‘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

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - ’80s - Dr Louise Hol­l­i­day

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.

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