History - AustralianAustralian CultureAustralian IdentityAustralian animalsCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other CountriesAustralian Prehistory

Australian Environmental Issues

A true-blue battler

Box jellyfish
How to avoid the stings and what to do if stung

So you wrestle crocs...

Unfairly judged in killing off the thylacine?

The wise little gnomes of Australia

Victors of the great Emu war

Shaping everything from how Australians speak to how they salute

Funnel Web spider
Yyou'll never leave your ugg boots outside

Most herbivores don't grow a spine until they are the size of an elephant. Not so the roo.

Kill less people than cows

Shark attack Australia
How to ensure you don't go by the name of Bob

Tasmanian Devil
The solution to mainland extinctions?

Tasmanian Tiger
A sad tale

Keg of muscle

The mainland's largest marsupial carnevore

Mythical creatures
Yowies and dropbears; some say they are myths but those who are not afraid to talk have shared their stories






Mawson Station

Australian Antarctic Territory in Australian Culture

Unlike the outback, Antarctica is not a setting for Australian movies; nevertheless, for an area that so few Australians have been able to get to, a significant amount of heritage and artistic expressions have been produced. Some of the heritage includes the artefacts, buildings, monuments, letters and diaries and even shipwrecks left behind by the early whalers and sealers. They speak of Australians who interacted with the environment, and how they adapted to their achievements and disappointments.

Photographs by Frank Hurely, from Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition (1911–14), provide a particularly gratifying lens on the Antarctic explorers. As is very common amongst Australian artists, (be they directors, painters or poets) Hurely used the landscape as a lens to interpret human action.


Hurely Penguins

Inspiration for Drysdale’s Emu in the Landscape? Hurely's juxtaposition of human ruins with animals and harsh nature was also a theme common in Russel Drysdale’s outback paintings.  


Many of Australia’s early colonial painters placed a diminutive human figure in a sparse landscape. This also seemed to be a recurring theme in Hurely's work.


Frank Hurely; such beauty in harshness

Douglas Mawson appeared on the first paper issue of the $100 bill. This was in recognition of his role in Australia claiming 42 per cent of Antarctica but also because he had one of the greatest tale of polar survival ever told. On January 7 1913, Mawson stood alone as he looked over the blizzard-swept ice of Antarctica. He was 100 miles from main base, his dogs were long dead, food almost gone and he only had a makeshift shelter made out of a tent cover drapped over skis and sledge struts. It did the job but was not an ideal form of shelter where winds occasionally gusted up to 200mph, and temperatures dropped below -20°C.

A week earlier, his fellow explorer Xavier Mertz had started dying and needed help to even get into sleeping bags. Rather than let him die and take his rations, Mawson had tried to keep him going. Mawson even pulled him in the sled for for over two days when it was obvious that death was inevitable.

With the body of Mertz by his side, Mawson had little hope for his own survival. He later wrote of the moment:

"All that remained was his mortal frame which, toggled up in his sleeping bag, still offered some sense of companionship...For hours I lay in the bag, rolling over in my mind all that lay behind and the chance of the future. I seemed to stand alone on the wide shores of the world...My physical condition was such that I felt I might collapse at any moment...Several of my toes commenced to blacken and fester near the tips and the nails worked loose. There appeared to be little hope...It was easy to sleep in the bag, and the weather was cruel outside."

When faced with easier predicaments, the men of Robert Scott's Terra Nova expedition simply pitched a tent, got in their sleeping bags, and spent their final days writing their memoirs. One man, not wanting to be a burden to the group, simply walked away to his death. When seeing him walk away to die, Scott just said it was " the act of a brave man and an English gentleman." The remaining members of the party spent their last ten days of their lives in their sleeping bags writing their memoirs.

But Mawson did not wait to die. He had tried to keep Mertz going when all was lost, and now he did the same when all alone. It was this determination that kept him putting one foot in front of the next. Even when the soles of each foot came away to leave exposed flesh, he simply bandaged them back into place and kept his feet moving forward. When he fell down a crevasse and dangled by his manhaul harness, he dreamt of cutting the rope but instead pulled himself back up. When blizzards brought him to his knees, he endured and then pushed foreward. In his own words, "It's dead easy to die; it's the keeping on living that's hard." Mawson chose the hard option.

Just as Mawson had almost no hope that he would make it back, his search team had almost no hope that they would find anyone alive. All teams had to be back by January 14 otherwise encroaching sea ice would prevent the ship from leaving. Despite the lack of hope, six men decided to endure another Antarctica winter so that they could continue searching, and continue building snow cairns for a lost party that would almost certainly never use them. Against all odds, on January 29 Mawson found one of these cairns. A week and a half later, he walked back into main base, unrecogniseable but alive.

For the next year, Mawson published Antarctica's first newspaper, The Daily Blizzard, for the reading of the men in the station. It wasn't enough to prevent the radio operator, Sidney Jeffryes, from going insane. Jeffreys had arrived at the station shortly before Mawson’s return. As a result, he had not been part of the bonding the hardships of Antarctica had evoked in the men. This perhaps influenced the expression of his insanity where he fluactuated between the conviction that the other men were going to murder him to the need to murder them. Aside from the inherent dangers involved in being cooped up with someone feeling the need to murder everyone to survive, Jeffryes' insanity was problematic as he was the only one who knew the Morse code needed to communicate with the outside world and reduce the chance of the other men going crazy from cabin fever as well.

In December 1913, help arrived and the men were finally able to return home. Jeffryes appeared better but rather then return home to northern NSW, was later found stumbling around the bush in Victoria living off a diet of roots and grubs. He was later commited to an insane asylum were he remained till his death. Meanwhile, Mawson tried to sell artefacts from the expedition to the Australian government to pay off its debts but was turned down. He then wrote a book, the Home of the Blizzard and tried to sell Frank Hurley’s photographs.


Speculation on emotional survival techniques employed by Mawson and his team.

Mawson returned to Antarctica in 1929 and 1931, as leader of the first and second British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expeditions (BANZARE). The expedition was funded by Australian Philanthropist Macpherson Robertson. As well as being a great scientific success, it also proved to be very good for Australia. Mawson claimed for Britain all the land of East Antarctica between longitude 40 deg. E and 160 deg. In total, 42 per cent of the continent. The claim was made on the understanding that Britain would transfer it to Australia. In 1935, Britain made the transfer.

Mawson $100

The two landscape of Douglas Mawson. In the background is the Flinders Rangers where Mawson studied ancient glacial activity. Mawson was shown in his Antarctic gear where he studied present glacial activity.

Australian antarctic territory
Australian Antarctica Territory

More recently, in 2009 printmaker Jorg Schmeisser produced spectacular prints and paintings of Antarctic landscapes. The works were particularly interesting, not only because of what they showed of Antarctica, but because they also show how Antarctica affected Schmeisser. Typically, Smeisser's work was very defined, tight, and detailed, but his Antarctica work revealed a somewhat of a melting of his usual style for something more free.

Jorg Schmeisser - Iceburg Print Antarctica

Jorg Schmeisser; an intaglio print in a series of on an ice burg in transition. The same plate was used for 5 different scenes of the iceberg.


Invasive ferals


Carp and Trout
A tale of two ferals

New hope for Cane Toads
The many unknown predators of the toad

A fence almost 2,000 km long to keep rabbits out of WA? Sounds like a great idea! If it doesn't work, we'll build another one!

The Willow
How a change in its status from asset to weed led to fish kills with blackwater and blue-green algae outbreaks

To bait dingos?
Should the health of the ecosystem be considered or just the kennel club registration?

Koala control
What to do about the "koala plague" on Kangaroo Island

Apex predator in Australia. Confined to urban areas in America.

Environmental values

Environmental problems
How money and ideology shapes environmental "science."

Australia's Stockholm Syndrome with gum trees.

The Kangaroo industry
Should we eat skippy?

Climate change in Australia
Australia was once covered in rainforest. Could it be again?

The dark side of sustainable environmental policies

Native pets
Why no pet wombats?




Australian environmental science is defined by an ideology that is not unlike a prison warden. There, the scientists are not seeing themselves as part of the ecosystem, but as masters over it; protecting the rights of the species that they say have rights and killing those that they say do not…but inevitably killing both.

"It was always seen as desirable to remove or cull the introduced species. We also need to ask whether it was possible to do so, how it should be done, whether it could have unintended consequences and what it would cost? I don't think anyone really asked those questions." Physicist John Reid - 2012