Home South pole ice Antarctica from the sky calls for a lucky student

Antarctica from the sky calls for a lucky student

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The Antarctic “midnight sun” reflected on the ice of Mount Woinarski. Photo: Malcolm Robertson.

A GROUP of returning Antarctic explorers gives a lucky ACT student the chance to soar over the frozen continent in November and experience the wonders of the world’s largest ice mass.

Open to grade 11 and 12 students, the winner will be chosen based on a written essay on why they want to go and will be able to fly over the mainland for four hours observing vast frozen cliffs, glaciers, mountains emerging from the ice and, if lucky enough, some of the amazing wildlife of the earth.

“There is no more worthy cause than the college kids who go through the system, they are the ones who are going to save the world,” says Malcolm Robertson, coordinator of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) Canberra Club, who is behind the initiative.

At the age of 70 this year, the ANARE club was formed for those returning from the frigid nature to share their experiences and promote Antarctic efforts.

As a geophysicist who graduated in 1969, Malcolm would make his own trip to Antarctica, a landscape he describes as “cold and lonely but undeniably beautiful.”

“I spent 15 months at Mawson Base Australia, from November 1969 to March 1971, and the environment was just spectacular, it was an incredible experience,” he says.

Malcolm Robertson during his Antarctic expedition from 1969 to 1971.

Mawson Base is one of only four research stations belonging to the Australian Antarctic Division on a landmass of 14.2 million square kilometers.

It is named after the Australian explorer Douglas Mawson who, in 1907, boarded the “Nimrod”, a ship under the command of the Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton who crossed the winter ocean with a crew for explore the continent.

During the expedition, Mawson would be among the first to travel to the South Magnetic Pole and climb Mount Erebus, the southernmost active volcano in the world and the second highest in Antarctica.

In 1912, he returned to the continent at the head of his own expedition to charter more territory and conduct more research, braving “Herculean gusts”, as he described them, which could reach around 300 km / h.

The trip was marred by the tragic deaths of two members who fell into a crevasse, leaving Mawson alone and forcing him to take a grueling solo trip back to base.

Upon his return home, he would be knighted for his efforts and became involved in Australian history.

Thanks to Mawson and many other expeditions, Australia today claims about 42% of Antarctica, or about six million square kilometers, the largest part of any country.

“If we are to claim our Antarctic segment for Australia, we have to be seen as doing something right now that is useful for the continent,” said Malcolm.

This will indeed be what he and the selection committee will be looking for in the essays of students seeking to win the flight.

“Climate change and increasing global temperatures are already having a major impact with consequent problems for Antarctic biology and global sea level,” said Malcolm.

“As we warm the planet, the ice in Antarctica will melt and if we come to a point that scientists describe as a tipping point, you won’t be able to stop it.

“It happened in the northern hemisphere, the arctic ice has retreated so much that it doesn’t look like it’s coming back.”

The ANARE Club Canberra also believes that the continent’s growing human population, with rising expectations for living standards, is putting pressure on resources and may lead to the exploitation of the world’s last pristine wilderness.

While this is currently prevented by the agreements that form the International Antarctic Treaty System, Malcolm says the system is not absolute, nor robust, and can falter at any time.

“It is very difficult in the space of increasing human occupation of the planet to keep anything in a pristine state,” says Malcolm.

“I think a student flying over Antarctica with that in mind could be a powerful thing, maybe a humanities student, or a geography student, or someone interested in international relations.

“We are looking to reflect on how the experience would help them make the world a better place.”

Applications close October 8 and more information at anareclub.org/australian-capital-territory

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