‘I WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO SPEND A WINTER IN ANTARCTICA’
This pioneer made history in 1981 – and we were there to share her story
Growing up, Dr Louise Holliday was captivated by stories of her neighbour Captain Merton Moyes, an explorer who joined several Antarctic expeditions before 1930.
“He would tell us stories of derring-do,” recalls Louise, now 64. “It was exciting. Once, two of his companions went off to search for others who had gone missing. After being stuck alone on the ice for six weeks, he thought they’d died. When he finally saw them coming back over the horizon, he was so excited and happy he stood on his head!”
These tales sparked a determination to become the first woman to spend a winter at Davis Station, the most southerly Australian Antarctic base. Adding to her determination was that the man who would become her husband had also visited the remote location.
“He showed me his Antarctic slides, which is a variation on come up and see my etchings,” Louise laughs.
On January 27, 1981, she made history, spending six long but thrilling months in the remote location. “You really have to have determination and perseverance,” she says of her feat. “In my day, if it didn’t work out, you were stuck because people wouldn’t get rescued until the ship came in summer. It’s still a dangerous place, people can die.”
“Home” was a shipping container with a bed, desk, wardrobe, toilet and hole in the roof “for when, not if, we get snowed in”.
While Louise – a practising doctor in Sydney who says her real passion is seeing people get healed – jokes she’d have to be “certifiably insane” to return, her mother, who sadly passed away earlier this month, made the trip twice later in her life.
“She was so inspired by the beauty of the animals and the birds and the ice that she dragged my dad back,” marvels Louise.
Despite growing up on Antarctica bedtime stories, her kids have no desire to visit. And while she hopes her grandson Benjamin, six, may follow on the Holliday family tradition, she’s not pushing him to do so.
“It’s a place of such beauty,” she says. “It’s a treasure, and it would be a great shame if it gets wrecked with the rest of the world coming because it’s so fragile.”
For eight days, 28-year-old Zia Mcintosh lay in a coma. When she awoke after a massive brain haemorrhage, half her skull had been removed and she couldn’t remember a thing.
“Where am I? What am I doing here?” she kept asking intensive care nurses. In time, Zia would be told about a double miracle – surgeons had removed a burst blood vessel from her brain and simultaneously performed an emergency caesarean to save her baby’s life.
“I couldn’t remember being pregnant,” recalls Zia. “It was like a bizarre dream. My family were all around me telling me about my wonderful baby boy.”
Her son Dylan had entered the world three months premature, weighing a mere 1.12kg. Now, 23 years later, her “beautiful, angelic, kind soul” son is a young man!
“He’s still at home with us, coaches junior [AFL] footy and he’s a carpentry and landscaping labourer,” says Zia, who’s now 51. Zia’s younger child, daughter Taylah, is 21 and studying business management.
“I turned 50 last year,” Zia says. “It was a real milestone – and every day I’m still grateful I’ve gotten to see [the kids] grow up. I’m the luckiest and proudest mum in the world.”
Since the shocking incident, Zia’s been in good health but is acutely aware it’s not to be taken for granted.
“I was born with a condition that went undetected until the day I suffered a huge headache. I just recall Garry [Norwood footy legend, Garry Mcintosh, her partner of 31 years] dragging me out the front door and taking me to hospital. I was in a real mess.”
Zia’s recovery took 18 months and the first three were a blur due to short-term memory loss. However, she says she will never forget seeing Dylan for the first time.
“The moment I saw my little bloke, I knew I had to get better for him – nothing else mattered.”
Today, Zia thinks she had not one but three guardian angels looking over her when she fell ill. “When I was in hospital, I had the strongest sense that three angelic presences were with me,” she says.
“It sounds mad but it gave me comfort at the time. I knew I was going to be all right.”
Zia (right) with Dylan, Garry and Taylah says she’s thankful for every single day.