“Sydney of the Antarctic” and Scott Base

“Sydney of the Antarctic” and Scott Base

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.

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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!

22 responses to ““Sydney of the Antarctic” and Scott Base

  1. What a great post Betty! Makes me think about how adventure can await at every turn in life. We only need to be open and aware to live it!
    Love, Chris

    • Absolutely Chris! You and I have had some great adventures and looking forward to many more! Have a good work trip in Europe and talk with you soon! Love, Betty

  2. I love that you “walked home” to McMurdo and that you showed someone riding a bike. Our students keep asking me if there are “Kids”/children in Antarctica or at McMurdo? I ive tole them that I think the youngest people there are college age students but decided I should ask you the question…. Cape Cod is rainy today….Thanks…Mary Ann

    • Hi Mary Ann,
      Great to hear from you! No, there are no children around McMurdo Station, which seems strange to me because I teach children every day. There have been children visiting Antarctica before though. Right now the youngest people here are college students. You were right! No rain here….enjoy the Cape and I’ll see you when I get back there in the spring!

  3. Oh…wow, what a wonderful story. Seems as though there is “something” for several ages. Looks like lovely illustrations. I’m very glad Sydney got to Brazil! From the perspective of one reader. Your photos…so little snow…I’m thinking that’s a concern? My best, Linda

    • Hi Linda,
      Yes, Sydney’s story inspires people of all ages to embrace adventure and make the best of every situation. And, no snow in McMurdo is typical for this time of the season. The 24 hours of sunlight warms the brown volcanic soil/rocks and turns McMurdo into “McMuddo.” Keep in touch, I love hearing from you!

    • Thanks Louis! I know you have that book because I sent it to you. I’m going to keep looking for Sydney around here. You never know, I might find him! Keep on reading my blogs!

  4. Darling Betty, oh, oh, oh!!!! That gorgeous tale of Sydney and Brazil!!!! I’m sitting here in the heat of summer, watching people swimming at the beach, always thinking os Sydney and where he might be! But Brazil, and the festivities…I’m in love with that idea…want to jump on a plane right now and get into the spirit of things…what a fabulous tale! Keep an eye out for the red and white spotty ears!!! x Coral.

    • Hi Coral,
      Your tale of Sydney has touched so many readers! What an inspiration for adventure. I’m keeping a lookout for Sydney’s red and white spotty ears and I’ve put up your “missing” poster again. I’ll post those other photos sometime soon! xx Miss you!

    • Okay, now I know you are in Harwich, Hope. Tell Ms. A I said hello. Keep on reading my blogs! Happy Holidays!

    • Hello again Hope….I will spend Christmas here at McMurdo Station. I’d love to go to Scott Base because it’s smaller and more personal, but we’ll find ways to celebrate here in McMurdo. I have a few presents my husband sent down with me, and I’ve gotten a couple of cards I’ll save to open on Christmas. It will be very different to celebrate this holiday without the family and friends I miss so much. You have a good holiday!

  5. Biking around Antarctica? What a crazy thought, but your picture proves this to be true. So glad you got to enjoy the warmer temps and walk back to the base. Betty, I am so proud of you.
    Thanks also for the gentle reminder of a picture book that Cole has on his shelf at home. I am going to find it so we can reread together tonight. Much love to you.

  6. Oh great, Mal. Revisiting the Sydney book with Cole will be fun! Have him tell you where he thinks Sydney is and what he’s doing now….I’d love to know what Cole thinks! 🙂 I don’t think I’ll be biking any time soon. But I do love all of the walking we do around town. It feels great to get outside and walk each day. I have a couple of short hikes around the base area that I’d like to do….a circle around Ob Hill and a good view of McMurdo from the Arrival Heights section above town. Someday soon you’ll see a post on those hikes! Miss you! xo

    • Well Niall, I rented a bike the last time I was here and I have to say that biking around here is not easy. First, there’s a lot of loose rock and gravel, which makes it hard to pedal through all that. Second, we sit in a lower area, like a basin (bowl-shaped area of land) so to get out of town there are hills. I’m not much of a bike rider though, and some people seem to love riding around. Others jog or walk through town. It’s fun to see people being outside and active! 🙂

    • Hi Seif,
      I’m glad we read that book together before I traveled to Antarctica! I love that story and Sydney’s sense of adventure! I hope you have that sense of adventure as well. 🙂

    • Hi Louis,
      I just saw this comment you made a while ago. I don’t usually go back to older posts and check, but I’m glad I did today. I had a great time visiting you at Greendale School. I hope you will continue to read my blogs. Enjoy your summer holidays! 🙂

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