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Chill seeker shares amazing Antarctic adventures

It’s a wild and wonderful place that few of us will ever be lucky enough to visit.

But fortunately, Australians who have been to Antarctica are happy to share their tales of adventure, bringing a taste of the coldest, windiest place on earth to the wider population as part of the Australian Antarctic Festival in Hobart.

The festival, which runs until August 28, aims to provide an insight* into the beauty of Antarctica, the science that is carried out there, the rich history of the place and the partnerships between various organisations such as CSIRO*, the University of Tasmania and the Australian Antarctic Division.

And central to this, of course, are the people – the adventurous expeditioners* who have ventured to some of the world’s most remote locations, and those who are committed to exploring and protecting the huge frozen landmass at the bottom of our planet, in a bid to better understand the world we live in and predict the environmental challenges we could face in the future.

Here is the story of one of them:


Tasmanian journalist David Killick, who is also a qualified chef, has taken part in six expeditions to Commonwealth Bay, about 2500km south of Hobart, through the Mawson’s Huts Foundation since 1997. His most recent was in December last year.

He was one of five people on that recent expedition, travelling on French ship L’Astrolabe before being flown by helicopter to Cape Denison where they spent four weeks retracing the footsteps of explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, living in the harshest environment on earth to help protect relics* left behind by early Antarctic explorers.

Mawson’s Huts are a collection of wooden buildings constructed during the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition at Cape Denison.

The huts need regular maintenance to ensure they survive the harsh weather conditions.

Killick and his team camped in polar pyramid tents surrounding a basic mess* building on the Antarctic coastline hundreds of kilometres from the nearest Australian base, taking advantage of the 24-hour sunlight during the Antarctic summer to carry out conservation* work, erect an automatic weather station and conduct surveys of the area’s penguin population.

“My job this time was running the communications equipment, photography, cooking, storeman and weather observer,’’ the 54-year-old said.

“I also did a penguin count and we built an automatic weather station for an American university.

“Everyone needs to be multiskilled*, everyone has five or six different jobs.’’

Other less glamorous jobs included emptying toilets and collecting penguin poo samples.

Killick said although trips to Antarctica came with risks, and teams needed to be skilled and well-prepared, it was also exciting to be in a new environment, far from the familiar routine of daily life.

“There’s never a dull moment, there’s always something to do,’’ Killick said. “And it’s amazing what you miss and what you don’t miss.

“The phone doesn’t ring, there’s no access to social media. We have access to emails, so you might check emails once a day using satellite communications*. There’s no Facebook, no Twitter, there’s no news.

“There’s no money, and nothing to spend money on. All you have to worry about is falling over and breaking something, falling through the ice, being attacked by a seal, getting frostbite or getting lost in a blizzard.’’

Photos taken by Killick and other expeditioners on the recent Cape Denison trip are part of the Australian Antarctic Festival.

“A lot of people in Hobart would know someone who has been south, but it’s still a place most people haven’t been,” he said.

“It’s a place that really excites the imagination and we’re always acutely* conscious of how lucky we are and we wander around every day, and say, ‘aren’t we lucky to be here and isn’t this just fantastic’.

“We’ve got all these great photos, so it’s just a great opportunity to share them and promote the work of the foundation.

“It’s also part of the history of Commonwealth Bay, we’re recording a living, breathing heritage* site that tells a story about Australia’s first Antarctic expedition.’’

Like many who have been to Antarctica, Killick continues to return.

“It definitely gets under your skin,’’ he said.

“It changes you forever, you’re never the same. You learn a lot about yourself and your own resilience* and resourcefulness* and your ability to maintain a sunny disposition* under difficult circumstances.

“But it’s also just such an astonishingly beautiful and unspoilt place with such an amazing palette of colours, so alien to what we see here.

“The blues and the greys and the whites, and the red sunsets and the amazing wildlife and cruising down through the icebergs – every day is just a different set of amazing experiences.

“The highs are very high and when you’re in your tent and it’s -20C and blowing a blizzard and you’re homesick and you can’t feel your toes it’s not quite as much fun.’’

“But it really is such an amazing place.’’


  • insight: awareness, understanding, special knowledge
  • CSIRO: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
  • expeditioners: group of people making an organised journey, often for a specific purpose
  • relics: objects from the past valued for their meaning or importance in history
  • mess: temporary structure or permanent building where people eat meals together
  • conservation: planned management to preserve and protect a place or whole environment
  • multiskilled: able to do many things,
  • satellite communication: using artificial satellites to create wireless links that enable contact
  • frostbite: injury to skin and tissue caused by exposure to freezing temperatures
  • blizzard: severe snowstorm with very strong winds
  • acutely: intensely, extremely, sharply
  • heritage: important parts of society’s history and culture
  • resilience: toughness, strength, ability to withstand challenges and recover quickly
  • resourcefulness: ability to manage situations, make quick, sensible decisions on your own
  • disposition: someone’s character, nature, constitution


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Saving Mawson’s remote Antarctic huts


  1. How far is Commonwealth Bay from Hobart?
  2. During his most recent expedition, Killick spent four weeks at Cape Denison doing what?
  3. What are Mawson’s Huts, when were they built and by whom?
  4. What were Killick’s jobs at the camp during the group’s stay?
  5. What are some of the things you can’t access in Antarctica?


1. Write a job advertisement
Write a job advertisement for someone to join David Killick on the next Antarctic expedition. Your should include the skills that are needed and the personal qualities that would be needed to be the right person for the job.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

2. Extension
Can you imagine what it would have been like to be part of the team that built the first Mawson’s Hut in 1911? Write an explanation of the challenges that you think they would have faced. Use your research skills to help you find out more about conditions in Antarctica during the first Australian expedition.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Design and Technology

Imaginative dialogue
Imagine you were there during the event being discussed in the article, or for the interview.

Create a conversation between two characters from the article – you may need or want to include yourself as one of the characters. Don’t forget to try to use facts and details from the article to help make your dialogue as realistic as possible.

Go through your writing and highlight any punctuation you have used in green. Make sure you carefully check the punctuation used for the dialogue and ensure you have opened and closed the speaking in the correct places.

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