Australian Antarctic Festival a real icebreaker

LOCATED just 2,692 kilometres from the nearest continental base, the city of Hobart is a thriving hub for Antarctic research and discovery.

A crew of more than 120 volunteers banded together last month to host the Australian Antarctic Festival, providing the Hobart community with a fascinating look into one of the harshest environments on Earth.

Held from 8-11 September, the free public event saw thousands of people take part in a range of Antarctic inspired activities including exhibitions, open days, school excursions lectures, historical waterfront tours and even a live husky run along Franklin Wharf.

Festival director Paul Cullen said the community response to the 2016 festival was “extraordinary.”

“Scientists, students, technicians, administrators, photographers and Antarctic veterans came forward to make this a genuine celebration of the historical living links that have bound Hobartians to the open ocean and the Antarctic continent for more than 100-years,” he said.

Nine-hundred school children from 16 schools across Tasmania participated in free tours of IMAS and the Aurora Australis, with an additional 1500 people booking guided tours aboard both the Aurora Australis and L’Astrolabe, courtesy of P&O Maritime.

The Antarctic Expo in Princes Wharf attracted a crowd of 6000 people over two-days, delighting patrons with its displays from Antarctic agencies and the industry.

“These brilliant displays demonstrated just how important Hobart is as the gateway to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean,” Mr Cullen said.

“The linked open days at IMAS also provided an insight into what kind of science we do and what this means for a changing planet.”

Meanwhile, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery’s ‘Antarctic Photography Exhibition’ drew in more than 4000 visitors, with local photographer Chris Wilson taking out both first prize and the people’s choice award, and the Bureau of Meteorology’s Barend Becker winning second prize.

Hundreds of parents and children also flocked to the Parliamentary Gardens to welcome the huskies after an exciting run along the length of Franklin Wharf, which honoured the return of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen from the South Pole in 1912.

The rookeries of Mawson Place were also awash in a sea of painted model penguins as part of the Penguin Project, which saw 5,500 Australian school children donate their handcrafted penguins for the event.

These 30-centimetre creations complemented the 20 life-size penguins that were created by notable Tasmanian artists.

Mr Cullen acknowledged the support of the Hobart City Council as major event sponsor.

For more information about the Australian Antarctic Festival, visit www.antarcticfestival.com.au.

Caption: Antarctic Festival Volunteers manager Kelvin Aldred takes students from Penguin District Primary School on a tour of the Aurora Australis and right, the live husky run along Franklin Wharf. Photo credit for both images: Ballantyne Photography.

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