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The Official Launch of The Silence Calling ANARE Jubilee History


Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment
National Press Club, Canberra,
Wednesday 11th June 1997

It is my great pleasure to be here today at the birth of this landmark history of Australia's Antarctic endeavours.

To set the scene, let me read to you a passage from this utterly engrossing book. I'll start with Phillip Law's account of his experience of a storm on board Kista Dan during its pioneering voyage to the ice in 1954-55:

It's true that outside it's cold and a bit wintry, especially for someone like me, used to warm days and balmy nights, but even so, to read of such things seems incongruous in this comfortable and familiar land of Australia. There's no snow on the ground outside or blowing through the cracks of the building.

The very idea of a force 12 storm in a 15-metre ocean swell, of sailing serenely amid gigantic icebergs and an endless vista of pack-ice, of looking out over vast tracts of ice and snow or a ten-thousand strong colony of penguins, of experiencing a white-out and not knowing which way is up, of standing at the back of a moving sledge and watching a team of huskies bob up and down in front of you - all these things are beyond the experience and even imagination of most of us.

This book is about unfamiliar places and experiences, about a world quite alien from our own. And yet it's also familiar.

What makes it so are the people it tells about - men and women from all walks of life in Australia, from city and country, farm and university. The social interaction, the humour, the personal lives of these Antarcticans are very Australian, very human.

The tale of ANARE, of Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions, is almost a repeat of a familiar Australian tale, of people plucked from their homes and transported across oceans to an alien land, where they create a microcosm of their home culture. In this case, though, the transportation is entirely voluntary, and the experience of this wonderful world is such that its temporary inhabitants seek to return again and again.

The ANARE story is more than just a tale about people living and working in the Antarctic. It's also a story of great endeavour back here in Australia, where Phillip Law and his small, dedicated band picked up where Douglas Mawson left off and instigated one of the world's great national Antarctic programs.

Incidentally, this year the Federal Government has joined with Australian Associated Press to establish the AAP Mawson's Huts Foundation which will restore the huts built by Sir Douglas Mawson during his epic 1911-14 voyage.

I am sorry to inform Tim and Allen & Unwin, that the photographs after page 420 of the Silence Calling which depict Mawson's Huts looking a little worse for wear and untouched since 1911, will soon become historical relics themselves. I have no doubt that ANARE expeditioners and others who are familiar with Mawson's incredible achievements, will be pleased to learn that these huts will be restored preserved as a tribute to our greatest Antarctic explorer.

The members of the AAP Mawson's Huts Foundation, whose Chairman David Jensen is with us today, deserve particular recognition for undertaking this project during the ANARE Jubilee.

As Sir Douglas Mawson learnt early in the piece, when dealing with all Antarctic matters, nothing comes easy. Against considerable odds, the Antarctic Division managed to survive those difficult early years in the 1940s and 1950s, when indifferent or even hostile Canberra bureaucrats and politicians were won over by the determination and persistence of the Melbourne Antarcticans.

Perhaps if there had been some appreciation of the importance which would be placed upon Global Climate Change research undertaken in the Antarctic 1990's, it may have been a little easier to convince Canberra of the need for an Antarctic science program.

The people of External Affairs were persuaded that Antarctica was worth the effort, partly in support of our claim to six million square miles of Antarctic territory. Australia's pivotal role in setting up the Antarctic Treaty system was rewarded with the first Treaty meeting in Canberra in 1961.

Through the 1950s and 1960s Australia strengthened its position in the Antarctic, setting up continental stations in three key coastal locations and traversing vast distances of the hinterland in search of an understanding of this unique continent.

In the 1970s the focus turned to the seas of the Southern Ocean, and again Australia was a world leader in putting in place a marine research program to investigate the physical and biological characteristics of this remote and hostile environment. Australia's efforts were again rewarded with the establishment in Hobart of the headquarters of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

The move to purpose-built headquarters in Tasmania in 1981 signalled the start of a new era for ANARE. A new Australian-built icebreaking ship gave ANARE an even stronger marine research capability. Around the same time we persuaded the other countries of the Antarctic Treaty to sign an agreement - the Madrid Protocol - to keep Antarctica in its natural state and prohibit any activities that might damage this.

This is clearly a history to be proud of, and in 1992 the Antarctic Division decided it needed to be told in time for ANARE's 50th anniversary in 1997.

After seeking expressions of interest from around the country, it selected Tim Bowden to undertake the massive task of sifting through the paper records and personal reminiscences of ANARE to create a new history of this unique enterprise.

It advertised for expressions of interest from publishers, and Allen and Unwin won the task of bringing this work to the Australian and international public.

The project was not without its difficulties. The author alone was unable to manage the mountain of research involved. Alison Alexander began and Annie Rushton completed the task of research assistant for the project, a task which became so involving that Annie was living, eating and breathing the history of ANARE.

So too, of course, was Tim. His absorbing story grew from a 400-page work to well over 500 pages. Allen and Unwin advised that there was a limit - an over-long book would be prohibitively expensive.

The Division's Jubilee Working Group agreed with Tim that the history deserved the full treatment. Ways were found to keep costs within reasonable bounds, and the result is here for all to see.

The full text with its appendices and index is now well over 600 pages, but at a price that will not deter the buying public.

This is a landmark day for ANARE. It is not simply a culmination of many years of effort by Tim and his researchers, the Antarctic Division, the people of ANARE and the publishers. It is also a fitting Jubilee tribute to this enormously successful Australian enterprise for which, as Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, I am proud to be responsible.

All those involved - Tim, Annie, Rex Moncur and the people of the Antarctic Division's Jubilee Working Group, the many Division and ANARE people who told their tale, and Patrick Gallagher and the staff of Allen and Unwin - deserve our warmest congratulations.

I have great pleasure now in launching the ANARE Jubilee History, The Silence Calling.

Commonwealth of Australia