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Message to Casey Station from His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery.

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23 January 2008

It is with great disappointment that our proposed trip to Wilkins Runway has had to be cancelled because of

unfavourable weather conditions.

It would have been an extraordinary privilege to be the first Governor-General of Australia to set foot in

Antarctica, the most distant part of Australia. It would have added significance as we approach the 7th of

February this year, marking the 75th anniversary of the declaration of the Australian Antarctic Territory, a

territory so important to our nation, our history and our heritage.

The remarkable achievements of the Australian Antarctic explorers — Douglas Mawson, Frank Hurley, George

Hubert Wilkins and Philip Law among others — ring out across the years, as examples of high scientific and

exploratory endeavour, conducted with extreme courage and perseverance in the midst of great hardship.

Hardship, which you would experience on a daily basis, are graphically shown in Hurley’s best known

Antarctic photographs which were taken on the 1914-1916 expedition led by Shackleton, on which his ship

Endurance was crushed by ice, and the expedition members spending nearly eleven months camped on the

pack ice and Elephant Island, before being dramatically rescued. Surely an inspiration to anyone who has to

achieve against the odds.

You work on behalf of the nation, in an absolutely unique environment — the driest, windiest, coldest and

highest continent on the globe.

It is one of the engine rooms of our global climate system and of the food chain — with the characteristics of

the enormous populations of krill currently being researched by the Australian Antarctic Division. It is also a

unique repository of marine and bird life.

The Antarctic, as you would all well understand, offers us great insights into climate, particularly as we strive

to understand the drivers and impacts of climate change.

The location of Casey Station on the edge of Law Dome gives the region a remarkable connection to climate

beyond Antarctica: from the Southern Ocean, to as far north as Australia.

The first class research underway includes extracting detailed ice cores, the longest of which provides

information going back 90 thousand years.

I have been briefed in Hobart about the intended project to examine the very old ice in this region to

potentially obtain a climate record going back over 1 million years to better understand how the planet

responds to warming events.

Seeing an actual ice core was very special.

While this project may take several years and require international collaboration, the scientific results will be

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enormously significant, and will be expedited through the air link and this runway.

I understand the science from Law Dome ice cores has already provided definitive measurements of the

levels of greenhouse gases in the past and evidence that sea ice extent has decreased some 20 per cent in

the late 20th Century.

In addition, there is evidence emerging that if a drought occurs in southwest Western Australia, there is likely

to be increased snowfall on the Law Dome at that time and vice versa.

This information is vital, indeed fundamental to understanding our environment and I sincerely hope may

lead to better long range weather forecasting, with the many positives for governments and people that

would subsequently follow.

As an Australian, I am proud to note that the Australian Antarctic Division is recognised internationally for its

excellence in this research, focused through various marine programs and science emanating from our bases

at Casey, Davis and Mawson and from Macquarie and Heard Islands.

Well done to you all.

I also commend you for the way you are communicating your research to others, including through your very

engaging and informative internet-based materials and other educational activities.

In fact I had the pleasure of viewing the Antarctic exhibition at the Hobart museum this morning.

This vital research would not take place without close attention to the complex and sustained logistical

support provided to the scientists and support staff.

So well done to the logisticians.

To all those involved in building the ice runway at Wilkins that fact that I won’t be able to stand there with all

involved in the project is a great disappointment.

I congratulate Matt Filipowski and the team who assisted him on this remarkable feat of ice engineering. It is

fitting that it is named after Sir George Hubert Wilkins, one of the great pioneers of polar exploration and


He encountered many of the same perils that face our Antarctic aviators today - ferocious wind, ice and snow

blizzards and absolute isolation.

From your home base here at AAD headquarters I now officially name the Wilkins Runway and declare it


Our thoughts are with you.

You are doing great work on behalf of the nation with far reaching implications for the survival of the planet.

A sincere thank you to you all.

Marlena and I join with all Australians in wishing you in sending our very best wishes for the wonderful work

you continue to do.

On a closing note, I have sent you down a small gift and I hope you first game of “ice-cricket” goes well.

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