“Sydney of the Antarctic” and Scott Base

“Sydney of the Antarctic” and Scott Base
Written by Betty Trummel

One important benefit from all of my work in Antarctica has been the amazing connection I’ve made with others in the fields of science and education. I’ve been very fortunate to meet some of the world’s leading polar scientists, teachers, videographers, photographers, authors and illustrators.

Today I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Coral Tulloch, and her brilliant work as an author and illustrator. Coral has done amazing work in the Antarctic (as well as many other places) and her nonfiction books are a great resource. One of my favorite books Coral has written is a work of fiction (and has other genres as well, including a bit of autobiography and nonfiction). It’s called “Sydney of the Antarctic.” I’ve gotten permission from Coral to include the front and back covers of Sydney below.

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Based on real events that took place on one of her Antarctic voyages on a Russian icebreaker, Coral weaves a lovely tale of a stuffed animal (called a soft toy in Australia), Sydney, who accidentally gets left behind in Antarctica. The REAL Sydney stuffed toy did indeed get left behind, near Robert Scott’s hut at Cape Evans. In this delightful story, Sydney makes the best of his adventure and as the story closes, it is left open-ended so the reader can use their own imagination to contemplate what Sydney is up to now.

Book Description from Harper Collins Publishers Australia:

“Sydney Walton Mouse dreams of a life of adventure. Most of all, he wants to go to Antarctica, where it is wild, and white and wonderful.

Then one day, Sydney′s dream comes true. But when the great Russian icebreaker sails away without him, Sydney is all alone in the Antarctic wilderness. Together with his new friends Sydney embarks on the greatest adventure of his life…
Based on a true story, this tale of loss and belonging is reminiscent of Scott′s adventures in the Antarctic. Coral Tulloch has created a story that will engage the hearts and minds of children of all ages.”

Coral includes “the real story” behind this book, and a nonfiction page on Scott’s hut. I’ve used this book in my classroom for several years, and we have had Coral come all the way from Tasmania, Australia, to Husmann Elementary School to share her work as an author and illustrator with our students and teachers. Before leaving on this trip, I read the book to my students and asked them to write about what they think Sydney is doing now. Here are two of my student responses.

“I imagine Sydney floated off to Brazil and is having a festival just for you, Coral. Right now the festival is going on with lights all over the town, with parties in every house just for you. The floats in the parade are filled with faces of you. But, on the last float Sydney jumps our of the top and blows out a candle and makes a wish. Do you know what that wish is? It is for him to go back and live in Australia with you. Oh wait, there’s more!

The extreme parties are amazing. Let me tell you what’s going on at those parties. They have at least ten or more people at each party. The food is great, too, because it’s all of your favorites. The kids all get a replica of Sydney. At 3:53 pm everybody is quiet for you, Coral, and they are thinking about how Sydney and you are the best thing that every happened to the people.

Sydney and you are famous in Brazil and you have a whole day in your honor.

I hope you find Sydney!”

Second response:

“Dear Coral, it’s me, Sydney! Right now I’m living in an igloo that I built myself with the help of my new penguin friend. I wear by coat and booties day and night to keep warm. Inside of my igloo there is a little heap of snow that I sleep on. Even though it might be warmer inside my igloo, I’m am still really worried that I might freeze to death while I’m sleeping, especially if I’m sleeping on a bed made of snow.

Every day I eat sardines for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m getting sick of them, but I’m used to it. Sometimes I eat the ice and snow. My life may be good, but it’s not perfect without you. Love, Sydney”

What do you think Sydney is up to? Where do you think Sydney is? Is he still in Antarctica? My students have had Sydney picked up by a skua and dropped on a ship, learning to ice skate, and climbing Mt. Erebus. Use your imagination and let me know where you think Sydney is and describe what he’s doing. I’d like to hear from you!

Coral’s latest award-winning book (written with Alison Lester is called: “One Small Island.” It is about Macquarie Island which lies in the Southern Ocean between New Zealand and Antarctica. This island and the ocean surrounding it are protected for creatures that live both above and below the waves. Macquarie Island is designated as a World Heritage Site. This book contains beautiful illustrations and text that details Macquarie Island and how it is being protected and restored to its natural state. It is available at Penguin Books Australia. You can Google the title for more information.

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Now I want to turn your attention to Scott Base. I took a shuttle from McMurdo to Scott Base yesterday, to visit their store and check out the surrounding area. Scott Base is much smaller than McMurdo. It’s summer population is about 80 people and during the winter months there may be fewer than 20 people at the station (the number fluctuates each year). Scott Base is a collection of tidy lime green buildings, and sits at Pram Point on Hut Peninsula.

Here is a great aerial photograph taken by Jean Pennycook.

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Here is another view, taken from the road that connects McMurdo to Scott Base.


Being here reminded me of all of the people I met and worked with during the ANDRILL Project back in 2006. I miss having those people around this season.


This sign gives the distance between Scott Base and capital cities around the world. It is 14828 kilometers (9,213 miles) from our U.S. capital city of Washington, D.C.


Instead of taking the shuttle all of the way back to McMurdo, I decided to take advantage of a really nice day and walk home. The temperature was in the mid-30’s and there was not much wind. As I approached McMurdo Station, I noticed a lot of equipment stored on the edge of town.


I someone riding a bike back to McMurdo. There are actually bikes you can rent here on station. Some people have even shipped their bikes here for the season. What a great way to get around!


It’s been another busy day. Each day is a new adventure for me. I hope you’ll keep that adventurous spirit like Sydney! Always keep learning and exploring!

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