At the tail end of December in 1959 Mary Gillham and 3 other female scientists became the first British and Australian females to join a research trip in the Antarctic. The likelihood of females joining future research trips would depend on the success of these ground-breaking women. Over the next two weeks we’ll be retelling Mary’s tale and talking more about Macquarie Island where this was all to take place…
In December of 1959, the quartet of Isobel Bennett, Hope MacPherson (Australian), Susan Ingham and Mary Gillham (British) became members of the first Australian expedition of female scientists to the Antarctic when they visited Macquarie Island where an all-male group – members of an Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) – had been in existence at a shore camp for a number of years previously.
The four female scientists were present to support the on-going study of aspects of animal and plant life on the Island with marine biologists Isobel and Hope looking at the ecology of inter-tidal origins and shells respectively, biologist Susan at the lives of Bandit Penguins, Wandering Albatrosses and Elephant Seals while botanist Mary’s brief was to analyse the effects of sea birds on the island’s vegetation.
Not only were the women to be as equally involved as the men in their scientific work on the island but, it would be fair to say, that that work and the women’s ability to “fit in” would come under scrutiny with some on positions of authority casting strong doubts on the place of females in Antarctic explorations.
Were this first ever placement to be anything but a resounding success, it would not be an understatement to say that the involvement of female scientists in future such work would have been greatly hindered and delayed…
Read on tomorrow!
Reference material and further reading:
- Australian Antarctic Division
- History of Macquarie Island Station
- About Macquarie Island Station
- Antarctica history and facts
- Macquarie Wiki
- Images of Hope Macpherson plus Mary, Isobel and Susan
- Isobel Bennett “in her own words” campaign
Thanks to John Wilkins (MGAP volunteer) for coordinating this series of Macquarie blogs.