My great uncle, Douglas Stewart, was a writer. He wrote a radio play called The Fire on the Snow about Scott’s tragic journey to Antarctica. I grew up knowing all about this story that had the worst possible outcome but I didn’t ever think I would have a friend, one hundred years later, make that same journey.
A few years ago Rob Clarke’s nephew, Reuben, was born premature and needed specialised equipment to survive. The equipment was provided by The Humpty Dumpty Foundation which is a charity that raises money to provide vital medical equipment to 178 children’s hospitals and centres across Australia and in East Timor, with the belief that every child deserves a fighting chance.
Touched by this provision to his nephew, Rob Clarke and his team set out to raise $1,000,000 for the charity and along with four others, left Australia on New Year’s Day to trek 111kms to the South Pole. To get there they had to fly to Chile and then board a plane that would land on the ice in Antarctica. From there they had to make the journey on skis, setting up tents at the end of the day to rest and sleep. The temperatures averaged around -37 degrees (-34.6F). Being summer it was daylight 24 hours a day. There were no signs of life – no birds, insects or animals. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but ice. Everything you brought in with you, you had to bring out, yes, everything (think taking the dog for a walk with those little bags!)
Rob Clarke, Cath Murray, Grant Bambach, Kim Loane and guide, Damien Gildea arrived at the Pole on January 17, the Centenary of the date Scott and his party arrived at the pole. They held a ceremony in Scott’s honour, kissed the Pole, then, because there was a team of British explorers who’d also just arrived, did the right thing and played a game of cricket. No need to mention which team won.
What an incredible adventure, what an enormous achievement and what an amazing triumph to have set such a difficult and challenging goal and despite all the challenges, deprivation and struggles, to have not only survived, but to have achieved the goal raising awareness and vital funds for the Foundation.
And, on Australia Day (the day we celebrated Rob and his team’s triumphant return), little Reuben was there running around, healthy as an ox. Rob’s wife, Kylie told me that when Rob reached the ceremonial pole (and apparently that was a very emotional moment), he pulled out photos of Reuben before and after his treatment and took photos of those images on the pole for Reuben to appreciate when he’s older.
Rob, it was an honour and a privilege to be in your home on Australia day to welcome you home. Congratulations you adventurer!
Do you have a sense of adventure? Is there a cause that gives you a desire to set yourself a challenge?