An 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.
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
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
“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
“McDonalds for lunch miss – that’s awesome!” said one of the
school group continuing up the street
Copyright © 1995 -
Other articles in the series Seven Monuments of Melbourne: