The Antarctic Experience is an exciting environmental education and youth leadership opportunity for Kingborough secondary students and offers an unforgettable flight over Antarctica.
This unique program is a way of creating youth awareness of environmental issues, especially climate change and science, and furthering a commitment to environmental and youth leadership.
Secondary schools in Kingborough were invited to nominate students to be finalists for the program.
The following students were selected as finalists for 2014:
Students each attended an interview and delivered a presentation to the selection panel focussing on the following:
The selection panel consisted of Council’s Senior Environmental Health Officer, Abyilene McGuire, Council’s Youth Development Officer, Carol Swards, and Dr Glenn Johnstone, a marine biologist with the Australian Antarctic Division.
Rhiannon Hurn of Taroona High School and Kaelani Grist of Southern Christian College were awarded the ‘Antarctic Experience’ at a presentation in December 2014.
Day 1 – IMAS & CSIRO
I arrived at IMAS at 9:30, excited for the day ahead. Once everyone had arrived, we were introduced to everyone who was to participate in the following days of the Antarctic Experience.
We were directed into the IMAS lecture theatre where we sat on revolutionary chairs to listen to some of the scientists who worked at IMAS. They taught us that no matter where you are in the world, you are affected by Antarctica in some way or another. We learnt about the ecosystem around Antarctica and how the phytoplankton supports the whole food chain by feeding the krill that in turn feed the majority of Antarctic life.
After, we went up into the laboratories to look at some of the plankton and tiny shells under the microscope. I looked at a Derwent water sample that was taken that very morning. It was interesting to see how much microscopic life lives right next to Hobart.
When we were done at IMAS, we walked over to the CSIRO building. We stopped for lunch before heading inside to talk to one of the scientists that worked there.
After, we went to a division of the CSIRO called the Australian National Fish Collection. This is where they send fish species to be documented, labelled and stored. We learnt that they actually discovered a new species by x-raying some fish and found that the bone structure in these two fish that looked identical was actually different. After looking at some smaller fish, we went upstairs where they held bigger fish species. These fishes were kept in big tanks that you had to take the lids off to see, because they are stored in ethanol, it really smelled. We saw many species of shark, stingrays and sawfish.
We then headed back to IMAS to speak to one more scientist in the Lecture Theatre then headed to the labs once more to go inside one of the freezers. Inside the freezer we looked at ice that had been stretched (who knew you could stretch ice?) under a polarized sheet to see each individual crystal off ice show up.
Day 2 – Australian Antarctic Division
At the Antarctic Division, we started off in the public area where they have stuffed huskies and penguin feathers before moving down stairs into the presentation room. In the presentation room we learnt about the Bio-piles they have down at Casey station to clean up a fuel spill that happened in the 1990s. We also had a live video chat with some of the scientist to talk about other experiments they work on at the station. They told us that they set up tanks under the ice that they then pump water that has a lower pH than the surrounding water to see the impacts it has on the creatures that live there. They are watching the effects that ocean acidification will have on the life in the water.
After the live chat we then had a tour around the rest of the AAD. We went into the krill labs where they have live krill that they breed there. The AAD is the only place in the world that can house live krill and the cooling system on the lab is based off penguin feet! We also went into the clothing department where we tried on the different layers of clothing you would have to wear in Antarctica. The last place we went to was the warehouse where they build different Antarctic vehicles like Hägglunds and whale tags.
Day 3 – Melbourne
The flight to Melbourne left at 10:30. We arrived at Melbourne at 12:00. We went to Trinity College, where we were to be sleeping for the following nights. After we had settled in to our rooms, we left for Federation Square where we had delicious nachos for lunch before heading to the Australian Centre of Moving Image. After, we headed to the NVG and saw the largest collection of original Mambo works ever assembled for the Mambo – 30 years of Shelf-Indulgence expo. There was also many other exhibits including a word room which contained many letters so you could make your own words, sentences and stories. As a group we created ‘Bookend Trust, Antarctic Experience’ out of the letters before we had to go back to the university.
Day 4 – Antarctic Flight
It was an early start for us. It was the morning of the flight and you could tell how excited everyone was. In the taxi cab up, we couldn’t stop talking about the journey ahead. At the airport, we saw the sign on the billboard saying ‘Antarctic Charter Flight’. That was when it hit me that I was really going to fly over one of the harshest areas on earth. Waiting for the flight, a penguin walked around and we took a few pictures. We couldn’t believe how many people where going on the flight.
We boarded the Jumbo airbus and waited. The pilot announced that today was a very good day; we would be able to fly over the Ross Sea to Mount Erebus. We waited some more before another announcement came over. One of the hydraulics engines was leaking and it would take some time to fix. After around two hours, we were able to board again. The flight was about start. The plane took off and everyone on board clapped; we were off!
It took some time before the first blocks of sea ice appeared below us. Everyone was up and around the plane. It was quite squashed at some points but there was so much to see despite Antarctica being only rock and ice. We went over the French Antarctic base and the very same dolerite that was once on Mount Wellington! There were so many different patterns in the ice as well, it was so amazing. As a group we were invited into the business class to have a look at a specially designed compass that sat upright rather than flat. As we headed further inland, more cloud shrouded the ground so we sat back down as we waited to reach Mount Erebus. Unfortunately the weather is quite interchangeable down in Antarctica and cloud had covered Mount Erebus and the surrounding area. The plane turned around there and we headed back to Melbourne. Even though we had not seen a highlight of Antarctica, we were not disappointed by what we had already seen. As we headed back, we were gifted a beautiful sunset before most of us tried to get some shut eye.
Day 5 - Departure
We got back to the airport at 12:30 on the morning we were leaving. Even though the flight was 12 hours long, I was not tired a bit. The taxi took us to the wrong place so we didn’t get back to the university until 2 in the morning, which was when I realised just how tired I was. I didn’t wake up until 8:30, about an hour after everyone else. Oops.
We left for the airport at 9:30 where we then waited for our flight. We arrived in Hobart at 2:00 but before we parted we had one more group photo. Ecky ecky sa pung!!
Day 1 - 12/2/15
I jumped out of bed in the morning eager to head to the IMAS and CSIRO facilities to talk to the scientists, see the labs and other exciting things. I arrived at the building at 9:45 am along with 13 other young students either going on the flight or just interested in the facilities. I was surprised at how big and how visually interesting the building was and how up to date all the science equipment was. I really enjoyed hearing lectures form several different scientists and looking at micro-organisms through a microscope. One particularly amazing part of antarctic research I saw was a thin slice of Antarctic ice. A scientist held a polarised lens over the ice and suddenly the ice had different colours that resembled opal all over it. It looked so beautiful and as he tilted the lens different areas of the ice changed colours and it looked like a precious stone. If such a small piece of Antarctica could exhibit such beauty I cannot wait to see the continent in person via the flight 2 days from now.
Day - 2 13/2/15
After the events and learning of yesterday I could barely contain my excitement to go into the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). I had almost no idea of what the group and I were going to see and experience that day. We started out by hearing talks from the scientists about Antarctic politics, what it takes to organise the trips and expeditions tooth Antarctic and about bio remediation (cleaning the soil after an oil spill). After this we got the most amazing experience of being able to participate in a video link to Casey station and talk to the scientists currently posted there. It felt amazing that such effort was put in to give us the optimum Antarctic experience. I thought the day couldn’t get better until we saw the krill. These krill are the only krill brought back from the Antarctic alive and live on in a specially designed aquarium in the whole world. I couldn’t believe that I was able to stand above the tank of this unique and precious research and then for the scientist to explain all his research concerning the krill. After this we went to the engineering part of the AAD and saw the vehicles that the scientist ride in and use to conduct their research and then we got to sit in them. At the end of the day we were allowed to try on some clothing used to keep warm in the Antarctic, and I have to say those clothes are REALLY WARM! It was an amazing day and this only makes the prospect of flying over the ice continent that more exciting.
Day - 3 13/2/15
Got up early for the flight for Melbourne full of anticipation for the flight the next day. I caught the flight early in the morning and arrived in Melbourne at around 10:00am. To pass the time we went to an art gallery and looked at all the different kinds of artwork after having a delicious meal of Nachos with the rest of the group. After this I went back to my room at Trinity college and got ready for bed eager for tomorrow.
Day - 4 14/2/15
I woke up at 5:00 in the morning to prepare for the flight to Antarctica. I ate my breakfast which I had been given prepared the day before and put in my mini fridge. At 6:00 I waited with the rest of group outside to catch a taxi to the airport. We waited in our seats at the airport and after about an hour we were ready to board the plane. Unfortunately after a routine engine check the pilots realised that one of the engines was broken and we could expect a 2 hour delay. But this predicament was not too unfortunate due to the fact that every passenger was offered a $20 coupon to spend anywhere in the airport. I spent mine on a sushi lunch with a nice cool coconut water. After the engine had been fixed all the passengers boarded the plane once again. After 3 hours of flying we finally spotted the first signs of ice and excitement buzzed through the whole aircraft. Oh but when the first large piece of ice came into view I could not believe how stunning it looked this vast ice sheet seemingly floating above what was a turquoise turning to deep blue ocean. The sea ice continued to be brilliantly stunning and then we reached the rocky mainland. I was amazed at the amount of snow covering the rock and for some time all a person could see was a great white expanse stretching off to the horizon on all sides. The scientist speaking over the airplane’s com system told great facts bout the rock formations including a particular mountain that was once a part of Tasmania itself. After seeing some of the most amazing natural occurrences one could see on this earth, the plane turned around and in a few hours I was back at the airport. I went to bed that night reflecting on the most amazing experience of my life. It truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I returned home the next day and I can vouch that I will never forget my time flying over the ice.
Links to previous Antarctic Experience years: