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15 August 2005

Museum senior curator Matthew Higgins will tell the intriguing story of a group of men who lived on the top of Australia around the turn of the last century - on Wednesday at the National Museum in Canberra.

For five years, from 1897 to 1902, Clement Wragge and his team lived at a weather station on the top of Mt Kosciuszko, first in a tent and then in a small timber hut.

'Kosciuszko's summit was then one of the most isolated places in Australia. The men lived there summer and, incredibly, winter,' said Mr Higgins.

After the first winter, the weather men had to build an enclosed stairway with rooftop hatch to provide access to the hut after heavy snowfalls.

'The observers faithfully carried out regular instrument readings, even during midnight blizzards. In their time off, the mostly young men of the station enjoyed the wonderful natural phenomena of Australia's highest point, and were pioneer skiers on the top of Australia.'

The free lecture, Life at the Top: Wragge's Kosciuszko Weather Observatory, will be held in the Friends Lounge at the National Museum, from 6 to 7pm on Wednesday, 17 August.

Mr Higgins' talk will be illustrated with slides of the observatory and the people who made it a fascinating chapter in Australia's mountain history.

Matthew Higgins, a bushwalker and skier, has been researching, writing and talking about the high country's history for nearly 20 years. He works on the Museum's Tangled Destinies gallery, which explores how the Australian environment has shaped life and agriculture.

His presentation will be accompanied by warming winter refreshments.

Bookings for the free lecture are on 6208 5021.

For more information, please contact Sandy Forbes, (02) 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or Leanda Coleman, (02) 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or email

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