Antarctica has been in my dreams for a long time now. I can’t imagine feeling a greater sense of wonder for the world, a greater sense of reverence for the mysteries of the elements, anywhere more than there.
So when I was invited to attend the Australian Antarctic Festival in Hobart, Tasmania (known as “the gateway to Antarctica”) by Antarctica specialists Chimu Adventures, I leapt at the chance to learn more about this land of snow and ice, and about Australia’s ties to Antarctica.
The festival mainly attracted people who had already travelled to Antarctica, who were brimming with tales of spending long hours on the ice, having King Penguins peck at their boots as they sat in the absolute silence and contemplated their place in the universe, of enduring 16-metre roiling waves to get there, of feeling a sense of peace so profound there they could hardly begin to describe it.
“You just have to go to understand it,” was the phrase echoed over and over throughout the weekend.
And “just going there” was something I became increasingly desperate to do, as I ogled the stunning photography at the Antarctic Photography Exhibition, poked around the icebreaking research vessels L’Astrolabe and the Aurora Australis, checked out the exhibition dedicated to Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen who first reached the South Pole back in 1911, and watched a group of gorgeous Siberian Husky dogs race.
The highlight, though, had to be visiting the Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum, a reproduction of the historic huts built in Commonwealth Bay by the Australian Antarctic Expedition led by Douglas Mawson in 1912, which they used as their exploration base for almost two years.
It’s mind boggling, when you’re in there, to think that 18 men could have lived in a hut less than eight square metres in size, and in such harsh conditions, too. How incredible it would be to see the original painstakingly conserved structures in Antarctica.
We finished our almost-Antarctica-but-not-quite-Antarctica trip by boating around Bruny Island. We whizzed past majestic Dolorite sea walls, saw dozens of fur seals sunbathing on the rock shelves, and beautiful Albatross floating on the breeze above us.
It was bone-chillingly cold, even though we were rugged up and had very floor-length hooded red rain jackets on to try to cut the wind chill, but it was worth every freezing second. And it gave me a good taste of how exciting it would be heading out on the water in in Zodiacs in Antartica when I eventually get down there… which I’m now very, very intent on doing.
See you soon Antarctica.
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