Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 3, 2010

The Ice Beneath My Feet (2010), by Diana Patterson

I’ll be honest, I haven’t finished reading this book – but I wanted to publicise it as soon as I could because it’s written by someone I know, and I owe her a favour!

It’s hard to imagine it now when young women are so loud and confident and brash – but there was a time when teachers like me ran programs to encourage young women to be assertive, to speak up and to claim their share of life’s opportunities.  Between 1988 and 1992 I was working in a school where many of our families were from Southeast Asia, and the girls were so meek and submissive we could barely get a peep out of them.   We ran a program of female role models, inviting terrific women to come and speak at our Year 5 & 6 assemblies about the work they did, why they found it satisfying and how they got the qualifications and experience to embark upon their careers.

So when one day The Spouse came home from work at the Department of Conservation and Environment to tell me about Diana Patterson being the first woman to lead an Antarctic expedition, I didn’t hesitate: I asked him to invite her to talk to our students about the experience.

Somehow this wonderful woman found the time to come to Springvale West Primary School and share her journey with our Year 5 & 6 students.  She had a natural gift as a raconteur, and she pitched her talk at the kids’ level without talking down to them.  It was absolutely fantastic and we were all riveted.

The French Base on Antarctica, photo by The Spouse

And now she has written The Ice Beneath My Feet, My Year in Antarctica about her year as the leader of Australian’s Antarctic base at Mawson.  The Spouse got his autographed copy when I shouted him a flight over Antarctica with Antarctica Sightseeing Flights for his 60th birthday and Diana was the ‘tour guide’.   It’s a terrific book, written in Diana’s easygoing narrative style, complete with full colour photos,  including some wistful ones of the last husky dogs to be allowed on the base.

As readers of this blog know, Douglas Mawson has been a hero of mine since I was a child.  He belongs to the heroic era of Antarctic exploration, but developments in technology and our greater understanding of Antarctic regions doesn’t lessen Diana’s achievement.  Despite its beauty, Antarctica is still a bleak and dangerous place, and its isolation places incredible physical and psychological demands on the people who join research expeditions to contribute to the store of human knowledge about it.

I think The Ice Beneath My Feet, My Year in Antarctica would make an inspirational gift for any young woman.

Author: Diana Patterson
Title: The Ice Beneath My Feet, My Year in Antarctica
Publisher: Harper Collins (ABC Books imprint), 2010
ISBN: 9780733324239
Source: The Spouse.


  1. Lovely story Lisa … and sounds like a good book too. I’m fascinated by Antarctica almost as much as I’m fascinated by deserts. There’s something about the elemental places on our earth isn’t there?


    • It’s a terrific book, I read a bit more of it after writing this post, and the challenges of day-to-day life in the Antarctic are just overwhelming to an armchair adventurer like me!


  2. Lisa, I’ve been preoccupied with the effect of literature recently: as a sentimental, moral education, as the agent of synthesis and unity for the divided self, (all those philosophical German Romantics!) but here you remind me that it can quite simply be an inspirational role model – wonderful! And your enthusiasm is inspirational too.


    • Yes, what I love about this book is that it’s about multiple kinds of courage: the courage to venture into the unknown and face physical and psychological challenges (the adventure gene, if you like); the courage to do something no woman has done before (overcoming prejudice, stereotyping and hostility), and the courage to be honest about it when reflecting on it. Lisa


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