Science lecturer joins Antarctic adventure

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Science lecturer joins Antarctic adventure


Published on 21 December 2012

21 December 2012

A University of the Sunshine Coast academic and long-time global explorer will fly to South Africa just before New Year’s Eve to join a ship bound for Antarctica to assist a dangerous cross-continent expedition described as “the last great polar challenge”.

USC Lecturer in Science and Engineering Dr Adrian McCallum, 41, has spent five years helping his hero and ex-Cambridge colleague, legendary British explorer Sir Ranulph “Ran” Fiennes, plan the expedition called the Coldest Journey.

It will be the world’s first ever attempt to cross the Antarctic in winter, a 3,200km, six-month journey in sub-zero temperatures and near-permanent darkness. The trip will raise money for charity and collect rare scientific data for research.

As Dr McCallum swelters at home in Maleny with his wife and three young boys this Christmas, he will be trying on his warmest thermals in readiness for the South Pole.

“It will be between 5 and minus 10 degrees when I get to Antarctica,” he said. “But I’m actually more used to frigid climates than 32 degrees. This time last year I was in Antarctica with the Australians and three years ago I was there with the British.”

He will fly to Cape Town on 30 December to join the South African ship SA Agulhas, which has already set sail from London with expedition members and equipment.

“I’ll spend two weeks on board the ship, helping make sure we take the appropriate course to get the scientific data, deploy buoys, meet the logistical needs of the expedition and the timeline, and of course avoid sea ice,” Dr McCallum said.

“When the ship ties up in Eastern Antarctica, due south of Cape Town, I’ll spend a week alongside the ice, unloading and testing vehicles and ensuring the traverse team is best-placed to commence their historic journey.

“Then I hope to shake Ran’s hand as he sets off and after that, I’ll be on board the ship for two weeks to arrive back home in mid-February.”

Dr McCallum said it had been a dream come true when the man described by The Guinness Book of Records as the world’s greatest living explorer asked him to lead the cross-continent traverse team.

While Dr McCallum reluctantly declined this initial offer, he was delighted to accept the role of Marine Science Coordinator for the preparatory part of the expedition.

Dr McCallum, who has an Australian military planning background, said he aimed to instil his love of adventure, science and engineering in his USC students.

“Science can be an amazing journey that takes you all over the world,” he said. “I want USC students to know there are opportunities to do really cool stuff in this realm.”

Data gathered during the trip will also be used by other USC researchers who are examining the chemical composition of Antarctic waters.

Julie Schomberg

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