Vale Sjoerd (Sojo) Jongens

Sojo running a ham sked on the inland route to Scullin Monolith by dog, Spring 1980. Photo: Tom Maggs

Sojo running a ham sked on the inland route to Scullin Monolith by dog, Spring 1980. Photo: Tom Maggs

Station Year Season
Mawson 1980 Winter
Macquarie Island 1986 Winter

Sadly we advise that Sjoerd “Sojo” Jongens passed away on November 13th, 2008

(As advised by Tom Maggs, November 14th, 2008)

Folks, I bring very sad news. Sjoerd “Sojo” Jongens died yesterday in hospital in Amsterdam, surrounded by his family.

Sjoerd was hit by a car while riding his bicycle to work in Amsterdam.

He did not regain consciousness after his accident. He was a good mate and a tireless worker and a superb engineer, that flying dutchman!

More tributes to Sjoerd:

Sjoerd Jongens

1950 – 2008


The wider Antarctic community mourns the death of Sjoerd ‘Sojo’ Jongens, who died in Amsterdam in November, 2008.

Sjoerd was born on the 23rd of November, 1950, in the Hague, Holland. The third of four children in the family, from an early age he showed a keen interest in electronics — his family tells of a 5-year old Sjoerd ‘helping’ his grandfather repair radios and it shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows him, that he built the Jongens’ first television set at age 14.

In his late teens, Sjoerd worked in a hospital as a technical operator and in his spare time, designed and built a sound studio. I remember him explaining, at some length, the types of equipment he bought (mostly Phillips, of course), borrowed or built, the problems he had and how he fixed them. Somewhere in the stories, is a vague mention of the type of music it produced. True to his greatest interests, he trained as a Technical Engineer in Amsterdam, before moving to Israel, in 1975, to complete the practical component of his diploma.

Sjoerd returned to Israel, in his kitted-out Mercedes camper-van in 1975. He stayed with friends for a time in a kibbutz, exploring the region by van, foot and snorkel. From Israel, he moved to Australia, arriving in Sydney in 1977, where his sister had moved to, a few years earlier and where he made great friends quickly – one of Sjoerd’s extraordinary talents.

Sjoerd joined ANARE in 1979, from the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and sailed to Mawson on the Nella Dan, on the 7th of February, 1980. This was the year — one of the years — in which the entrance to Horseshoe Harbour was blocked by an iceberg and plans were hastily made to skeletonise the station for the year, — but the Nella delivered its cargo and passengers, including Sjoerd.

By this time, all but a few of the Mawson crew had arrived on earlier voyages and some were enroute by tractor train, back to the station from the Mount King camp in Enderby Land. It was a year of compulsive and compulsory nicknames and thus was born Sojo; the moniker bestowed on him before he even set foot on the station, by those who preceded him, this curly-haired jovial new bloke. Sjoerd signed his name S.J., using small circles instead of full-stops. Officer In Charge (OIC) Syd. Kirkby, spotted his name on the list and asked, “So who’s this SoJo bloke?”.

Sojo was a fine member of the wintering crew, hard-working and friendly. He ran ham skeds (VK0SJ) around the world from the back of a dog-sled, on the plateau behind Mawson, enroute to Scullin Monolith and achieved an ASCII [American Standard Code for Information Interchange] log-in to a computer in Australia, over his ham rig — remember this was 1980!

In 1981, he returned to live in Kingston and to work on contract with the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) through the early ‘80s in the electronics laboratory. He worked with Jeremy Smith and Bob Jones (later ANARE Station Leaders) and others, to charter, refurbish and sail an ex-Albany whale chaser, the Cheynes II, to Heard Island in 1983, for a ham radio expedition. On the way home the ship ran short on fuel and had to return to Fremantle, partly under makeshift sail and partly under tow — another of Sjoerd’s many shipboard (mis)adventures.

Sjoerd’s Dutch engineering qualifications were recognised by Australian authorities, at around the time he was working at the Antarctic Division, towards Australia’s first satellite communications link with the stations – the prototype concept of today’s excellent ANARESAT system.

In 1985, Sjoerd travelled on the Nella Dan with skipper Arne Sorensen and Voyage Leader (VL) Knowles Kerry — the ‘besetment voyage’, trapped in pack ice, in Amundsen Bay, for seven weeks and rescued by Japan’s Shirase. This tow resulted in one of the Nella’s bollards being ripped from the deck. On his return, he packed and headed to Macquarie Island for the 1986 ANARE (Bob Lachal, OIC), where he continued his ham radio activities, in his spare time.

In 1987, he attained Australian citizenship and adopted Tasmania as his second home. He joined Greenpeace, to winter at their World Park Base, on the coast of the Ross Sea, through 1988. He kept his few fellow expeditioners in touch with the world, with pretty basic ham radio equipment, expertly used.

On return, he moved back to Amsterdam, as Greenpeace International’s IT/electronics guru. If ever anyone deserved the title ‘guru’, it was Sjoerd. He was at the leading edge of computer and internet technology and took Greenpeace, worldwide, to the public with advanced web design and programming. Afraid of becoming a ‘shiny bum’ he got out of the office frequently, undertaking several campaign voyages on Greenpeace vessels into the southern ocean and Antarctica, often with Arne. The notice of Sjoerd’s death, on the Greenpeace website, drew pages of memories and reflections from his colleagues.

No list of Sjoerd’s achievements and adventures, will do the man justice. Sjoerd ‘Sojo’ Jongens is remembered as a brilliant engineer and technician, a tireless worker and, above all, a great friend with a big and loyal heart. We share the grief of his family, friends and colleagues.


Sjoerd Jongens was a veteran of two winters in Antarctica with the Australian Antarctic Division (Mawson 80 and Macquarie Island 86).

He joined Greenpeace in 1987, when he took on the job of radio operator at World Park Base in Antarctica — a place he loved for its beauty, its solitude, and the clarity of its atmosphere as a transmission medium for radio waves.

He was most at home there or on the ocean, and he sailed with Greenpeace as a radio operator on many missions over the years, including voyages into the Southern Ocean to save the whales.

He moved back to his native Netherlands in 1989 and joined our international office as a network support engineer.  But that title hardly does justice to the role he played. His single-minded obsession with all things digital meant that he was constantly finding new ways to bend new technologies to Greenpeace’s purposes, and he broke new ground for two decades.

Sjoerd foresaw that a new thing called ” the internet” might be something we’d want to use in future, and he started a gopher, WAIS, and FTP server before back in the late 80s.  He registered the domain and put their first website up in 1992.

He set up their first web server on a second-hand 386 PC with a 20 megabyte hard disk running Xenix.  Keychains today have more memory than that, and Sjoerd was proud that his Linux skills allowed him to take a computer that most people would have thrown away, and not only make it work for Greenpeace, but turn it into a piece of cutting-edge technology.

He did a great deal for Greenpeace that will remain unsung — both because he laboured so often in solitude and the nature of so much of his work was simply that it enabled others to do their’s. Most people knew was that Sjoerd was the server master, a practitioner of dark digital arts, the guy who stayed late into the night and made it all work. And the guy who couldn’t take a vacation, because his beloved machines, like pouting pets, would throw a fit whenever he left the office and refuse to work for anyone else.

He was beloved by everyone who caught a glimpse of the heart behind the gruffness. His managers quickly learned to keep him close to their computers.  Mike Townsley once approached him to say he was having trouble with his laptop.  “No, Mike. I suspect we’ll find that your laptop is actually having trouble with you,” was the unironic response.

There was a rainbow over Amsterdam yesterday morning, about the time Sjoerd would have been setting off on his last journey. We can take some comfort in the thought that it may have been among the last things he saw, and in imagining that it might have been a tiny farewell gesture from the Earth, to one of the gentlest of her Rainbow Warriors.

Sjoerd Jongens Contributions to Aurora

Antarctic Place Names

Jongens Island, -67.597 ,62.786

Named for Sjoerd Jongens engineer (electronics and communications) member of the over wintering parties at Mawson (1980) and Macquarie Island (1986) for the Australian Antarctic Division and at World Park Base (1988) for Greenpeace International. Sjoerd cared deeply about the Antarctic and maintained a continuing interest in Antarctica and Antarctic research and was concerned about the over exploitation of its resources. He participated in several Greenpeace campaigns at sea to stop whaling in Antarctic waters. The island for which his name is proposed is visible from Béchervaise Island near Mawson Station and it is likely Sjoerd would have seen it.