Dale Jacobsen – finally finding Antarctica

Dec 22, 2018 | Features

Last month, we shared the first part of the remarkable story of writer, musician and explorer, Dale Jacobsen. This month, we learn of her fulfilling a childhood dream in Antarctica, visiting the huts of her heroes and writing about the great continent.

by Gay Liddington

“We are all adventurers here, I suppose, and wild doings in wild countries appeal to us as nothing else could do. It is good to know that there remain wild corners of this dreadfully civilised world.” –  Robert Falcon Scott

The mid ‘50s was a time when the heroic exploration era of Antarctica had just ended and the focus was on science. Eight-year-old Dale Jacobsen sat in a Weller’s Hill classroom entranced and inspired by a teacher obsessed with the ice desert lorded over by glaciers, travelled by huskies. 

The child washed her face in winter water from a concrete tub in the backyard, let it dry in the cold wind and pretended she was in Antarctica. She spent her time reading about it, dreaming about it, making up stories about it and pretended she was out there on an expedition with Scott going to the pole.

These fantasies fed the child’s imagination leading Dale to realise her dream, more than 60 years later.

“I spent my life reading and studying about Antarctica and just before my mum died in 2012, at the age of 90, she said, ‘When I go, you won’t be a millionaire but you will get your trip to Antarctica. I want you to go and check out what trip you’re going to do.’

“When I went on that 32-day trip from South America with Oceanwide Expeditions, I clearly remember sailing into the Ross Sea. It was beautiful, and misty, snowing and freezing. I stood alone on deck, up on the bow and the enormity of being deep in Antarctica was overwhelming. The atmosphere, missing Mum. I cried and cried.

“Here was I, honouring the promise I’d made my eight-year-old self and Mum was with me in spirit. I was going into the huts of Shackleton and Scott, my heroes. It was one of the most intense moments of my life.

“I came back a totally different woman. I knew that this world was too big and beautiful to lose yourself in your worries. After six months, I was so miserable because that was it, I’d been! I missed the ship and being at sea as much as I missed everything about the continent.

“At that low point, I decided to write. I had kept a detailed journal and so, created a book, Why Antarctica – a Ross Sea odyssey, then learnt how to craft an interactive eBook taking it to another level.”

Dale told Oceanwide Expeditions about her latest book which lead to a mutually beneficial arrangement. She wrote blogs for their website and they promoted her book. An offer of signing people up for the Antarctic trip gave Dale the opportunity for yet another adventure, a goal that was realised.

In between times, Dale booked a 12-day trip where she kayaked among the icebergs, a skill acquired beforehand on Baroon Pocket Dam.

“Ten weeks later, I was off again on the second 32-day trip. I got so much more out of it because I was in the moment and knew exactly where I was. All these historical places and glaciers that I’d read about all my life…there they were there in front of me.”

It seems that with author Dale Lorna Jacobsen, there’s always another book and it’s no surprise that her leading lady in this latest work of historically based fiction is a woman biologist who was at Mawson in the ‘80s.

“The reason for that time in the ’80s is three-fold: One is that there were only about four women to 20 men there. I wanted to have a mid-winter, husky expedition with a woman biologist and, it involved the sinking of the Nella Dan. She used to take the expeditioners down and sank off Macquarie Island in 1987.

“This all fitted neatly into a bundle. I met so many people who had been down there at that time…ones who had run with the huskies. I recorded their stories and accessed their diaries to create the novel, Aurora – Running with Huskies.”

There appears no end to the achievements of Dale Jacobsen, scientist, author, adventurer, and musician, who throws in: “I forgot to mention, I combine my writing and environmental ‘talents’ as a researcher and interpretive sign writer for Queensland Parks and Wildlife; am a crazy craftswoman, mainly intricate and large counted cross-stitch and have been sewing my own clothes since I was a teenager.”

Add to the mix: “Along the way, I joined the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition Club (ANARE Club) who have commissioned me to write a memoir of a 98-year-old expeditioner. That’s going to happen next year.

“So, I’m living my dream. I probably won’t get to go back to the Antarctic again and that hurts, but no matter how many times I go, I’ll always want to go back. This is a lifelong thing that will never resolve but at least I’m living Antarctica…researching it, writing about it.”

She is ageless, uncompromising and sets a formidable example. Words from Scott’s last expedition reflect my friend, Dale Jacobsen.

“Fortune would be in a hard mood indeed if it allowed such a combination of knowledge, experience, ability, and enthusiasm to achieve nothing.” ― Robert Falcon Scott, Scott’s Last Expedition: The Journals

They walk amongst us…





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