Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Big Ideas -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) This Program is Captioned Live. (Theme music) I'm Waleed Aly, Hi there, welcome to Big Ideas, life and death in Antarctica. On the show today - environmental scientist Tim Jarvis is a world renowned

North and South Poles who's travelled to both mountains and rainforests, and many of the world's deserts, mostly unassisted and on his own. at Sydney University, In this inspiring lecture recent North and South Pole trips Jarvis shares some photos of his most including the gruelling expedition of explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson. recreating the polar survival journey To make the experiment more authentic and equipment Jarvis used only 1913 clothing and survived on starvation rations. even gives us some tips And the adventure-loving scientist about surviving a polar bear attack. expeditions My expeditions are unsupported

so essentially I pull that thing, communications gear, survival gear, load it up with all the food, fuel, in this case, 93 days on the ice. everything I'll need for, 230kg that weighed, in total. Very, very difficult to pull - essentially, you are the horse to that cart, for these kinds of expeditions. there's no aerial support, There's no food drops, no kites to pull you along, Antarctica incidentally. no dogs - we banned dogs from We were fearful that dogs and seals, genetically distant because they're not that to one another, in terms of their relationship could very conceivably that diseases from dogs spread into seal population. so no dogs to pull. So, dogs were banned, pulling every day So you are quite literally the 225kg sled. we're dealing with - The kind of distances the grey is obviously Australia,

the yellow is the Antarctic, of indication of scale and just to give you some sort square kilometres in size, Australia is 7.7 million and Antarctica is about 14, of Australia. so getting on for double the size I can point out the four poles And if I use my laser pointer if people are interested. This magnetic pole David and MacKay trekked to, was the one that Mawson, Edgeworth and back in Mawson's day it was on the land. and Edgeworth David's day, of course,

about 12 km a year north, These days it's moving towards us. Sir Douglas Mawson, In fact, towards it's number one son, it's moving north. who's buried in South Australia - is 75km off Antarctica, So that, these days, under the ocean. And if you got here with a ship does all sorts of curious things you'll find your compass over the position when you're actually south magnetic pole. of the South Pole - the magnetic pole would be The geomagnetic is where which of course it's not, if the Earth were uniformly magnetic, so that's a theoretical. of course, that Scott and Amundsen The south geographic is the one, of polar explorers of 100 years ago and many of the heroic era were trying to reach first. Scott and his men, of course, the Norweigian, were narrowly beaten by Amundsen, like moving fodder. who used his dogs, pretty much, up on the Polar Plateau The first camp that they established from down here, after coming up on to the high ground was called the 'butcher's shop', half of their dogs at which point they killed

for consumption by their other dogs and cached the food in the event of problems. and even my the men, got there after Amundsen And, of course, Scott and all his men on the return journey. and all of them died of Oates famously saying, You perhaps remember the story I may be some time,' 'I'm just going outside, in a blizzard walking off to kill himself so that the other might survive. lost all sensation in the toes, He was so terribly frostbitten - the toes were black,

up both feet he had gangrene extending his colleagues down and he knew that he was slowing to certain death, and almost condemning them all very brave way to try and save them. that he took his own life in that he left his run too late Unfortunately

and they all died in Antarctica. pole of relative inaccessibility The final one is the

and this is a Russian construct furthest from any geological coast. and that's the point, on average, just to demonstrate to you And I put that up there really from any coastline that if that was on average furthest down there somewhere you'd think it would be the rock of Antarctica but this is because doesn't make up the coastline.

much of the continent. In fact, it doesn't make up Most of the continent is ice. is 2,050 metres - The average thickness that's an average thickness, of ice in the Antarctic Ice Cap. so 2 kilometres thickness twice the size of Australia So if you've got a place of 2,000 metres, covered in an average thickness of ice in that cap. you have 28 million cubic kilometres drinking water, About 75% of the world's fresh water, in that cap. we have 97% in the ocean, In fact, of all the world's water 2% is locked up in the ice, and of the remaining 3%, predominantly in that ice cap. that's available for humanity to use Of the remaining 1% in the form of freshwater, called Lake Baikal in Siberia. a quarter of that 1% is in a lake

for most people. Not exactly accessible So we, as humanity, survive of the available world's water, on 0.75% lots of desalinisation unless we start doing which is another topic altogether. you're dealing with down south. So, it's an amazing place This thickness of ice - some places far, far thicker, 2km is the average thickness, in some places over 4km. So, mountains like this one, roughly 1,000m bigger than Kosciusko, which is 1,000m, by about 100m. only sticks through the ice are buried in the ice The other 3,100m in this part of Antarctica. that is that thick on the left hand side. These of course are my tracks like me, If you're into mountaineering, very, very easy, it makes climbing peaks you can stick down that you've climbed a 3,100m peak and it takes you about five minutes. You've only got the top 100. There's an ice - there is a mountain range the size of the European Alps buried underneath the ice of Antarctica. The peaks are just not physically big enough to poke through that thick mantle of ice. So where that shot was taken, to the South Pole, I'm coming out of the screen towards you, towards the South Pole still 600km distant at this point, there are many, many more mountains, very significant mountains but none of them are physically big enough to poke through, so you're literally walking right over the summits of those mountains. What effect does pulling a 225kg sled for ten hours a day in minus 30 degrees - your domestic freezer is perhaps minus 8, minus 10 degrees, just to give you an idea, your freezer at home, what sort of effect does that have on you? Well, it's a great weightloss program, if you're into that kind of thing. You could quite frankly, you could go there and just stand still and the weight would drop off you just given the temperature alone but when you combine that with the workload, despite consuming - for me, I consumed 7,200 calories a day, 24 Mars bars, roughly, of food a day. I still lost 20kg in weight. You just cannot keep the weight on.

There's no point taking more food because it all comes down to simple maths - if you took more you'd have a heavier sled, you'd probably not be able to move it, and you get to a point - many nutritionists well tell you this, I asked for a lot of their advice - that if you take more than a certain number of calories your body physically cannot digest the amount of calories you're putting into it so there's no point pulling a sled carrying all of that food if your body can't use it.

So, 7,200 and losing 20 kg was about the level I decided to set for this expedition. Another thing you will lose - the younger people here perhaps not but the rest of us - if you have metal fillings the metal will contract - metal contracts in the cold, of course, water expands to form of ice and for a larger volume but metal does the exact opposite so in minus 30 degrees, taking deep lung-fulls of air if you have metal fillings expect them to contract and then start falling out. Now, that happened to me, I lost four molars

at the back, all having metal fillings in, a couple of them are OK but a couple of them began to cause me a lot of pain. I'm being a bit soft, I thought, right, I need to do something about this and I had a dental kit with me

so during the course of the trip I had to do my own dental repairs, just to try and keep myself going. That involves getting the anesthetic, putting it between your legs, warming it up, getting the syringe out and injecting into your own gums to do your own dental work and your on-the-run repairs.

You've got to push that needle a long way into your gum, let me tell you, not a very pleasant thing. (Audience laughs)

I got back home and my dentist said, 'Who did this work?'

(Laughter) If the place is always - the temperature never went above minus 15 degrees on that trip to the South Pole. 47 days it took me to reach there and I kept going from that point on. If the temperature is never going above zero, how is it that everything's melting? Well, the principle mechanism by which ice is being lost - and this applies up north to the ice caps of Greenland and some of the other islands that contain ice caps, the principle mechanism by which ice is being lost is that near the coast of Antarctica

and also near the coast of, say, for example, the Greenland ice cap, you're actually getting temperatures above zero near the coast and the affect that has is that ice is melting, water percolates down in the cracks of the ice

hits the bedrock underneath and acts as a lubricant and you're actually having a situation where ice is literally slipping off the continent more easily. You're getting much faster movement of the glaciers - these rivers of ice, because of that warming at the coast, not because the interior, in either Antarctica or Greenland - this is a generalisation, of course, but by and large you're not getting temperatures above zero for melting to happen further inland. It's just that coastal melting that's making things slip off. What about up north? I trekked to the South Pole, I thought, 'Right, North Pole.' North Pole is a completely different proposition. South pole is 3,000m high, there's a small scientific base of people at the South Pole. In fact, I came up and tapped the scientist

who was working on the night shift when I arrived at the South Pole - I'd started in Chilean time, incidentally, I'd never bothered to change my watch from Chilean time, he was operating on New Zealand time, all points of longitude converge at the South Pole so we're all on the same timezone, really, but he was working on his own on the night shift and for me it was early morning. And I came up and tapped him on the shoulder and scared the living daylights out of him when I arrived. But the ice there is 3,000m thick. The actual height of the land at the South Pole is only about 50m above sea level, the rest is ice.

North Pole, you've got 2,000m deep ocean and ice only 5m thick on the surface of the sea. So, for all of us here, if we all went on trips to the North Pole it would be different experience for all of us. It would be whichever piece of ice was floating at 90 degrees north, the day we arrive there. So we'd all have a completely unique experience.

So a trip to the North Pole relies on the ocean being frozen, obviously, to enable you to walk on the surface of it.

And what you do, you go at the end of the Northern Hemisphere winter, you step off either Russia or Canada, which are two of the counties whose coastlines border the Arctic Ocean, and you're expecting there to be thick enough ice

to support your weight so you can begin your journey going north.

And the intention that you start at the end of the winter where the ocean will be frozen, and the further north you go, the colder it's getting but the warmer weather is following you. So, the ocean is melting behind you

and the intention or course is to keep ahead of the melting ice, that's the general idea. So that's the conditions one would expect to see and the journey involves literally jumping from one - not jumping, when you're pulling a heavy sled - but moving from one piece of crazy paving to the next, that's the journey to the North Pole. For anybody here who's interested I often recruit at these kind of things so come and see me afterwards. The problem this presents is - there are a number of things, for a start, with the climate change we're experiencing, the ice does not form up to the shore of either Canada or Russia in many places, any longer, particularly on the Russian side.

So, for me, I had to fly out by helicopter to the nearest piece of ice that was solid enough to support my weight

which was one of these pieces about the size of this auditorium. And the helicopter just kept the engines going, dropped me off, flew off and my journey began from there, going from one piece to the next. The other problem with these trips is that you're going north and the predominant drift of ice in the Arctic Ocean is south. And it's a 2,000-metre-deep ocean, the thickest ice is only five metres, so it's like leaves on the surface of a pond - small bit of wind and the whole lot moves.

And if it's predominantly moving south and you're moving north, you find yourself on a conveyor belt of ice going the wrong way. It's like walking up the down escalator. And I get to the end of the day and think, 'right, 22km, we've covered 22km.' Switch the GPS off, go to sleep, wake up in the morning and to my horror I find I've drifted back 25 or 26km in the wrong direction. So it takes a particular mindset. That's not to mention the prospect of falling through the cracks in the ice. What you try to do is obviously not pitch the tent where that happens - (Laughter) You want to wait till - it's like plate tectonics, you've got pieces of ice routinely either moving apart or coming together. When they come together they form what you call a pressure ridge and as the two pieces come together, the pressure causes the two pieces of ice to literally join like a weld in two pieces of metal. So, you try and pitch the tent there so if the pressure moves apart again, hopefully it won't break apart at that bit and you'll be fine. Again, that's the theory. I had a few times when that just didn't work, I'm afraid.

So, what's happening up north? This is the current situation, this is the maximum extent of ice you get on the Arctic Ocean and what you're looking at here - you're looking at Greenland, this is Canada all around here and this is Russia. And Norway and this is the gap into the Northern Atlantic. It's icebergs that came off things like the ice cap of Greenland that the Titanic, of course, ran into in the Northern Atlantic here. But this is all sea ice. This is a winter scenario where you're getting this amount of ice on the ocean. And this is what it should be at the moment. This stuff is called permafrost, this is the permanently frozen ground.

Sometimes this is 600 or 700 metres thick, this permafrost. And the permafrost is ground that never melts, regardless of the season and it locks up a lot of organic matter in that permafrost

that would otherwise melt and release methane into the atmosphere. And of course methane is a much more effective greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, about 20 times more efficient. And so we don't want that to melt, obviously. Unfortunately with the current sort of situation

if we keep going on the trajectory that we're on - and I don't propose to start throwing figures at you, or graphs that go up like that, because I think we have all heard of those - but if we keep going with the trajectory we're on - the predictions are that we will not have much ice on the surface of the Arctic Ocean by as early as 2070. Which, obviously, makes polar expeditions to the North Pole

on foot completely impossible, but that is not very important. The problem is that the ice on the surface of the sea currently reflects back a lot of the incoming solar radiation back to space, about 80%. With that ice gone, you get more incoming solar radiation, more warming of the ocean, less ice forming,

which results in less sunshine being bounced back to space, more warming and so you get a positive feedback and you get an increased warming of the northern hemisphere in the Arctic. And in terms of the permafrost layers here, you should go to places in northern Russia where you see, literally, there's an area the size of France - they always seem to be the size of France or Belgium - I don't know why, that's probably why those countries are there in the first place - it's great that they are but there's a place the size of France, bubbling away with - you can quite literally light a match and the methane will ignite - there's so much coming out of the ground, it's extremely worrying. So this is the scene I was faced with when I got to the northern-most point of October Revolution Island, the wonderfully named October Revolution Island off the northern coast of Siberia, no ice to be found. And so a 75km journey in a helicopter to the nearest piece of ice. This is not one of my shots, I have to say that up front. It is a wonderful shot. Whenever I came across a bear I was too scared to really hold the camera steady to get a decent shot - I was normally running. Polar bears are under serious threat from a whole series of different directions. Being polar animals of course, they have a lot of subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is an area where a lot of toxins get accumulated in people and animals. A lot of the polar animals are very susceptible to poisoning from toxins but the situation they're faced with is that with that melting ice they hibernate on land. They come out of hibernation at the end of the Northern Hemisphere winter, and they expect the ice front to be nearby,

where they hunt most of their food in the form of seals. And of course if it's 70 or 80kms off shore, they're in too weakened a state to be swimming out to the ice front to hunt, and so you do hear stories of drownings of polar bears. They're not that frequent, but you are hearing stories of that. One of the biggest problems they face is habitat loss, in fact, not the melting of the ice necessarily. If they chase you - I hope people are making notes, here - if they chase you there are several ways to get away from them. One is to throw down - this is a piece of advice I received from someone - throw down an item of clothing, I was told, and the bear will stop and sniff it. Once he realises it's not edible, he resumes the chase, presumably. The trouble is if the temperature is minus 30 the one thing you don't want to be doing is discarding items of clothing. (Laughter) You know, you'd be found naked and dead after a 20-km run, with just your clothes dotted at 200- or 300-metre intervals. I was given a gun to ward off polar bears. I did all my training in the UK with a modern rifle. Transporting guns is not easy these days, of course. So, when I arrived in Russia

I knew I was going to pick up a gun locally. And I received the gun from a hunter,

a sort of toothless guy with a cheroot hanging out of the corner of his mouth and he turned up in the middle of the night with a hessian sack

and he sort of cackled as he handed me this thing and I unwrapped the sack thinking, 'What's this?', you know? And there was this gun with a sight off to one side and the barrel kind of the other way An old Lee-Enfield bolt-action gun. And I said, 'Look, what happens if I miss?' Really referring to how do you reload the gun, and he said, 'My friend, you miss one of them, you deserve to die.' (Laughter) And they're a very, very large creature and I've never had to kill one, thankfully. And it would be the end of the trip if you did - you have to record the position and the circumstances in which you met the bear, and that kind of thing. They're a wonderful creature. All of these trips brought me into the orbit of this lady, and this is Sir Ernest Shackleton's granddaughter. She never met him. She was born - she's always quick to point this out to me - but she was born after he died. So she wasn't around as long ago as that, in other words. And Shackleton, of course, died of a massive heart attack on South Georgia Island, which is a sub-Antarctic island, on his fourth polar expedition. He'd been unsuccessful, in fact, in all of his expeditions

in terms of the achievement of his final goal. He didn't make it to the South Pole,

he didn't go all the way across Antarctica like he had planned. But he was one of the greatest leaders in tough circumstances like you get on these polar expeditions. Anyway, his granddaughter said to me, 'Look, I'd be really honoured if you would attempt to retrace the journey of my grandfather,' the journey in which his ship was crushed in the ice and he never set foot on the land of Antarctica to do his original journey but in fact the remainder of his expedition

was all about saving himself and his men from certain death. And it involved getting into a small rowing boat, going across the ocean, climbing across a mountain to get to a remote whaling station

and raise the alarm and save everyone. And I said, 'Look, I'd love to! Love to do that. But, I am a long way into planning an expedition to retrace the journey of Douglas Mawson. If I am successful on that, or whatever happens,

I will happily take up the lead on this expedition, I'll be very honoured to do it.' In terms of Mawson,

Mawson, as I say, had spent time here, he was a physicist and a geologist, and a very good one, and Mawson's efforts in Antarctica are still legendary, really. He was responsible for mapping huge swathes of Antarctica and Australia, to this day, still has 42% of Antarctica is within Australian Antarctic territory as a result, largely, of Mawson's efforts. The expedition of his I'd always been interested in was one where he was with two colleagues -

a British Army officer called Ninnis, and a Swiss doctor and cross-country ski champion, called Mertz. They were travelling along quite happily, Mertz and Mawson stopped to regroup, to see where Ninnis was, who was following up the rear with the largest sled and the biggest dog team, pulling most of the food for the three men. They looked and the horizon was completely empty. They retraced their steps and they found a gaping hole in the ice. Ninnis, the dogs, the tent and 80% of the food had gone down a very deep crevasse and all were killed, they think, instantly, pretty much. They in fact attached together all their remaining rope, Mawson and Mertz, and lowered themselves down as far as they could, about 40 metres and all they were looking at was into the depths of this deep abyss and nothing could be seen or heard in the crevasse. So, Ninnis was gone. They read a quick memorial service to Ninnis then the next order of the day was to try and save themselves. They were still 500km from home and they only had 20% of their food left, and in Mawson's words, they had six miserable dogs left. No tent, incidentally. Surviving in these places without a tent is extremely challenging, let me tell you. Not because a tent is nice and warm and snug, but because it keeps the wind off you and the wind is ever-present in Antarctica and it makes it very difficult to survive. So the two men headed for home, half way back, Mertz died. He died of Mawson described as fever, we weren't really sure and nor was he what it was that had actually killed Mertz but he died in his arms in convulsions, leaving Mawson on his own, in Antarctica with still several hundred kilometres to go, desperately weakened, losing his hair, skin coming off his feet, terribly frost bitten, completely malnourished, totally demoralised having lost both of his colleagues and wondering if he could possibly make it. His survival is one of the most amazing journeys of them all and ever since that time people gave Mawson, of course, a tremendous amount of credit for what he'd done, but they also questioned whether on not there might have been

the cause for considering cannibalism, and whether Mawson, lying next to the body of his second fallen colleague, Mertz, in the tent for 36 hours, as he did, according to his diary, whether he might have been lying there with the body of Mertz beside him thinking about taking some of his flesh, so that he might survive. And it's a question that has been there, it's a legitimate question that was posed at the time

and ever since, it's been rumbling along in the background. So, I was interested to try - via almost scientific experiment, to see whether I could do the expedition with the food Mawson said he had, without eating anyone, of course! And the same equipment, the same duration, similar terrain, not exactly the same terrain but, of course, since Mawson's day the glaciers through which he and his men travelled, of course, have long since carved their ice - and probably the bodies of his two colleagues into the ocean. But, the idea was to re-create as much as possible all that had happened before. The two things that were going to be different were that we weren't gonna eat any dogs, and we weren't gonna kill anyone, they were the two criteria. Came close, let me tell you, several times, but that was the intention. And we were gonna film it all, normally, by filming ourselves and occasionally through meeting a camera crew who would take out my colleague at the half way point - he was gonna perform the role of Mertz in this experiment,

so on day 25, which is when Mertz died on the original trip, or after the same amount of distance travelled, he'd be extracted and I'd be on my own. It was a legitimate, real expedition. We embarked on this journey and, of course, turning the clock back 100 years to get all this gear together and do all the planning was extremely hard work.

I'm often asked how one does these trips and I don't want to get into the philosophy too much, but polar expeditions for me are not something I, sort of, do in my spare time, they really are a way of life, almost, for me. And like anything that represents a big life ambition you have to really prioritise it ahead of other things if you really want to achieve at the highest level. And that does mean having a very understanding partner, having a very understanding employer, putting your career on hold, putting, you know, your health at risk

and there are a series of things you have to do if you want to make these things achievable. But you have to put in place things that are going to allow you to achieve the ultimate goal of attempting these expeditions, otherwise they just simply won't happen. They are big ticket items. I went to see a time-management person speak and he was speaking to a big audience and for those of you who have heard this before, I apologise, but this - it's a very good analogy. This guy had a jar, a glass jar and he put it on the table and he filled this jar with rocks and he filled it to the top and he said, 'Is the jar full?' And someone in the audience said, 'Yes, the jar looks full,' and he said, 'No, it's not,' and produced gravel, poured the gravel into the jar, filled the spaces between the rocks up to the top, and he said, 'Is the jar full?' and the audience said, 'Yes, it look pretty full,' and he said, 'No, no,' and did the same with sand, of course the sand filled the gaps between the gravel, did the same with water, anyway, by the end the jar was obviously well and truly full and he said, 'What's the message?' And some bright spark said, 'Well, it's obvious, you know, the jar is your life and the harder you try the more you can fit in.' And he said, 'No, that's a good answer.' The key thing is you must get the big rocks in first.' And the big rocks are those life goals that we all have that we want to try and achieve that can't be fitted in around all the other things just conveniently in your day to day existence, they have to be put in your jar of life first and you have make everything else fit in around them. And that's what these trips are like. They take about four years of planning, roughly $1 million to organise, I don't pay myself to do them, I give all the proceeds over and above the cost to actually mount the trip to charity, and the money is never destined for, you know, saving people in difficult circumstances, it's always destined for making a film about something. So, I don't feel - I don't feel any guilt

but it's - these are real big considerations, obviously. Practically speaking, how do you do it? I borrowed the gear from the show featuring Kenneth Branagh, playing Ernest Shackleton - it was on the ABC four or five years ago over two or three Sunday's, I think. Kenneth Branagh is a tiny, little guy, he's about 5 foot 6 or, you know, 170 in the new money, no use for me obviously, but they did have some big guys who luckily had bigger outfits that I was able to borrow.

And this is what they used to wear back in those days, they wore what they call Burberry. These days Burberry make tartan-lined trenchcoats and handbags and things like that - not much use for trips. Stylish, but not much use. Back in the old days they made all of the polar outer shell layers. They were the Gore-Tex of the early 1900s. So, that's what I wore. I can categorically tell you they are terrible, with all considerable respect to Burberry as a sponsor, but the gear did not perform very well, but it's 100-year-old gear.

This, by the way, is a very small glacier in the scale of Antarctica. That's almost three kilometres wide. That's very, very small. The largest one is the Lambert Glacier and it's about 100 kilometres wide, just to give you an indication of the scale of what you're dealing with down south. Turning the clock back too, if you want to try and sleep as they did in their reindeer skin sleeping bags in a tent, you need to make them. You can't buy them at Paddy Pallin, you have to go somewhere and find people who are prepared to make them. So I contacted an Inuit community up north, in Canada, they still made the reindeer skin bags. It involved telling them what we needed, the sizes, the weights, the kind of temperatures we'd have to be dealing with, and they culled the reindeer at the particular time of year when they had their thick winter coat, so that the sleeping bag they were going to make out of that coat was going to be warm enough to keep me alive during the course of a long Antarctic night. There's no point, obviously, having a summer coat which is much thinner and lighter or you'll die in your sleep. So, if anyone's been to Bali

and tried to bring back a wooden bowl from your trip, try bringing in reindeer skin sleeping bags into Australia, very tough. This was the tent. Originally, as I said before, Mawson lost his tent and so, just like him, we used an old tent cover. And a tent cover is a tent minus the floor, the guy-lines, the pegs or the frame. So we made a frame, like Mawson, out of a pair of skis

and a pair of old sled-runners, and we draped the fabric of the tent over it

and weighed down the edges with snow, and that was our tent. We made the guy-lines out of unravelling rope and the pegs were offcuts from the same sled-runners that we whittled down with a knife. So we did it the same as him and we did it while we were there, and just like him we experienced the same problems of sleeping on the snow - in our reindeer skin sleeping bags - as he experienced, which is - it doesn't matter how good the sleeping bag is at insulating you, just as the cold can get in, your bodyheat can similarly escape. And if you're lying on the snow, your bodyheat escapes, melts the snow, wets the sleeping bag, you're completely soaking wet, that's fine until you get out of the sleeping bag, roll it up on the sled, pull it around in minus 25 for a day, at which point, the end of that ten hours, you'll find you have a completely frozen block of reindeer skin, which you then have try and get into at the end of the day, when you're tired and you have no sensation in your hands and that sort of thing, and you have to literally crack the sleeping bag open to get yourself back in. And I mean really sopping wet - this sleeping bag. Very, very un-pleasant. So, you spend the whole trip with no sensation in the feet which means that, you know, during the course of the night I was constantly waking to see what was going on, you know, were the toes going white, and then black and then dropping off? Or were they still there?

Was there circulation? What was going on? And these are real, obviously, real concerns. We wore the old wooden boots - the old leather boots, rather, they were pretty much wooden in terms of the sweat going into the boots.

The only way to keep them malleable was to put them in the sleeping bag so, hob-nails and all they came along with me along with everything else I wanted to keep wet and warm, basically, inside the sleeping bag, not dry.

Food is always a low point on my expeditions. I, um, I know everything so far has been very rosy but this is the... (Laughter) ..in the modern expeditions that 24 Mars bars I talked about comes in the form of olive oil a lot of the time. So, I - olive oil is good fat, as they say, and it's palatable to eat, so, if you've seen those hospital dramas, you get those drip bags with some unknown substance dripping into someone on the bed, we took our olive oil in those drip bags and packed them in the sled at room temperature, pushed them outside into minus 25 degrees and they all freeze solid, which means you have a perfectly packed sled with all your frozen olive oil, and you just melt a bag when you need some fat. That's the way it works. Um, we had cereal in the morning, together with 150 ml of olive oil,

so, for those of you here who are muesli eaters try it with olive oil next time. (Laughter) A truly horrible combination that I had to eat before I left.

There's no point going down on a trip - especially an expensive one with lot's of expectation behind you, lot's of people have supported you, and then finding you can't handle the conditions because you have a stomach upset. So you need to get used to that before you go, so you have to really think through these things before you leave. So I would eat my olive oil on Corn Flakes for weeks before leaving on the trip. So all the stomach problems I had were long before I got down on the ice. This is lard. This is congealed animal fat. We would have about roughly a mobile phone-size piece of that a day. Don't forget we were on a starvation ration, trying to replicate Mawson's calorific intake, which is around 2,000 calories, which is, sort of an OK sized meal, maybe without dessert. But it's not a big serve. And someone like me, pulling a sled for ten hours,

sleeping in those sorts of conditions, living in those sorts of conditions 24/7

and consuming only one small meal a day meant that I was in calorific deficit every day. I would've finished all my food by about 10am and I had nothing whatsoever to look forward to except maybe a boiled sweet and reusing the tea bag at the end of the day. And that makes it very, very difficult

for you to keep your mood in check. Blood-sugar levels affect your judgement, your ability to keep warm and your mood, and you need all of those things to be good when you're on these expeditions and they're quite simply not when you're in that set of circumstances. So, we didn't eat dogs, we had kangaroo jerky instead of dog meat, and like good science, we were trying to isolate the one variable we wanted to know about. So we were interested in knowing whether Mertz - Mawson's second colleague, who died in his arms in convulsions, whether, as the theory said, he had died from consuming the dog livers. They consumed their dogs, they fed the weakest to the strongest, initially

and then they were finally reduced to eating the dogs themselves. And they ate everything.

Paws, genitals, ears, brain, you name it. Boiled it all up, and ate what they could. Having fed the less palatable bits to the other dogs, first. And Mertz was so ill that Mawson thought he was doing him a favour by giving him the offal of the dogs to consume, because it was slightly more tender

than the stringy old flesh, or the other bits. And in feeding him the livers of the sled dogs, many people have suggested that the vitamin A contained in those dog livers was present in such toxic quantities that it ultimately poisoned Mertz and killed him, and also made Mawson extremely sick. So that was part of the science of trying to work out what happened. Problems. You have problems every day on these trips. I read a book by the Dalai Lama once and I always jokingly say that he says there's two types of problems. He says there's ones you can overcome, in which case don't worry, and the ones you cant, in which case, don't worry. And it's a very good philosophy to have on these expeditions You need a slightly different one when you're there, in reality, you need to be learning from problems and looking at them as good opportunities to improve yourself and you're constantly tinkering and fixing things and trying to keep things going, both your body and your soul, and your equipment. I had a gash on the boot of my right foot -

the left boot tore the leather open on the right foot when I stumbled one day and from that point onwards I had no sensation at all in my right foot. So I was relying on the workload of pulling a sled during the day to warm me up and get some sensation back in those toes that were numb throughout the whole of the night in my wet sleeping bag.

So that really ruined any chances of getting the sensation back in my right foot.

And I still have no sensation in a couple of the toes on my right foot. This was John. Don't let this influence you in any way as to whether or not you fly with Qantas, but he does work for them. He emigrated from Russia and is now based here. And he's a very, very tough guy. He was wondering about whether to get involved in the expedition. When I told him he had to die dramatically mid-way through, that solved it for him. He said, 'Yeah, I'm in.' He's a very tough Russian. This kind of typical build -up

of, you know, snot and moisture that comes out of one's nose just freezes on contact with minus 20, minus 25 degrees and you build this icicle that comes down, and you occasionally sort of snap it off.

Being men, it was always interesting to see who could grow the largest one it was one of those sort of things you do. (Audience laughter) Um...things that keep you going in these circumstances. You know, every day was a constant battle against the elements. I'm not going to go into all the teamwork lessons, and things like that, but it was a wonderful exercise in working together. On polar trips there are lots of good lessons one can learn about life, more generally, to do with breaking down the enormity of the challenges that face you into manageable things. It's like many of you here embarking on long degrees - sometimes when the coursework load is high, and that sort of thing, it might appear a little bit intimidating. The thing is to just break those little milestones - bring it down to small milestones and work through those to get through the enormity of the challenge ahead of you. Certainly in the case of big polar expeditions,

that's the only thing that gets you through. 2,700km across Antarctica, pulling a heavy sled. When you can barely move it on day one, evidently you're not going to spend the whole day thinking about the enormity of the whole expedition, you're going to be trying to think of just getting through that first hour. The same went with the Mawson expedition too. John died on day 25, manfully, and that left me on my own. Interestingly we covered very similar distances to that of Mawson and Mertz, but we only really caught up with them because Mertz, by this stage, on Mawson's original trip, was so sick that Mawson was actually having to pull him and the sled. So Mertz was laid out in the sled in the sleeping bag, and that really slowed Mawson down. That's the only thing that really enabled us to catch up. Nothing else. Incidentally, because we were near the source of the Earth's southern magnetism, not far from the magnetic pole, we had a spherical compass - no point having a flat one because the compass needle tends to get dragged down into the base plate and it becomes very sluggish, it won't actually move easily, so you have a spherical one that spins much more easily. The only thing I did that was contrived, on the whole expedition, was to actually deliberately get into a crevasse and see if I could pull myself out. Because Mawson had fallen into a crevasse, and nearly didn't make it out, so I climbed into one to see whether I could, hand over hand, get myself out of the crevasse. The irony is that I'd fallen into quite a few crevasses before the film crew appeared at the end of the expedition, at which point they said, 'Can you please jump in the crevasse?'

Which didn't go down very well with me, but what can you do?

So, I did do that and got myself out after tremendous effort, hand over hand, at which point they said, 'Why didn't you just try that a second time?' (Laughter) 'Because Mawson took two attempts, why don't you try that?'

And I couldn't do it. And when the film was made - I don't know whether I should say this or not, but when the film was made, it was depicted - my second effort was depicted as my one and only unsuccessful effort to get out out of the crevasse. But I did get out of the crevasse, so I'm here to talk to you today,

and very pleased for it. But it was a wonderful experience to go through this and conduct the whole expedition like a scientific experiment. I got to the end of the journey, I cut my sled in half, like Mawson had done,

not to contrive similarities with his experience -

he cut his sled in half with his bonza knife, and so I got myself an old bonza knife with a little saw blade, and did the same thing - and I didn't do it to, as I say, contrive similarities, I did it because the friction of trying to pull a sled across the dry snow of Antarctica is so great that you literally can't pull a sled

with twice the length of wooden runner coming into contact with the surface of the snow. The snow is too dry. Sleds work on the principle that the weight of stuff in the sled puts pressure on the snow beneath it and just like grabbing a snowball, you squeeze it, the pressure forces a little bit of moisture out and the weight of the sled on its runners causes a little bit of moisture and lets the sled slide. That just doesn't happen down south. So I cut my sled in half, like Mawson, and I got to the end of the expedition,

and I did cover the distance in pretty much the same time as him. So, I was left with those three questions as to what had happened on the original trip, you know. What had killed the first guy? Obviously he fell in a crevasse. But we're not quite sure why he fell. The other two men had been over exactly the same ground and he was following their ski tracks when he fell through, or in their footprints. And it's because, perhaps, he didn't have skis - he was actually walking alongside his dogs. And the weight of a man - 75-, 80-kilo man -

on his own two feet puts more pressure on the surface of the snow than a very heavy sled being pulled by a team of dogs, because that weight is being distributed more evenly. So, he fell through, quite simply,

because he was trying to save the dogs from their workload,

and in so doing, put more pressure on the snow bridge over a crevasse that resulted in him falling through and pulled everything else in behind him.

In terms of Mertz, we consumed everything the same.

I lost even more weight on this expedition - almost 30 kilos. And the ABC were, very kindly, supporters of that expedition in the form of the film that we made

and they had basically said if it goes beyond that point

we had to sign a, sort of, deed at the beginning, saying, look, if your weight goes below a certain point, the experiment's off, which I was quite happy about,

I must say, by the time I got to that weight. So, I lost that weight but I didn't experience the same thing as Mawson. Great rafts of skin coming off the bottom of his feet. He lost seven or eight skin layers off the bottom of his feet, so his feet were red raw. And all he could think to do was put lanolin cream on, bandages, and wear all of his socks just to try and cover his feet, and hobbled along, quite literally. And, of course, Mertz died of the terrible fever. Mawson, too, was losing hair, he had bleeding gums, none of which I experienced.

So, I'm really led to believe that the dog theory is the right one, quite simply, because this was an extreme example

of science in the field, where you can't control everything in the kind of way that you perhaps want to conduct a proper scientific experiment, but certainly, I think we got pretty close.

And I'm confident that it was the dog liver consumption that probably killed Mertz. Did Mawson eat anyone? Um, there was a journey across the pacific

by Thor Heyerdal, the Norweigian, back in the 1940s. He built a balsa wood raft, and he went from South America to Polynesia, to the eastern islands of Polynesia. And the idea was to prove that people could have colonised the eastern islands of Polynesia from South America. And he did it, and it was an amazing journey. And he said, 'Just because I've done it, doesn't mean that's the way it happened.' And, in fact, subsequently, with all the ethnographical research, and, of course, more recently all the genetic mapping we've been able to do

we realised that people, in fact, did island-hop all the way to the eastern-most part of Polynesia, and they didn't come the way he did. But it was still a wonderful thing that he had done,

proving it could have happened. And so, the same with this - I guess I'm saying this is the way it cold have happened. Whether or not Mawson, as he lay next to Mertz, in the tent, worried about what lay ahead, very understandably worried about his fate,

and he felt that he needed to take some of that flesh and then subsequently felt that he didn't need to use it, as physically, it was possible to cover the ground, we'll never know. And, of course, those bodies are now carved off, and would, by this stage, be in the ocean. They're not on the land of Antarctica anymore. It wouldn't make Mawson any less of a man if I felt that he had done that. I don't personally think he did do that

and he always claimed that he didn't do it. But who's to judge? And I don't feel that what I did really represents a true re-enactment of what he did. Of course, you can't hope to do that in the modern era - there were fall-backs for me, whereas Mawson had none. Had he stopped, he would have died. Had I stopped, it would've been a failed expedition. But it was a wonderful thing to have done. And just to finish it, it resulted, of course, immediately, in Alexandra Shackleton, the indomitable Alexandra Shackleton, granddaughter of Sir Ernest, saying, 'OK, you've done that one now, now, what about the original one that I asked you about?' (Audience laughter) Which is very unfamiliar territory for me, but it involves travelling across the Southern Ocean in a replica whaler - back in the days when we used to harpoon whales. Thankfully, we don't do it anymore. There are some countries, sadly, that still do, but the majority of us don't - the boats that they would use were called whalers, and they were small, 22-foot, 6.5-, 7-metre open rowing boats perhaps with a small sail, no keel, pretty primitive little boats. And you'd harpoon a whale from these,

And prow and the stern were the same shape so if the whale then decided to make a run for it

it didn't matter which direction it pulled you, there was no back or front to the boat. Shackleton had three of those boats. His original ship was crushed, all of his men abandoned ship into three of those boats, and they lived on floating ice for many months, finally reached a remote island in Antarctica

where 22 of the 28 men were left, and Shackleton and the five strongest men - all men on this particular expedition - got into the most seaworthy of these boats, which is this one, called the James Caird, and they sailed it 800 nautical miles across the Southern Ocean to reach a remote island called South Georgia. Perhaps forget the stuff down on this side -

this is us here, of course, this is South America - But the journey down in the original ship, The Endurance, the one that was crushed, this one in red, the journey across the ice -

this is the point at which The Endurance was sunk - the journey across the ice living the 28 men under three upturned boats was the line in yellow. The green was when they reached open water and they were able to paddle. And Shackleton left 22 of the 28 men on Elephant Island and then did this 800-nautical mile, 1,300-kilometre journey

across the Southern Ocean in the James Caird to reach south Georgia. And then he had to climb the mountains to get over to reach the whaling station on the far side. Many of us know about this story here in Australia because of course, Frank Hurley, was the Australian photographer who was then decorated in the World War I immediately after this expedition,

who took many of the iconic images including this one of The Endurance just before it was sunk. An amazing photographer. Sadly, the men, they were rescued after 127 days on Elephant Island - home to elephant seals, hence the name - and many of them were to die in the trenches of the World War I immediately after that. It was a terrible injustice to survive that and then go straight to the horror of World War I.

I've just come back from Elephant Island doing a reconnaissance trip. I went with a cameraman who's been there nine times and never managed to land because the ocean is so rough. And we managed - we just rammed our boat up onto the rocks and jumped to shore and got two or three minutes of footage

and didn't really quite have time to appreciate the place before leaving. And it was a horrendous journey - this obviously isn't a photograph -

but it was a horrendous journey across the ocean

during which they capsized and they experienced a rogue wave and frostbite and all sorts of other things. And amazingly they found this little dot in the Southern Ocean using original navigational techniques. So, we've built the replica boat. We have put those planks in. (Audience laughter) I'm no sailor, but I do know that much.

It's going to be a very tight squeeze for six people

especially as one of them's the same size as me. Their water was ice that they'd hacked off a glacier. And, of course, temperatures never went above zero so that just sat nicely in the corner and they could chip a bit off and heat it up if they needed drinking water. And they ate elephant seal blubber and penguins. We won't do that - they don't taste very nice anyway.

No, I've never eaten them. But it will be an amazing journey. Why do I do these trips?

I get asked three questions more so than any other. How do you go to the toilet at the South Pole?

And the answer is - quickly. Why do the trips? Originally I did them because I thought it'd be a good adventure

and a good physical challenge. As soon as I did my first polar trip I realised it was all mental largely.

You have to be fit but it's a largely mental thing. But I find that I reacquaint myself with a more resourceful part of my own person when I go to these remote places. You have to go to the ends of the Earth just to discover what's in your own person. It's the ultimate irony, perhaps, that that's the case. And if you read those early explorer's journals

you find that even when they did solo trips they often felt as though they were in the company of someone else. And whether that's something more profound than just experiencing another part of your own being that you're not normally accustomed to being in the company of, or whether it's something more spiritual, I don't know. But it certainly keeps me going back for more. Are the ice caps melting? Well, the irony is that the ozone hole

is, funnily enough, it's protecting quite a lot of Antarctica

from the ravages of the warming that's being experienced in the Antarctic Peninsula. The majority of Antarctica is this predominantly circular continent. The peninsula stretches off in the direction of South America, and the same strong westerly winds that are drawing warmer air from the Pacific

and melting a lot of the ice on the Antarctic Peninsula, the rest of the continent's being protected from

because of the effects of the ozone hole and the strengthening of those winds and the vortex that isolates the rest of Antarctica's weather from the rest of the world. So, ironically when we start fixing the ozone hole we're probably going to be experiencing more global warming problems in the rest of the Antarctic. Just to finish - Shackleton,

his message was all about getting a very disparate group of people - this is a statue of him outside the Royal Geographical Society in London. His message was all about getting a disparate group of men to all pull in the same direction to achieve a goal against seemingly insurmountable odds. And I think there's some real resonance from that message in the world in which we find ourselves today. Doesn't matter if it's the War on Terror

or these calamities that we're experiencing - the global financial crisis or climate change - the time for isolated independent bits of action is long gone and we need to be pulling together to achieve some significant outcomes against the magnitude of issues we're faced with at the moment. So I think the time has come, really well and truly, for Shackleton's message. Thank you very much. (Applause)

Adventurer and eco-scientist, Tim Jarvis, speaking there at Sydney University. That's all from Big Ideas for today but for more exciting adventures in science, politics, art and culture point your browser in the direction of our big, fat website at the address on your screen. And look out for more Big Ideas on ABC News 24 at 1pm on Saturdays and Sundays. I'm Waleed Aly, see you again.

(Theme music) (Closed Captions by CSI)

THEME MUSIC

Istanbul on the Bosporus, the capital of modern Turkey, but once the heart of the great empire of Byzantium. Our wonder is one of the greatest buildings in the world,

a building that had a huge influence on Western architecture. Istanbul is a city where two worlds meet -

the Christian world and the Islamic world. At its heart is our wonder, once a church, then a mosque. Hagia Sophia was built by the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century AD. When completed, it was the greatest church in the world.

In 537, after nearly six years of construction, Justinian reputedly said "Oh Solomon, I have surpassed thee", an incredible statement. He was referring, of course, to Solomon's Temple, the great temple that had inspired so many churches around the world. The name Hagia Sophia means divine wisdom.

It became a fitting place for emperors to be crowned. With the rise of the Ottoman empire in the 15th century, Hagia Sophia became a mosque and many of the decorations today feature Eastern influences from that time intermingled with Byzantine art, an extraordinary melding of East and West.

Hagia Sophia's main feature is the huge dome that appears to flat in space. It's supported by a series of half-domes and rises off great masonry piers almost concealed in the structure. So the outward thrust of the main dome, the horizontal forces,

are countered by equal forces from the series of half-domes and quarter-domes below. This mighty church became a great prototype

of pioneering construction - the first to have a huge dome. Hagia Sophia led the architectural way for others to follow - the Duomo in Florence, St Peter's in Rome and of course St Paul's in London.

Closed Captions by CSI

This Program is Captioned Live.

Live. Late for its own

departure - dolphins sink an

orderly farewell for an old frigate. What's wrong with

your men? Afghanistan's doubts

about Australia's feminine

frontline. Turnaround time -

well, it's about half a second

at New York airport.

at New York airport. And

finding the key to happiness.

It's simpler than you think.

The results are clear: Doing

good feels good.

Hello, and welcome to ABC News across Australia, I'm

Nicole Chettle. The local

sharemarket is pg pushed and pulled, up by the banks and