Skip to main content


Celebrating Antarctica 2018

Getting up close and personal with the "Investigator," the CSIRO's new research vessel- all ten storeys of it

View from the bridge

Another year has gone by and Hobart is once again celebrating its role as a Gateway City to Antarctica. True - it’s not the only one  -  Ushuaia  and Punto Arenas in Chile, Cape Town in South Africa and Christchurch in New Zealand also serve as supply bases  and points of contact for visitors, but Hobart has held this role since the 1830’s, when whalers and sealers caught sight of the frozen continent while looking for new territory to exploit. 

Scientific equipment, large cranes and submersibles take up a good deal of space
... but there's still room for comfortable cabins
...and a well stocked kitchen. So, how many litres of icecream do you think Australia's expeditioners go through each year?
 a) 190 litres?    b) 1980 litres?   c) 19,800 litres?    d) 198,000 litres? (find out the the answer here)

 Hobart also continues to be the centre for scientific research. Being comparatively untouched, Antarctica is possibly the greatest living laboratory on earth.  As I write, there are over one hundred projects in progress involving scientists from 28 countries and 176 institutions.  Their work covers a broad range of subjects from Climate Change observations and atmospheric and oceanic processes to studies of terrestrial and marine species, monitoring of fish stocks and conservation, as well as broader fields such as astronomy, geosciences and human biology.

We also get a chance to look over the "Aurora Australis" which has been the workhorse of Antarctic expeditioners for almost 30 years, carrying stores, equipment and even whole laboratories to the frozen continent

Long serving second officer on the Aurora, Naomi Petersen explains the finer points of negotiating  pack ice to a spellbound audience

While last year’s festival largely centered on Tasmania’s historical connections, the emphasis this year is on this ongoing scientific work and the future. Along the wharf, the University of Tasmania’s Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies had many hands  -on displays for budding scientists and both the CSIRO’s Research Vessel “The Investigator” and the Antarctic Division’s trusty supply ship “The Aurora Australis” were open for public inspection.  There were also opportunities to ask questions, quiz scientists, listen to a range of lectures and to look at numerous exhibits. 

A friendly husky pokes his nose out from under a stall
This year there were lots of activities for children - story telling,colouring and stickers for younger ones, and science activities- e.g. simulated diving and manoevering of remote control vehicles for older ones
Giant Penguins from the Children's Art Exhibition returning to their "nest" at the end of the day

The scientists hope that by sharing their work with the public, we too will appreciate Antarctica’s uniqueness and will be moved to protect it as a place for peaceful international cooperation. Next year's festival promises to be even bigger with Norway planning to send a contingent in honour of  their countryman Amundsen, who was the first to reach the South Pole, and tiny Monaco, an original sponsor of Mawson's  expedition, is also planning to make a contribution.  

Small Bonus:
Just as we were leaving the docks Sammy the resident seal made an impromptu appearance, though in my usual fashion, I did not do well trying to catch him on camera. 

Herewith an excellent picture of Sammy's behind  as he leaves the scene- can you spot it between the blue barge and the green boat?