One of the highlights of the Brisbane Writers Festival last weekend was seeing Chris Turney talking about Antarctica. My interest in Antarctica is spurred on by the fact that I am currently writing a novel set in that location. This is a bit of a challenge considering I have never been there. I live in hope!
Chris has just written an account of the 1912 season in Antarctica which saw no less than five expeditions set out on a journey of scientific discovery.
Famously, of course, the Norwegian team led by Amundsen won the race to the South Pole, with the British expedition led by Scott getting there one month later and perishing on the return journey. Also on the move were a German team, a Japanese team and an Australian team, led by Mawson.
Antarctica, Chris told us, didn’t even begin to be explored until 1820. Before that, it was just shown as ‘unexplored territory’ on the map. Venturing down there, then, was the equivalent of space travel – a voyage into the complete unknown.
They gnawed on huskies, they spent the winter on a ship bound by ice, they were blown off their feet in blizzards… And despite all that, they brought back data which changed the face of science.
Antarctica has inspired some truly great lines. Who can forget ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ (Oates) ‘Food lies ahead, death stalks us from behind.’ (Shackleton) or ‘Great God! This is an awful place.’ (Scott). It seems like the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration brought out the inner poet in them all.
The image below was taken by Frank Hurley. Hurley was a photographer on Shackleton’s expedition who dived into the icy water to save his photographic plates from their ship which was crushed by sea ice and about to sink. They don’t breed them like that anymore.
On a slightly less heroic note, anyone living in the Clarence has no excuse not to join Jessie Cole and myself at a library visit. On Friday 14th we will be at Iluka, Yamba and Maclean and on Tuesday 18th at Bellingen and Grafton. There will be refreshments (no huskies)! What more could you ask for?