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Aurora Australis, Voyage 2, is scheduled to depart Hobart 24 December 2019 for Casey - check Shipping Schedule for latest information.
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1. The Who, What, When, Where and Why of Here, There and Everywhere ……………… on my way back to Antarctica
I am Victor Watt, named after my Uncle Victor Smith. My earliest memory of my Uncle Vic was as a four year old, being told that he was going to a frozen place called Antarctica, on board the Thala Dan. This kicked off my curiosity that set my future course in life. In 1958/59 Uncle Vic was Australian Army Transport Officer-in-Charge of the amphibious landing vehicles known as DUKWs (Ducks), which were used in the re-supply of all Stations.
I started work as a Cook in the Australian Army 1972-93. Even though I was “just a Cook” I did lots of interesting things – from becoming SAS qualified, to (along with others) setting the record for the fastest time travelled down the Murray River in a small power craft, and lots more. While idly flicking through a friend’s Women’s Weekly in 1975, an article leapt off the page, grabbing my attention. Applications were being sought for positions in Antarctica – it was fate. I applied, and was subsequently secconded from the Australian Army to the Department of Science, Antarctic Division, to take up the position of Cook at Davis Station, Antarctica for 1976. I was fortunate enough to travel on the iconic Nella Dan.
“The Nella Dan holds a special place in the hearts of all who have travelled on her. After its sinking, I wanted to have a tangible reminder of her contribution to my Antarctic adventures. I had this painting commissioned.”
Whilst at Davis, all station personnel assisted in the construction of the current emergency power station. It was a very special time, sharing experiences that can be had nowhere else in the world. On departing, we all felt that we had left a little part of ourselves behind. Hence, Davis has always felt somewhat like “home” to me.
On discharge from the Army, my school-teacher wife took our young family on a one year teacher exchange to British Columbia, Canada. From there, we had the opportunity to travel most of North America and to cross the Arctic Circle (one of my bucket list items), thereby making me “bi-polar” (Dad-joke!).
1994, back in Australia re-settling on the Gold Coast, saw me working at Colgate Palmolive making toothpaste for the next 10 years. Next I ticked off another bucket list item by owning and running my own business for four years, selling consumables to the take-away industry. The last penance of my working life was a position at a large software distribution company for five years. After the passing of my wife, I retired and re-visited my bucket list. First item was to go back “home”. In 2011, I boarded the Russian icebreaker, the Kapitan Khlebnikov, visiting Mawson Hut, Commonwealth Bay, Davis, Amery Iceshelf, with a landing at Heard Island.
On returning to Australia, next on my bucket list was to backpack around the world, with the goal of living for a year on each of the seven continents. I have only one continent to go, being South America which I intend to explore in 2021. So far I have visited about 140 countries.
In April this year I returned from my latest major trip, driving my own Queensland registered 4x4 cross-continent from Vladivostok, through Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan (any other “stan-country” you might like to think of), Europe and Iceland, finishing in London, covering more than 60,000km in 12 months. Whilst in Romania, I made a point of going to the town of Galati where the new Australian icebreaker “Nuyina” is under construction. Damen Shipyards granted me approval for a personal guided tour of the ship.
Despite my previous trips to Antarctica, I have only ever admired the Aurora Australis from afar, at its “Summer” holiday location of Hobart. Upon hearing that the last voyage of the AA was scheduled for 2019/20, and the ANARE Club Berth would be available, my current wife encouraged and supported me to apply for the Berth. By a stroke of good fortune, I was awarded the position of Club Berth Representative ahead of other applicant, Mr Dean Campbell. I empathise with Dean in what must be a great disappointment, and wish him the best of luck for any future application.
Fast forward to 24 December 2019 – would you like to join me as I walk up the gangway of AA with anticipation and excitement for the voyage ahead, an over water re-supply to Casey on V2. And a much prized stamp in my passport “Casey Station Antarctica”.