Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

Another World

Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

Another World

Article excerpt

THROUGH the snow, driven almost horizontal by a freezing Antarctic blizzard, I see two wooden crosses marking the lonely graves of whalers who rest here forever.

Even the name of the place, Deception Island, in the South Shetland Islands on the fringe of the Antarctic, suggests some misadventure.

I had come ashore with my fellow Antarctic expeditioners to inspect the relics of a one-time whaling station and research base at Whalers Bay on Deception Island.

Its only present-day inhabitants, battalions of penguins and seals, greet us as our boats crunch on the glistening pebble shoreline.

The snow cuts my face and stings my eyes.

Briefly, I get a taste of what explorers like Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen endured a century ago. And the high cost to man and animal of those early days of whaling.

Whalebones, white and dry, lie on the beach to remind us of the dark days when whales were butchered to near-extinction.

Huge tanks, where their blubber was once stored before eventually lighting lamps across the world, lie in decay. Seals and, ultimately, penguins became victims of the massacre.

Slanting timber buildings, now deserted, save for the rusting, snow-covered machinery, mark the former, sad and, happily, long-gone industry.

The bay lies in the flooded caldera of an ancient volcano which erupted only last century and chased human habitation away.

Even today you can feel the volcanic warmth in the layers of pumice in the ground beneath your boots.

Unlike the explorers who lived for weeks on a lard-based diet and who slept under animal skins in thin tents, I would return, after my momentary insight, to the luxury of a warm ship, a hearty, three-course meal and a comfortable bunk.

Yet, a modern sea voyage to the Antarctic, the planet's last great frontier, is not a cruise but an expedition.

There is still an element of adventure about it Co and your itinerary is at the whim of the winds and seas. …

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