From the Archive: Black and White memories, Framnes Mountains Antarctica

Framnes Mountains, Antarctica. The David Range is clearly visible in the background. © www.thomaspickard.com

Framnes Mountains, Antarctica. The David Range is clearly visible in the background. © www.thomaspickard.com

My father went to Antarctica in the late 1970s with what was then known as the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE for short). At the time I was young. Seven or eight years of age. He was gone for 18-months. He decided it was a good idea to do a summer - winter - summer stay.

Back then communication to Antarctica was pretty rudimentary. Radio phone calls had to be booked in advanced and they only lasted for 15-minutes. The quality of the calls was often really bad, with echoes and delays between talking and receiving. There was no other communication apart from telex’s and a once-a-year mail run (the mail came down on the resupply ship in summer).

In this day and age, it is easy to feel like you can get anywhere at anytime. I could finish this post and book a flight to Antarctica with Aurora Expeditions or a company like Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions. Just like that. But back in my dad’s day, that wasn’t how it worked with places like Antarctica. You could only get to the Australian bases via long voyages on ice breaking vessels, and once you arrived, you were there for the long haul.

When it came to things like photographs, this was still the film and slide era. Forget pulling up a Google search browser, entering ‘antarctic stations’ and hitting enter, to be inundated with digital images of Antarctica. The technology simply didn’t exist.

When my dad was on the ice, he took some black and white photographs and developed them on station. He then put a selection of them into a photo album, along with hand written captions and sent it back home to me. Receiving that album was like falling down the rabbit hole of wonder.

The photo in this post was taken by me. Taken on Ilford black and white film with a Nikon F100 image, it was taken some 20-years after my dad first worked in Antarctica. Compositionally, it is a relative simple photograph of a line of sledges with living quarters on top, which are used in tractor traverses to the interior. And while it is not a great shot, there is something about this one photo that reminds me of the grainy black and white photos I received from dad all those years ago.

[Correction: I mistakenly said ‘satellite phones’, when it should have been ‘radio phones’. Guess who picked that mistake up? Thanks dad.]