Love of the cold and tribute to dad

Spin away: Marion Wheatland braved the cold, spinning woollen balaclavas outside Mawson’s Hut in Antarctica. Picture: Sam StiglecANTARCTICA remains a freezing, barren continent rarely visited, but Boronia’s Marion Wheatland is one of the few who have ventured to the cold south.
Nanjing Night Net

She sought to pay tribute to Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, and set off to Antarctica on the 100th anniversary of his 1911 expedition.

Late last year, she took her prized possession, a wool spinning wheel, and began to make replica balaclavas of what Mawson and his team of 18 men wore, in the same icy terrain they once explored.

Ms Wheatland spoke about her trip to an eager group of locals at The Basin Community House, detailing her adventures.

She said she felt inspired to go to Antarctica after her father, a former history teacher at Boronia High School, died five years ago.

“My father gave me a love of history. I wanted to do something that he would approve of, to honour him.”

Ms Wheatland, a Canadian now living in what she calls her “adopted country” of Australia” has a natural love of the cold – “I have ice in my blood from Canada”.

Training for the trip included taking her spinning wheel to the top of Victoria’s Mt Hotham, and spinning woollen balaclavas that she now sells to fund the Mawson’s Huts Foundation, which each year sends a team of restorers, carpenters and other maintenance workers to preserve the huts.

“The Mawson’s Huts are archaeological sites, so their preservation is very important,” Ms Wheatland said.

She has been guest speaking for the past 12 months, and donates any money from this to the foundation, as well as money raised from the sale of the balaclavas.

She has donated more than $2000 to the foundation, which she handed over in a ceremony attended by Governor-General Quentin Bryce last December.