Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Spinning Yarn: More Heart of the Great Alone #100

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

 Herbert Ponting was Scott’s photographer, equally skilled with an artistic eye and plenty of film! The shots he took are stunning and evoked the same surprising emotional response– Amazement! Incredulity! Recognition!  I was stunned at how much the ice had changed, yet not changed.

 So many penguin photos – gosh, I took a few of those, myself!! – and so many seal shots, but also the artistic angles. There were the obligatory “happy snaps” and the documentary shots too. Would anyone know or believe that men even went down to Antarctica, had these pictures not been taken? And would anyone have understood the immensity, or the scale, or the proportions of the ice, or seen the beauty of Nature at her most extreme?

 We owe these men, Hurley and Ponting, the utmost respect and admiration, and we owe the expeditioners more of the same.

Spinning Yarn: The Heart of the Great Alone. #99

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

It amazed me how much this exhibition meant to me. As I devoured each of the displays of fabulous black and white photographs of Antarctica taken 100 years ago by the famous Frank Hurley, I was transported not only back in time, but also back to the Frozen Continent, to see it through the eyes and heart of this skillful and daring man.

 Frank Hurley shared the huts with Mawson and his team, not only in his specialty as  photographer but also as a sledger. He man-hauled his fair share sleds and did his share of depot-laying, same as the rest of them. His company was valued on several scientific missions.

 His famous prints are the product of his labours in the tiniest of darkrooms in the most trying conditions of cold and cramped workspace. Some of his chemicals are still in his darkroom at the Huts, the labels still readable and corks still in the bottles.

Spinning Yarn: How Far toChristchurch? #95

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Leaving the ship was not a complicated as it could have been. We said all our passenger goodbyes the night before and had only to wait for our bags to be put on the dock. Some passengers had hotel reservations for Dunedin, some had planes to catch, others had more local sightseeing to do…And me? Well I needed to hire a car – one way —to Christchurch.

The car rental company I spoke to before I left Melbourne told me to call them when I arrived in Dunedin – and I did – but they were not open for the public holiday! Nor were they available the next day, so I boarded Orion without having booked a vehicle. Upon our return, a Saturday morning, I called again. They were open this time, but sorry, they do not do one way trips. (They could have told me that in Melbourne!) Obviously, I was not happy, but I was not worried, either. …..Faith…..

 Out on the wharf, the car rental companies and taxis waited for us to farewell the Expedition Team, lined up to wave us off and give us our parting gift of a  souvenir photographs CD. The Lady from the local rental company very kindly drove me to the tourist bureau, where another learned lady located the rental car I was to have – right in town! Within 40 minutes of leaving Orion, I was back on the road and away on the next leg of my adventure – A drive up the East Coast of South Island.

 Maybe I should have asked for a map…..Nah…..

Spinning Yarn: Last night Entertainment #94

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

 Cathy and Terry, the entertainment coordinators, organized a show for us, using the multi-talented crews, both Ship and Expedition. Minimum resources brings out invention, and we marveled at the song, dance and acting skills of each and every person.

  The Expedition Team and the Ship Crew exposed their fun side and the fact that they too could spin yarns, when the re-written words to “I am Australian” became “We Shared Antarctica” and the costumes matched each person’s specialty as well as each verse! Alasdair McGregor became explorer Dumont D’Urville by draping tricolour cloth and wearing a simulated tricorn hat; Dr Alex Watson, draped in white cloth and properly coloured makeup around his eyes, became the only known species of Antarctic bird who wears glasses! David Sinclair donned his penguin hat and waddled around with his camera….

 The Zodiac drivers, the kitchen staff, the hotel staff all took part – lots of singing and dancing and wild applause! Most enjoyable and well thought. Such hidden talents behind the scenes!

Spinning Yarn: What a Swell Ocean This Is! #93

Friday, July 1st, 2011

 The weather had certainly been favourable for our whole trip, so these 10m swells were a special treat. Orion is a small ship by comparison to some who travel the Southern Ocean, certainly with only 100 passengers while other ships take several times that, so I am not so sure that the Captain thought it was such a special treat. Orion is a well-appointed and courageous little ship, ably captained and engineered. Stabilized and making good time, we left Campbell Island behind and made way for Dunedin, sad to be ending the adventure, but glad to be almost back on land again.

 Lisa and I took time to do more spinning and knitting over the last few days and she was pleased with the result of her efforts – a gorgeous scarf of exotic Llama fibre, in two colours, spun by hand, knitted by hand (using chopsticks!) and worn by neck.

 You remember the song? I hope Fred Astaire will forgive my paraphrase of his line, “What a swell party this is”.

Spinning Yarn: Marion meest Clancy of the Overflow! #91

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Actor Jack Thompson is a man passionate about Australian History, as evidenced by his portrayals of Australian historical figures. He has brought to life such characters as Clancy of the Overflow in Man from Snowy River, The head shearer in Sunday Too Far Away and the Defending Lawyer Major JF Thomas in Breaker Morant. He is well-known also for his heart connection with the explorers Burke and Wills. It is no wonder then, that he was a guest speaker at the Mawson’s Huts Foundation Luncheon in Sydney, recently.

 Mr Thompson has lent his distinctive voice and heartfelt passion to a specially made documentary presentation, to be screened later this year, about the famous Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, and his expedition to the Southern Continent, last century.

 Imagine my thrill in meeting such an amazing man, listening to that magnetic voice, and spinning yarns of history with him! At the podium on stage, his yarn was one responsibility – that it rests on all of us to ensure that younger people know of the courage, strength and endurance of the men who gave us our nation and its territories. He fully supports the work of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation.

 And so do I.

Spinning Yarn: Mismatching Plates #90

Friday, June 24th, 2011


Plate tectonics is the science of studying the movement of the Earth’s crust. We learned a bit about this on this trip.

 Macquarie Island, Campbell Island and New Zealand are all on the edge of the same plate, which is moving towards the Austral plate.  Usually one of the plates tucks underneath the other one, and slides below, but these plates are meeting edge on. The islands are a result of the meeting edge being lifted out of the water. Confirmed by geological study and observation, the islands are expected to move accordingly as the plates continue their journey.

 The whole area is volcanic. Antarctica itself is granite. The islands have visible and colourful layers of volcanic activity showing on the exposed surfaces and cliff faces. Age is apparent also, and it was good to have John McDonald with us to explain it all.

Spinning Yarn: Flying through the Southern Ocean #89

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

 Orion has stabilizers – the wings that extended below sea level, to help balance the ship – so our ride might have been a bit more exciting than we had expected with the high rolling seas, but it was also quite comfortable. As I lay in bed trying to sleep, I imagined any number of wooden ships of the last century – the Discovery, the Endurance, the Aurora, the Terra Nova – all loaded to beyond the crates lashed to the upper decks, ocean water streaming in over the sides of the ship, determined to stay on course and arrive safely in both directions. I imagined the sounds of the creaking boards, the shifting loads, the howling dogs, the scuffling and scrambling of horse hooves, the shouts of the crew, the barked and hurried orders from the Captains, and then heard our own Captain over the PA announcing that the stabilizers needed to be re-set so please either sit or lie down until this had been done by the hardworking and efficient engineering team.

 The rolling seas had exposed the wings, the Captain told us, putting undue twist on the engine when the water took away the resistance. Ten minutes was all the time needed to make the corrections and extend the wings once more. The wooden ships were not so well-equipped

 It was lovely being rocked to sleep.

This is the french barque BALEM from the cover of “” , but you get the idea……..

Spinning Yarn: Calling All Rabbit Fur! #83

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

 It’s a pity that rabbits do not have blubber, they could be melted down instead…. You should see what they are doing to the island! It looks like a moonscape! Rabbits were introduced to the island as a way to feed shipwrecked sailors. Left alone for a few years, the rabbits multiplied so much that shipwrecked sailors could not keep up with the numbers – and even the skuas (Antarctic vultures) have trouble. Poison is the answer, and there is pallets of it ready to be distributed – just waiting for the right weather day.

 In the evenings, we had briefings on our progress, what latitude we were, how far we’d come, our speed, etc — all the statistics. We also shared the day’s best photos. Macquarie Island day had this great photo of two flying skuas fighting over a rabbit. Having just seen first hand the devastation these animals cause, a rousing cheer went up for these enterprising skuas. It put me in mind of a soccer game – Skuas 1, Rabbits ½ each!(or should that be Skuas ½ each, Rabbits 0)

Spinning Yarn: Landing at Macquarie #79

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

It was a well considered thing, us landing at Macquarie Island – The wind is a problem there. There are times when the waves come right up over the isthmus and the island is effectively cut in two, with meteorological station on one side and all the rest of the island on the other. Not today, however.

 The guides were out on the landing beach ready to make us welcome, and to give us a quick instruction on the wildlife (as opposed to the wild seas!) The 5m rule applies here too, by the way. King penguins on the beach were quite unimpressed with all the “red-coated penguins” marching around their island.

 Starting out on the walk around to the other side of the island, we came across moulting seals very much the colour of the rocks. Careful where you step – It would be pretty embarrassing to have to say you’d been bitten by a rock! The moulting fur is not spinnable, either)