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Antarctica: the land that pollution forgot

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Charles Page, a renowned Australian photographer, talks about the launch of his first monograph and the reasons for doing so. Charles has been exhibited widely in Australia and this monograph focuses on his experiences in Antarctica. It can be purchased from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. The online bookshop can be found at www.tmag.tas.gov.au.


Charles was amazed at how the expedition became such a highly emotional experience. He was enthralled by the fact that the Australian bases are maintained as pristine environments. Everything, including human waste, is brought back to Australia.

One of the most appealing things about Antarctica is that it is a vision of what - in an ideal world - the rest of the world should be like ...there’s no fighting down there, no wars, the environment is pristine, clean. In Antarctic because of the very few people and the reasons they are there - scientific endeavour - their presence doesn’t impact on the environment .... no one is drilling oil wells there ...YET I often say to people that Antarctica is one of these places that you go to and you come back and die because there’s nothing you can do after it to match it. This was the case for me - After I got back from Antarctica, I didn’t work for nearly 12 months - I printed the Antarctic photographs to hang on to the experience, but I really didn’t know where to go after that - I thought - what can you do after that experience ....
It’s impossible.

There are now no feral animals in Antarctica, courtesy of the global Madrid Protocol which sought to have all feral animals removed by March 1994.
Charles, however, found six huskies at the Australian base. These were older dogs and were consequently left behind because they were expected to die.

On that trip we brought out the very last huskies on the Aurora Australis. The first group of about 27 huskies were removed the previous year and taken to Minnesota. However six of the older dogs were left behind. However they had all survived because one of the expeditioners had looked after them so well - even building them kennels - the first in their lives.

It was a wonderful opportunity to go out and ride behind the very last husky run at the Australian station, the night before they were all airlifted back to the ship and brought to Australia to a place they had never seen. Some went to Tasmania and two went to Altona in Victoria and lived to about 12 years of age. There is a statue to them, as a lasting memorial, outside the Antarctic Headquarters in Kingston Tasmania.

When the dogs were to be brought back, a couple of the tradesmen on the base had made replica polar medals that they awarded to the dogs...virtually every man there was in tears. These expeditioners...look like very tough men ...the tears were just flowing down their faces.



Charles Page with one of the last Huskies at the Australian base.

All photos from Charles Page's 'The Crystal Desert'

I photographed an abandoned Russian Base where there were over 1000 forty four gallon drums of diesel fuel left scattered on the ice. It was horrendous to go to this pristine environment where there is no pollution - and walk over a hill only to find a sea of black forty four gallon drums full of diesel fuel. The Russian Base was from my experience the only environmental negative.

The chilling contrast – drums of diesel left at an abandoned Russian base


Charles travelled to and from Antarctica on the Aurora Australis - even after forteen year, seeing it in Hobart during his recent visit for the book launch brought so many memories and emotions flooding back.


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