Antarctic Experience

The Antarctic Experience is an exciting environmental education and youth leadership opportunity for Kingborough secondary students and offers an unforgettable flight over Antarctica. 

This unique program is a way of creating youth awareness of environmental issues, especially climate change and science, and furthering a commitment to environmental and youth leadership.  

Secondary schools in Kingborough were invited to nominate students to be finalists for the program.

The following students were selected as finalists for 2015:

  • Matilda Andersson – Kingston High School
  • Brianna Altmann – Woodbridge School
  • Mitchell Bready – Kingston High School
  • Marni Edmonds – Kingston High School
  • Desmond Marcenko – St Aloysius Catholic College
  • Jem Nalder – Taroona High School
  • Andrew Quin – Taroona High School
  • Ivy Spurr – Kingston High School
  • Jasmine Stack – Taroona High School

Antarctic Experience 2015 Finalists

Students each attended an interview and delivered a presentation to the selection panel focussing on the following:

  • The selection of an Antarctic animal; its role in the food web, threats (direct and indirect) and possible solutions to identified issues;
  • How they would present their own tourist experience; and
  • How the experience of flying over Antarctica would benefit them now and in the future

The selection panel consisted of Council’s Senior Environmental Health Officer, Abyilene McGuire, Council’s Youth Development Officer, Carol Swards, and Dr Glenn Johnstone, a marine biologist with the Australian Antarctic Division.

Ivy Spurr of Kingston High School and Desmond Marcenko of St Aloysius Catholic College  were awarded the ‘Antarctic Experience’ at a presentation in November 2015.

Antarctic Experience Winners 2015

Antarctic Experience

Meeting at 9 at the Hobart Airport, our group stood, excitedly anticipating the days ahead. After saying goodbye to our loved ones, we went through security`, filling the time until our flight with conversation about ourselves and what this trip meant to us. Briefly, however, the conversation diverted into a heated discussion about the frequency of watch ads in the in-flight magazines, thus eventually culminating into a bet over how many of them there would be in magazines on this flight.

Pressing discussion indeed.

Boarding the plane, the prospect of the exciting adventure became evident in each of our fellow traveller's minds.  Months of planning was about to come into fruition.

The plane flight, while relatively uneventful, (despite the watch bet upset; only 3 ads), provided time to reflect on the days ahead.

Antarctic Experience 2015 Photo - Mountain Ridges (Landscape) Antarctic Experience 2015 Photo - Mountain Ridge (Portrait)

As if the warm weather wasn't enough of a culture shock, we boarded one of the local trams; Ivy almost being crushed by the swarm of haphazardly huddled Melbournites crammed aboard.

Relieved to get off the tram, we exited, only a short walk to our first stop of the day: Melbourne Museum.

The museum was truly a sight to behold.  The first impressions that one gets after stepping inside it, is the sheer scope of the place.  A massive whale skeleton hung near the entrance of the exhibits, as if to challenge visitor's very perception of scale.

We hurried off, eagerly anticipating the fascinating exhibits ahead.  Of particular esteem was the museum's display of dinosaur and megafauna skeletons.  There was also an interactive continental timeline, which allowed you to travel backwards in time and see what how the continents have shifted over the millions of years, via a computer screen displaying a map. 

Another particularly interesting display was the evolution exhibit, which displayed the core concepts of it and provided historical context to Darwin's theory.

The museum offered so many fascinating exhibits and interactive displays, that it would be impossible to explore them all in the brief time we had, so we set off, satisfied.

Again we caught a tram and again Ivy was almost crushed underneath the seemingly endless waves of human beings aboard. 

Our next stop was to the ACMI.  The ACMI or the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, was a fantastic museum dedicated to the celebration of Australian media.  Inside were a multitude of fascinating exhibits such as an animation display that played, various digital interactive interfaces and a cool holographic light show that messed with your depth perception.

Needless to say, we left entertained.

Afterwards, following an exploration of the somewhat loud Franklin Square (much to David's chagrin), we treated ourselves to a filling dinner at the South Gate foodcourt.

While being a busy day, it was also incredibly fun and provided an ample taster to the exciting events of tomorrow.

Desmond Marcenko's 'Road to Antarctica'

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
The Day of the Flight 


Antarctic Experience 2015 Photo - Mountain with Clouds Antarctic Experience 2015 Photo - Ice Shelf

Waking up at an early 5 o'clock to the cacophonous tones of my blaring alarm, I sat up and began to get ready for the busy day ahead.  After a quick shower and a hastily prepared breakfast of stale cornflakes, I got ready, donning my rather comfy t-shirt, before starting out for the day.

Although most were tired due to the early start, there was an undeniable, underlying sense of excitement amongst our group of travellers as our taxi journeyed across the eerily quiet streets of Melbourne.

Arriving at the airport, we travelled through security before beginning the long wait at our gate terminal.  Fortunately, to pass the time, we encountered a small group of PHD students, including Rory, who was planning to conduct an experiment for his research aboard the plane over the Antarctic.  His research focused on the earth's magnetic field and as such he was planning to observe the effects of the heightened presence of it over the Antarctic, both with a computer program he had coded and an eighteenth century compass.  According to him, when flying over the Antarctic, his compass' needle would point perpendicular.  Accompanying him, was his friend, who's research project was to measure the quantity of muons (particles derived from cosmic waves) in the Antarctic, as the earth's magnetic field over the Antarctic should act as a funnel for them, thus accounting for an increased presence.  So while many were using the opportunity as a sigh-seeing trip, others were approaching it as a scientific expedition.

Managing to kill time until then with an encounter with a rather amusing penguin and by drinking an underwhelming coffee, our plane was almost ready for boarding.

As we began to board; stream upon stream of excited tourists and researchers alike flooding in, our rag-tag group of adventurers chatted to one another excitedly. 

The plane was enormous!  I doubt I'll ever grow tired of just how massive a technological achievement a 747 aeroplane is.

Quickly moving to the back of the plane, having to dodge a menagerie of human obstacles on the way, I sat down next to Finn, ready to prepare myself for the long flight ahead. 

Not soon after the take off, I was introduced to Associate Professor Jane Eilles of the University of Melbourne in environmental sciences.

Her job mainly includes the research of biodiversity, she often works with models and using the information from them to get a better grasp of some of the threats facing the environment.

Upon asking her how her work relates the Antarctic, she informed me that many of her researchers focus on biodiversity in the Antarctic, so that they may be able to properly conserve the many fantastic species which call that great ice continent their home.

As we talked further, it became evident just how important the preservation of biodiversity was to her.  Perhaps this trip was an opportunity for her to see a land mainly untouched by the fingers of man and to see just how well life flourishes in what is a very isolated environment.

Saying my goodbyes to her, I promptly put my headphones on and sat back, eagerly anticipating what were sure to be the amazing sights ahead, but somewhat dreading the dull hours ahead.

However, I was soon proven to be quite wrong in my concerns.  This flight was like none I had ever been on.  The environment was very relaxed, with a great many huddles of conversing passengers scattered around the fringes of seat.  There was a shared anticipation, a sort of mutual excitement that connected each of the passengers.

A few hours into the flight, I encountered Dianna Patterson, a former Antarctic researcher.  After I heard of the many accolades she had amassed of her years of adventuring, I was shocked that I hadn't heard of her sooner!

Patterson was the first female Antarctic station leader, conducting her first research mission at Davis station.  Years later, she went on to be the expedition leader at Mawson; working on the preservation of the historic Mawson expedition huts. 
Currently, she's focusing on writing a non-fiction book focusing on Antarctic explorer's relationship with sled dogs.

And as if her list of achievements weren't long enough, according to Patterson herself, this trip was to be her fortieth over the Antarctic! But even as I spoke the seasoned adventurer, I detected a hint of excitement in her voice and a twinkle in her eyes.  Despite the many years she had spent in the Antarctic, she seemed to be as excited for this trip was she was for very first.

Thanking her for the impromptu interview, I returned to my seat.

Excitement spread across the cabin as the first iceberg was sighted outside the window, as we slowly approached the Ross Sea.

Not long after, pack ice was seen out the windows, as our commentator for the flight announced our entry in to the Antarctic.  Swathes of passengers rose from their seats and began to crowd around the windows of the aircraft, furiously taking photos of the amazing sight.  Before long, we were able to see the Antarctic continent. 

Describing the utter majesty of the white, wind-swept landscape is difficult for me to articulate properly.

Even photos aren't able to accurately detail the amazing sights seen.  Ice capped mountains of cromulent brown, frozen lakes stuck in time, beautiful ice masses of multiple dark and light blues, all these things I have now seen. 

I recall the brief moment of silence each passenger on the flight shared as we first viewed the icecaps, each one interpreting the sights in a different way.

Antarctic Experience 2015 Photo - Mountain Ridges with Plane Antarctic Experience 2015 Photo - Mountain Ridge (Portrait)

For some it was a thing to view before their time, for others a scientific expedition of a lifetime.  For me, the Antarctic Experience; visiting all of the scientific venues, going to Melbourne and eventually experiencing the amazing sights I saw on the trip, was an opportunity for me to be me.  I've learnt a lot about myself over the duration of the trip; what my talents and weaknesses are.  I've gotten the opportunity to learn about people and to do things like this; express my thoughts and experiences into the written word.  And for all of this and more, I will be forever grateful.

And as we left the Antarctic, a sight I may never see again, I found myself not displeased, but wholly satisfied.

Returning to Melbourne, exhausted, many hours later, I collapsed on to my bed, a smile on my face.

Desmond Marcenko's 'Road to Antarctica'

Day 5

Links to previous Antarctic Experience years:

Antarctic Experience 2014

Antarctic Experience 2013

Antarctic Experience 2012
© 2011 Kingborough Council
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