1 November 2021

Antarctica calling: Canberra trio off to icy continent for dream adventures

| Damien Larkins
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Aurora Australis over Davis Station in Antarctica

Three Canberrans will soon embark on separate epic journeys to Antarctica. Photo: M Brill; Australian Antarctic Division.

Two Canberra high school students and a former Australian Border Force official are about to fulfil their dreams of travelling to Antarctica.

Former Australian Border Force commander Danielle Yannopoulos is set to take up her new role as Davis Station leader.

“I have always wanted to go to Antarctica but have always thought you had to be a scientist or have some particular technical skills,” she says.

“It was highlighted to me that they have station leader roles, which was right up my alley.”

READ ALSO Patty Mills headlines the ACT’s Australian of the Year nominees

Danielle has been training in Hobart for 10 weeks, meeting her team and learning about her role in the Australian Antarctic Division and why Australia is in Antarctica.

Going to the southern continent is a whole new experience for her.

“I haven’t lived and worked in such a remote location before,” says Danielle.

“I have done an overseas post – I lived in Malaysia for three years, but it was quite a different environment.”

Danielle Yannopoulos with Australian Antarctic Division team

Danielle Yannopoulos (back row, seventh from left) has been doing intensive training with her team in Hobart. Photo: Australian Antarctic Division.

Danielle grew up in Canberra, attending St Jude’s Primary School in Holder, then Padua High School and Daramalan College.

But will the many local winters she’s experienced prepare her for the minus-40 degrees temperatures she will face in Antarctica, when she heads off on 3 November.

“I’d love to say yes, but I don’t think so,” says Danielle with a laugh. “But I guess in Antarctica, like Canberra, if you’ve got good heating inside you should be ok.

“You have just got to make sure you’ve got the right gear to wear outside. It’s all about layering.”

Davis Station in Antarctica

Temperatures at Davis Station in Antarctica can reach minus-40 degrees in winter. Photo: Greg Stone; Australian Antarctic Division.

Technology will allow Danielle to keep in close contact with family and friends while she’s away.

But she’s taking a few little luxuries to help make life in the remote region a little easier.

“I’ve taken some of my favourite toiletries and packed an extra pair of my favourite jeans to be able to pull out in six months’ time and have some new clothes,” says Danielle.

“Hair dye is another thing I’ve packed.”

Naomi Leszczynska and Toby Davis

Canberra students Naomi Leszczynska and Toby Davis are headed to Antarctica. Photo: Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions.

Meanwhile, two ACT college students will be heading to Antarctica after winning an essay competition.

Year 12 students Naomi Leszczynska, from Gungahlin College, and Toby Davis, from Hawker College, each won a seat on a 12-hour sightseeing flight of the frozen continent.

The Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) essay competition was open to all ACT secondary and college students.

Naomi, 18, jumped at the opportunity to participate.

“I’ve always wanted to spend a season working in Antarctica,” she says. “It’s a beautiful place.”

Her essay focused on the history of science and exploration in Antarctica and how to help it grapple with human impacts such as climate change.

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“It’s such a unique and beautiful place, but it’s also got some extreme conditions which is the perfect place for pushing the boundaries of science and really testing the limit of what we know,” says Naomi.

Toby, 17, is thrilled about winning the trip.

“It’s crazy and super exciting,” he says. “I still don’t quite believe it.”

Toby’s essay focused on how art and science can help heal the world.

“I think through both art and science we can bring people together over shared experiences and stories,” he says.

Toby will be flying on the inaugural Qantas Dreamliner flight from Canberra to Antarctica in 2022, while Naomi’s flight is set for 2023.

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