Vale Jim Burgess

Law Base Group 1988
(L to R) Pat Quilty, Phil Law, Jim Burgess and Enn Kaup (Enn was an Estonian scientist working with Jim in the Larsemann Hills and Pat and Phil were visiting Antarctica as speakers on the Kapitan Khlebnikov. It was Phil’s last visit to Antarctica

I regret to inform you that Dr Jim Burgess has died. He died on Wednesday after a brief illness and a notice will appear in the paper tomorrow. His wife, Trish, was with him when he passed away. Jim has requested that there be no funeral. He is survived by his elderly mother and brothers and by three daughters.

He was a prominent geomorphologist and undertook several summers at the Larsemann Hills, and was a member of the department of geography and oceanography at ADFA. To many Davis-ites in the 1990s he was “Mr Larsemann Hills”

email received from Dr J V Johnson CSC OAM AAM, 7 January 2023

On Friday 10th February I attended a memorial service held for Jim at the Anzac Memorial Chapel of St Paul at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Canberra.

Jim’s life included a wide range of interest. He was a scholar with both a Master’s degree (his thesis being on beach morphology) and a Doctorate (thesis title Coastline change at Wanganui, New Zealand) from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.  After completing his studies, Jim obtained a lecturing position at the University of New South Wales at Duntroon in 1973, and then at the Australian Defence Force Academy teaching Geography/Geomorphology, Geology and Civil Engineering.

He was awarded a Commendation by the Chief of Army (Lieutenant-General P. Leahy) in 2005 for his contribution to “… the selection, training and mentoring of thousands of Army, Navy and Air Force Officers over thirty-three years  (which) had contributed significantly to the proficiency and professionalism of the Australian Defence Force”.

He was perhaps equally well known in Defence circles however, as a rugby player, playing with and later coaching teams at both Duntroon and ADFA, and this was reflected at the Service by the very large number of former rugby players present – including the Governor-General, and several other retired generals. Professional tributes were given by members of Jim’s family and by Professor Emeritus at Canterbury Roger McLean and Major-General Dick Wilson AC (who had played rugby and studied geography and geomorphology under Jim at ADFA, and subsequently graduated with a Ph D at ADFA for which Jim was his supervisor).

Within his Antarctic career, Jim made eleven voyages to the Larsemann Hills – his first (in 1986) was intended to have been to the Bunger Hills, but his voyage down was the one in which the Nella Dan was beset, with the result that it was impossible to get to that destination, and a decision was made to switch his area to the Larsemanns, which became his area of research for the remainder of his Antarctic service. It was at Law Base that most of us came to meet and work with Jim, who over the years became known as the “mayor of the Larsemann Hills” and “Mr Larsemann Hills”. He was famous for his hospitality at Law Base and for his interaction with the Chinese and Russians from Zhong Shan and Progress. Back in 1998 I noted in the Davis Station Log for January 25th “I wish to record my appreciation for the excellent liaison being provided with CHINARE by Dr Jim Burgess at Law Base. Dr Burgess’ efforts in this respect are outstanding and he has made a substantial contribution to the extremely good relations we currently enjoy with our Chinese neighbours”.

Over the years Jim had many papers published in professional journals, both as the sole and joint author covering a range of topics including post glacial landforms, fluvioglacial landscapes, fresh water lakes, and human impacts in the Larsemann Hills.  In 2001 his rugby playing finally caught up with him, requiring a hip replacement, and that ended his time – but not his interest – in Antarctica.

Several former expeditioners attended the service, including Andy Spate (who was with him on his first summer) and ‘Van’ Wantenaar who had known him in both the Antarctic and on the rugby field, as Van had also been a member of the academic staff of ADFA.

Jim and his wife, Trish, were strong supporters of the ACT Branch of the ANARE Club and attended most of the Midwinter Dinners.

(Joe Johnson)