Andrew Luck-Baker has spent the last two months with the polar scientists who have been following in the footsteps of the first Australasian Expedition to Antarctica a century ago, lead by Douglas Mawson. On Christmas Day 2013 their ship, the Academik Shokalskiy, became trapped in the ice. Andrew reflects on doing science in the frozen southern continent, the experience of getting stuck for 10 days and the elation of the eventual rescue.
Between 1911 and 1914, Douglas Mawson explored a fiercely harsh part of Antarctica while the more celebrated Scott and Amundsen raced to the South Pole elsewhere on the frozen continent. Mawson's expedition was dedicated to scientific study and discovery in the early Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. That said, Mawson's experiences were fraught with horror and danger. His story includes the most remarkable episode of suffering in the jaws of death in that Heroic Age.
Times have changed and travellers to the Antarctic are well prepared with modern hi-tech clothing and ice breaking ships. But still the 2013 expedition was a victim of the unpredictable conditions in the southern continent.
The 2013 Australasian Antarctic Expedition has repeated many of Mawson's investigations around Commonwealth Bay and Cape Denison in East Antarctica where the original team set up their base. This remote area hasn't been studied systematically for100 years and the expedition has revealed how this part of Antarctica is being altered by climate change.