Wednesday, 25 August 2021                      HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY                    Page 6568/6569

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (15:55): Today, I would like to speak about a project that Aaron Ward from John Pirie Secondary School is getting students to undertake on people who have connections to Port Pirie and have had significant exposure to worldwide events.

Today, I want to talk about a story that Diana Cojocea did about Captain John Davis, Frederick Gillies and Charles Hoadley. It is February 1913 and Captain Davis desperately scans the alien landscape. A jet black sea contrasts against giant cliffs of brilliant white stretching to infinity in both directions. There is no sign of Douglas Mawson or his party. They are now two weeks late from a very perilous 1,000-kilometre sledging expedition across an unexplored expanse of Antarctica. This is an unforgiving place, consisting of nothing but icy rock and 200 km/h winds.

Some 2,400 kilometres to the west, a second party of brave polar explorers wait longingly for Davis, as he knows their plight and that they must be desperate for help. With winter closing in, Davis has to make a hard decision. The skipper of the Aurora was a veteran of Ernest Shackleton’s first voyage during which his ship, Nimrod, became gripped in the ice. Her crew became trapped for the winter and Davis was not about to risk a repeat ordeal.

He made the decision to leave six volunteers and his remaining supplies at Cape Denison to wait for Mawson’s party. He then collects the western party and returns to Australia and frantically raises money for a return rescue mission the following spring.

In 1917, John Davis retired from polar exploration to supervise the erection of a mechanical coal-handling plant at the Port Pirie smelter. In doing so, he became the third member of that desperate voyage to call Port Pirie home. Charles Hoadley had left his job with BHP in Port Pirie to volunteer for the western party which successfully navigated almost 1,300 kilometres of previously unexplored Antarctic Territory.

Pirie resident Frederick Gillies was the third Port Pirie resident to take part in this remarkable adventure as the chief engineer of the problematic Aurora. He would go on to enjoy a highly successful 25-year business career in Port Pirie until he was hit and killed by a taxi at the corner of Broadway Road and The Terrace in Port Pirie. A grateful town ground to a halt for his funeral; that was the high esteem in which he was held.

Captain Davis, meanwhile, had been offered the captain’s chair for the ill-fated voyage on Endurance, but he turned that down. Both he and Mawson did emerge from retirement in 1929 for another expedition on the Discovery, the last traditional three-mast ship built in Britain. In many ways,  that voyage marked the end of the golden age of exploration, an obsession which had gripped mankind for thousands of years and in which three brave men who called Port Pirie home had quietly played a small part.

These are projects that Aaron Ward is asking students to undertake at John Pirie Secondary School, which I might add has one of the best principals in Roger Nottage. Roger is doing a fantastic job at John Pirie Secondary School. Unfortunately, he will be retiring at the end of this year.

These projects Aaron Ward is getting the students to undertake not only give them the opportunity to learn the history of people who come from Port Pirie but highlight the great and the very high achievements of people coming from Port Pirie. Too often country areas, and I am saying that generally, are not acknowledged for their great attributes and achievements in the history of our state, our nation and internationally.

I can only say thank you very much specifically to Aaron Ward. He will be lost to Adelaide, I understand. He lives at Port Broughton, but I think his partner now has a full-time job in Adelaide, so Aaron will be lost to Port Pirie. This is the second project I have spoken about in this house, and I have another couple. I think it is a great tribute not only to Aaron Ward and the John Pirie Secondary School but to those students who have done all this history of their own accord, highlighting the important and great achievements in Port Pirie over many years.