I arrived into Hobart in the late afternoon. The flight in was turbulent but spectacular, flying over islands and Tasmania – a diverse, remote and rugged landscape – a real wilderness.
I met some other scientists at baggage collection at the airport and was soon accosted by Steve Room – a local British ex-pat taxi driver.
When I got to the hotel I reached into my pocket for my passport – nothing. I thought back to the seat pocket where I had left it. Seat 12A on the Qantas flight from Sydney. Ah.
I called Qantas who telefaxed the flight, mid air, which had already left, enroute to Melbourne, some two hours away, to check if my passport was still safely tucked in Seat 12A’s pocket.
It was a number of hours before I had a reply – that it was not Qantas’ policy to send things back to people. I would have to come and get it. I told the employee on the end of the phone – I would be departing for Antarctica possibly tomorrow and although would love to fly to Melbourne and back, can’t do so without a passport. After a further long hold and a check with a higher up in the Qantas chain, they kindly agreed to send it back. I returned to the airport to meet the head of the cabin team who handed me the passport in person, asking me to show him ID before he gave it to me. I said my ID was in the envelope… a photo is attached of the momentus occasion. I have never before had my passport go off travelling without me.
The cat looses another life. I am one lucky person. If it had of been lost, I wouldn’t be travelling anywhere.
Thats what happens when you fly half way around the world in 2 days. You leave your mind somewhere inbetween.
I walked into the hotel room and met two other winter-overers, Gerard and la femme, Stephane. In fact Stephane is actually a man but as I keep reminding him, he spells his name like a girl. So as to avoid any pre winter over tension, I stop calling him a girl and instead opt for a more appropriate, neutral and suitable name we agreed on during the training in Paris. He is known as ‘Frenchie’.
Gerard is something else. In Paris he told me about how he lived up in the Canadian Arctic – like I had. Bored at the end of his employment, he had collected together all the loose husky’s he could find in town and formed a dog team. Then he bought an old sled and spent a couple of years dogsledding across the breadth of the Canadian Arctic. In Paris, during dinner, we had traced out a map of the Arctic on a napkin and shared stories from the different places and people, and knew the geography like a surgeon knows anatomy. Its a small world I thought, especially when part of it fits on a napkin.
I greeted Gerard with a big hug as if we had met out on the ice.
Later in the evening, I pulled out a map of Antarctica I had bought with me. We soon turned it over, as on the flip side was a map of the Arctic. He then showed me how he had spent another few years sailing around the Arctic. I smiled. This man has lived.
I met some more French scientists, logisticians and more. The whiskey drinking group soon formed – Nico, a logistician from France and Frenchie himself. One night we must have spent 300 dollars on some of Scotland’s finest. We had started the evening on 10 years aged drink and finished on 30 years, broke.
Walking around Hobart was interesting – its a great place and lovely friendly people. Very different to the mainland. No stress.
I took a cab as I had been invited out to the Australian Antarctic Division by the Director. The local taxi driver shared sighting stories he had heard over the years of the probably extinct Tasmanian Tiger.
I was taken to a breezy back office and introduced to a variety of Aussie Antarcticans. I heard of people who had over-wintered 5 times, 8 times, 10 times. With Mawson’s centenary celebration underway, the place was vibrant. I nosed through some of their exhibits. The ashes of the last husky from Antarctica when the treaty banned them in 1992/3. Others, stuffed, stood tall and proud. I thought about Mishi and about how when I get home I will run her up in Norway. I had already made the plan for one very long dog-sledding adventure for mid 2013. Mishi doesn’t know it yet, but she will be my point dog. I had been running her in London over the past weeks and watched as the characteristic Husky run had evolved, as the ears are swept back as speed is gained, like the wings of a F14 Tomcat fighter jet re-engaging for war, streamlined and reliable.
In the cab ride back, from another cab driver, I heard about the terrible cancer Tasmanian Devils now suffer, threatening their very existence.
We took in several local museums, one with a Mawson celebration exhibition. What those men went through. Thats how you end up with your picture on a bank note.