off the ship and give my mum a hug and then get arrested. Is that gonna happen? I don't know, that's what we think about.

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Midwinter subzero swim

Midwinter swim at Davis research station

Midwinter subzero swim

Video transcript

David Knoff — Davis Station Leader

“Here we are at the Davis pool for the annual midwinter swim, the temperature is a balmy minus 22 odd degrees, but thankfully there’s no wind.  The lovely pool here today has been prepared by the plant operators and the diesos.  Thanks to them and the expeditioners behind me are looking forward to jumping in for a nice warm bath.”

Jason Beachcroft — Davis Field Training Officer

“This is stupid and I just want you all to know that.”

Question: “Would you like to say anything to people at home?”

Ben Harrison — Davis Plumber

Answer: “Yes, I wouldn’t recommend this!”

David Knoff — Davis Station Leader

 “And that concludes our coverage of the Davis 1.5 metre freestyle, thanks for watching!”

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We are equal

We are equal

Video transcript

We are equal - Australian Antarctic Program

Kim Ellis, Director, Australian Antarctic Division: “The original Antarctic programs were built on that great age of exploration at the turn of the 19th century, people like Mawson and Scott, Amundsen, all bearded white men, trekking across the Antarctica and for a long time our program replicated that but that time has passed, what we have started to do is transition into a program that’s got diversity in it. Through that diversity it has given us a much more robust basis on which to build a great world-class program."

Women are now an integral part of all aspects of our operations.

Currently about quarter of Australia’s Antarctic population are women.

Women have led Australia’s Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stations since 1989.

Kat Panjari, Station Leader: “The thing I like most about being a station leader is bringing a diverse team of people together, from all sorts of different technical backgrounds, and having a shared vision contributing to the science program of the Australian Antarctic Division.”

We are at the cutting edge of new discoveries.

Dr Dana Bergstrom, Terrestrial Ecologist: “Antarctica is the end of the planetary spectrum for life. And here we’re in a very saline, desert area and we’re still finding life. And that’s what really excites me.”

Our work aims to lead and inspire other Antarctic nations.

Rebecca McWatters, Remediation Analyst: “Our project has been working on researching and developing remediation techniques for the last 20 years. We’ve worked across all the Australian stations, and we’ve also collaborated with a lot of different other nations.”

More than the science. Women are key to all aspects of Antarctic life. From field training. To engineering. From food. To aviation.

Dr Jan Wallace, Antarctic Medical Practitioner: “We’re about to receive a plane here from Davis, so I’m up here in several roles. Hopefully not as the doctor, because that would be part of an emergency response, today I’ve been the Hägg driver and chauffeur for the new passengers coming home.”

Back at Head Office, about 40% of the workforce is female.

Sarah-Jane Sheehy, Business Support Lead: “We have staff in various locations and at all our Antarctic stations, so my role involves a lot of governance work, risk management, operational procedures. We support such a diverse workforce and I love collaborating with lots of different stakeholders who specialise in different areas to support the AAP.”

Some roles support expeditioners who head south.

Deb Carwana, Expedition Clothing Store Officer: “We have a lot of tradespeople right through to scientists, people looking after birdlife, media people, it’s really, really vast actually and quite interesting. You meet all kinds of different people.”

Others are involved in operations.

Leanne Millhouse, Shipping Officer: “When I am on a voyage or I am summering, I am constantly either looking out of my office window or looking out of the bridge window, or the cabin window and this is my office I am lucky enough to get paid to do this. It’s a really positive experience, everyone’s really positive and everyone wants everyone to succeed.”

On the international stage, we lead Southern Ocean conservation efforts.

Dr Virginia Andrews Goff, Whale Biologist: “We have different populations of whales, targeting different types of krill, which has a flow on effect in terms of your ecosystem management practices around krill fisheries, around protecting whales and how we can feed that information up the line to policy makers, is really huge.”

We also lead on the international stage, spearheading Southern Ocean conservation efforts.

Gill Slocum, Australian Commissioner CCAMLR: “CCAMLR operates by consensus and that can be quote challenging at times because we need to get all 25 members to agree. However there’s a lot of strengths in consensus.”

While the Program has become more inclusive, it will only get bigger and better as we pursue equality.

Dirk Welsford, Science Program Leader: “That we make sure women have fair and equitable access to opportunities, whether that’s for leadership, for promotion, for getting jobs because no one has a monopoly on good ideas, I’ve certainly found that in my science career. Having a really good diverse cross section of the society inside the AAD is the best way for us to be successful.”

Our Commitment

The Australian Antarctic Division is committed to gender equality across all levels of the organisation.

Our Goals

AAD staff are proactive in driving gender equality.

AAD is an employer of choice recognised for its gender equality practices.

Increased number of women across all roles.

Our Actions

Implement Gender Equality Strategy

Provide flexible + supportive working arrangements

Offer networking, leadership and mentoring opportunities.

Ensure gender neutral recruitment processes

We will help you

Step up and take a proactive role

Call out issues

Embrace gender equality

Kim Ellis, Director, Australian Antarctic Division: “It’s really important that we embrace the diversity and we seek equity and equality in what we do, because it will bring to the program the very best in Australia, in the world, to actually deliver our responsibilities against the 20 Year Strategy and Action Plan.”

[end transcript]

National Reconciliation Week

It's a bit breezy

It's a bit breezy

Video transcript

Mawson research station is nestled on the coast of East Antarctica.

Where the ice cap falls steeply to the sea.

As winter sets in, fearsome gravity-fed ‘katabatic’ winds roar down the slope.

The 19 Australians at Mawson have just endured an epic seven day blizzard.

The wind blew between 100-148 km/h, with one gust reaching 244 km/h.

Visibility was zero for days on end.

As conditions eased, expeditioners headed out to check for damage.

While the force of the winds moved fully laden shipping containers, there were no major issues.

For safety, the team followed a rope or ‘blizz line’ to move between buildings.

Moving even a small distance in Antarctic storms is a feat of strength and endurance.

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