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Antarctic and Southern Ocean

Tasmania was once joined to Antarctica as part of the Gondwana super-continent. Historic connections date back to 1777 when the English explorer Captain James Cook sought a safe anchorage on Bruny Island after circumnavigating the icy continent. Hobart was a vital staging post in the heroic age of east Antarctic exploration. France’s Dumont d’Urville, Australia’s Douglas Mawson, England’s James Clark Ross, Norway’s Carsten Borchgrevink and Roald Amundsen all paused in the Derwent on their way to Antarctica. Amundsen told the world from the steps of the Hobart Post Office that he had reached the geographic South Pole. A Tasmanian physicist, Louis Bernacchi, was the first Australian to over-winter in Antarctica.

Tasmania’s links to Antarctica have grown from strength to strength in subsequent years. Tasmanians have built an impressive international reputation for science, environmental management systems, policy coordination and for contributing to the Antarctic treaty system. Hobart is home to Australia’s Antarctic Division, CSIRO’s Division of Marine Research, the Cooperative Research Centre for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and the international Commission for the Conservation of Marine Antarctic Living Resources. The city is recognised internationally as a world-class centre for Antarctic science, research, management, education and logistics. In 2007, the first Australian flights carrying scientific teams were made from Hobart airport to Casey Station in east Antarctica.

Hobart can provide comprehensive support for national and international expeditions and programs. Antarctic ships from France, the United States, China and Russia visit Hobart’s deep-water port.

Tasmanians have enthusiastically embraced the biennial Australian Antarctic Festival that celebrates the State’s multi-faceted connections with the frozen continent. Hobart-based icebreakers and Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum are a popular feature and the event draws in representatives of the city’s diverse Antarctic community of scientists, technicians, trades people, government agencies and commercial suppliers as well as the broader community. In 2018, a popular Trade Expo installation featured a Lego model of Australia’s new Icebreaker RSV Nuyina. RSV Nuyina will be based in Hobart and is scheduled to arrive in July 2020. This will coincide with the next Antarctic Festival and international Antarctic science and logistics meetings hosted by the Australian Antarctic Division.


Facts and figures

  • Hobart has the highest concentration of scientists specialising in Antarctic and Southern Ocean research in the world.

  • Tasmania’s geographic relationship with Antarctica spans at least 600 million years. The two landmasses were initially united, either near or across the Equator, in the super-continent Gondwana, which began to break up 50 million years ago.
  • Total expenditure by Antarctic-related organisations and groups in Tasmania was estimated at $186 million in 2017/18. Of this total, $50 million was spent on goods and services sourced in Tasmania.
  • Spending by expeditioners and conference delegates make a significant contribution to the local economy, estimated to be $6.5m in 2017/18.
  • Tasmania offers a range of specialist products and services, including: logistics and provisioning; fisheries; conservation and environmental management; infrastructure; education and training; cultural heritage; tourism; the commercialisation of services and products; and information sharing.

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Tasmania’s Stories Edition 206

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