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An Antarctic Monument

 

Antarctic monument

I had sat down to eat my sandwich in one of my regular spots in the city. “Excuse me, can you tell me what this is?” said the passing Japanese couple indicating the strange little monument next to me. I explained that it was a rock from Antarctica that was placed there in the 1950s at a time when Antarctica was a less known and charted place than the moon is today. There aren’t many places you can see rock in Antarctica and this small boulder came from a glacier near Mawson Base. There are even fewer places you can see Antarctic rock outside Antarctica, since international treaties now forbid the removal of Antarctic rock or meteorites. “Mooson Base?” asked the gentleman. “No, Mawson Base” I explained “named after the great scientist and explorer Douglas Mawson. Would you like me to tell you a bit about him?” “We would be pleased” he said, and in one elegant motion the elegantly dressed Japanese couple were sitting cross-legged beside me on the grass.

I explained how Mawson had first travelled with Shackleton to Antarctica and then put together an Australian scientific expedition. I explained that the best way to get an atmosphere of a sailing ship slowly leaving dock for places unknown at the time was to listen to the magnificent setting of Shallow Brown by our local composer Percy Grainger.

Rock with school groupA school group was passing.

“What’s that miss?” “It’s just a rock”.

I told the couple a little about Mawson’s expeditions and his amazing feats of survival and how he pulled a sledge over 2,000km to be the first party to arrive in the region of the South Magnetic Pole.

“How much further is it miss?” “Only a block.” “We can’t walk that far miss.”

I told them about Frank Hurley’s amazing photographs and how our local sweets entrepreneur Mac Robertson had funded major scientific expeditions to Antarctica and has MacRobertson Land in Antarctica named after him, and some of Syd Kirkby's explorations and how he would have often walked past this monument.

“Where are we going miss?” “To McDonalds for lunch.”

The Japanese couple had been writing down the names of Mawson and Grainger and Hurley and MacRobertson and Syd Kirkby because they wanted to follow them up and find out more. I explained how I occasionally had lunch next to this piece of rock because I was in awe of the achievements of these people..

“McDonalds for lunch miss – that’s awesome!” said one of the school group continuing up the street

BL

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Other articles in the series Seven Monuments of Melbourne:

Seven Monuments of Melbourne - overview

No.1 – A Monument to Sydney-Melbourne Rivalry
No.2 – Two Yarra Bookends
No.3 - An Antarctic Monument
No.4 – Troubles on the other side of the world
No.5 - A Plaque but no Statue
No.6 - Two Pillars of Melbourne
No.7 - Two Horse Troughs

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