Face to Face: James Stone – At peace under a blanket of stars

Crevase selfieFor most of us, missing a plane can be anything from a minor inconvenience to a major disaster. But when Tasmanian veterinarian James Stone’s homebound flight from Antarctica was cancelled, he was overjoyed: he got to stay for an extra week on the frozen landmass that has captured his imagination and his heart. Stone was in Antarctica completing an elective component of a Masters in Marine and Antarctic Science, living and working at New Zealand’s Scott Base during the summer of 2014-2015 and camping – yes, camping – on the ice of the Ross Ice Shelf for a week over Christmas. It was an experience, Stone said, that was “worth it just for the flight down to the ice: Antarctica from the air, even from the cramped confines of a US Military Hercules aircraft is a sight never to be forgotten”.

Stone’s trip to Antarctica was his second to the icy continent, having first made his journey south as a tourist after completing an undergraduate degree in Antarctic Science at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) in 2014. “It was amazing,” Stone said of his three week expedition to South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. “The scenery, the wildlife, the remoteness, nothing was a disappointment – not even the huge seas of the Drake Passage.” It was also a great way to celebrate finishing his degree, having stumbled across the UTAS Antarctic Science program purely by chance several years beforehand when he spotted an advertisement for the degree in an Australian Geographic magazine while holidaying on Lord Howe Island.

Hailing originally from Somerset in England’s West Country, Stone has always had an avid interest in science. He excelled in biology at school and studied veterinary science at the University of Liverpool after his school careers adviser persuaded him to apply for the course on the basis that it would provide great training in a broad range of science subjects. “I was never one of these kids who wanted to be a vet from age four because they loved animals; I was more interested in the science side of the job,” Stone said. He was also a keen Scuba diver during high school, and would have pursued marine zoology as a career had he not been accepted into veterinary science the first time around. Continue reading Face to Face: James Stone – At peace under a blanket of stars

Wilson completes solo Antarctic crossing

Veterinarian Geoff Wilson has become the first Australian to complete a solo, unsupported Antarctic crossing.

The Gold Coast veterinarian has been kiting, trekking and skiing across Antarctica since November 13, 2013 – with his pink ‘boobsled’ in tow – to raise breast awareness and funds for the McGrath Foundation.

His 53-day, 3,428.53km kilometre journey ended as the McGrath Foundation was preparing to celebrate Jane McGrath Day at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

“I wasn’t expecting to finish my journey so quickly, but after a couple of weeks of horrendous conditions the last few days were perfect. I was travelling up to 200 kilometres daily, the longest stretches I’d been able to accomplish on the crossing,” WIlson said today from an ice shelf at Hercules Inlet, while awaiting an airlift to Union Glacier and then home via Chile.

“As I covered the final few kilometres I was aware it was early morning in Sydney and thousands of people would be donning pink for day three of the Sydney Test. I remember thinking it was quite serendipitous that the Pink Polar Expedition was ending as Jane McGrath Day was starting.

“After 53 days on the ice I was totally spent. I rang my wife Sarah and some close friends to let them know I was safe then bunkered down in my tent and crashed – sleeping for 12 hours to wake up to the great news that the Aussies had scored a 5-nil ‘pinkwash’ of the Ashes series!”

“My family has been behind me every step of the way and every step I’ve taken is one step closer to home and to them,” he said.

Geoff on the ice 3Wilson, 43, averaged one-and-a-half marathons of distance per day for more than seven weeks. He is the first Australian, and just the third person in history to complete a solo, unsupported crossing of Antarctica.

He also set a new record for the fastest solo, unsupported crossing of Antarctica, beating the 17-year record of Norwegian Børge Ousland by 11 days. Wilson is the first Australian to approach the South Pole ‘the long way’ from Novo Station on the South African side of the Antarctic coast.

“Australia has a proud and rich history of Polar exploration so it’s just a tremendous feeling to achieve this record for Australia and set a new mark for the others to chase,” Wilson said.

Wilson has lost 18kg during his journey.

“My body’s a little battered and so is the pink ‘boobsled’, but it slid into the history books yesterday, which is great because it is the symbol of what this journey has been all about,” he said. Continue reading Wilson completes solo Antarctic crossing

Vet set to cross Antarctica with ‘boob-sled’

Geoff on the ice.Greencross Robina vet Geoff Wilson will swap the latex gloves for three inch-thick gauntlets when he sets off on a gruelling 3300 kilometre trek across Antarctica next month.

Geoff is attempting to become the first Australian to cross the Antarctic continent solo and unassisted – a journey which he plans to complete dragging a giant pink “boob sled” with the aim of encouraging women to be “breast aware”, and with the hope of raising $1 million for the McGrath Foundation.

The idea for the mission, dubbed the Pink Polar Expedition, came about when Wilson’s long-time friend, Kate Carlyle was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time at just 34 years old.

“I have known Katie for 15 years, since I started looking after her Jack Russell cross Pugs – and now that the Pink Polar Expedition has come about, I joke that I’ve been looking after her jugs for a very long time,” Wilson said. Continue reading Vet set to cross Antarctica with ‘boob-sled’