St Virgil's students break the ice and the records

First children to set foot on Antarctica

29 September 2017

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Twelve school students are set to become the first children to fly to and set foot on Antarctica as part of the Australian Antarctic Program.

The announcement comes following the students win in the Federal Government’s national “Name our Icebreaker” competition.

The winning students from St Virgil’s College in Hobart, Tasmania, and Secret Harbour Primary School near Perth in West Australia named the new $1.9 billion ship RSV Nuyina (noy-yee-nah), meaning ‘Southern Lights’ in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aborigines.

They will embark on their exciting, landmark journey to the icy continent in November and in many ways, these lucky young Australians are reflective of the long-term investment this new vessel represents for our Antarctic capabilities.

Contest organisers said all schools participating in the naming competition can be proud of their thought-provoking contributions.

The national naming competition attracted nearly 800 entries from primary and secondary students across every state and territory, with about a fifth of these suggesting Indigenous names. Many of the suggested names were inspired by the Southern Lights or aurora australis, the atmospheric phenomenon that produces curtains of colourful weaving lights originating over Antarctica.

*St Virgil's school students & staff  

Using the name nuyina for the Hobart-based ship recognises the long spiritual connection Tasmanian Aboriginal people have with the frozen continent, as the most southerly humans on the planet during the last ice age.

The name also connects Australia’s more recent icy endeavours, with several Australian Antarctic ships named after the evocative lights. Sir Douglas Mawson’s ship, used for the first Australian-led expedition to the Antarctic, was the SY Aurora and our currently-serving icebreaker is the RSV Aurora Australis.

Formal approval to use the palawa kani word nuyina on the new ship has been received from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC).

Four runner-up prizes of a $500 technology voucher were awarded to Rokeby Primary School in Tasmania, Ulladulla High School in New South Wales, Essex Heights Primary School in Victoria and Cowell Area School in South Australia.

The keel of RSV Nuyina was laid last month and the icebreaker will arrive in Hobart in 2020.

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