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Children's book cover.

When school is closed for the day, John takes the class’s broken webcam and his friend Peter back to his dad’s auction rooms. When he experiments with the webcam, by linking it up with an old telescope, John is stunned by what he can see on the laptop screen. Somehow, John and Peter become witnesses to events from the early life of the telescope – allowing them to see some of the exploits of its original owner, John Collinson Close.

Close was a member of Mawson’s 1911 expedition to the Antarctic and over the following days, John and Peter capture a number of his adventures. They watch Close rescuing colleagues from suffocation in an ice cave, helping to steer the ship through icebergs, playing cricket on the ice among the penguins and catching dinner from the mouth of a husky. Helped by their teacher, Miss Aileen, they also do their own research to find out more about the life of an Antarctic expeditioner.

However, once the webcam is returned to the classroom and Miss Aileen fixes the dodgy connection, John and Peter are left with no visual record of Close. Just lots of questions, and a new enthusiasm about the Antarctic.

Discussion questions

  • What inspires John to experiment with linking the webcam to the old telescope?
  • John likes the idea of sharing the same name as John Collinson Close. What qualities about Close do you think he might admire?
  • John and Peter have very different ways of doing things but are still very good friends. What do you think they like about each other? Why do you think they decide not to include Finn in their adventure?
  • How do you think that John and Peter felt when they watched as John Close struggled to get the ice-axe? Why? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like that?
  • Why do you think that Close chooses to spend time with the dogs on board the ship? What are some of the challenges you think the Antarctic expeditioners would have faced?
  • Why do you think that John and Peter think that John Close was a legend? Are Peter and John legends? Why?

Classroom activities

  1. John Close spent a lot of time writing letters or entries in his journal during the Antarctic expedition. Ask your students to select an event from the story and create a journal entry that Close may have written to record his reflections of that day. You may like to challenge them to think about the writing implements that Close would have used for this task.
  2. Ask your students to visit the website of the Australian Antarctic Division in order to complete the questions on the What’s happening in Antarctica worksheet (PDF 3mb). Invite students to write a description of how Antarctica may be different 100 years from now. You may wish to conduct a class discussion on global warming (or allow students time to do some research) before they undertake this activity.
  3. Use the Antarctica then and now worksheet (PDF 1mb) to explore some of the differences between life in the Antarctic for members of Mawson’s 1911 expedition and living conditions at the Australian Antarctic bases today. Students complete a chart highlighting the changes.
  4. In the story Antarctic Close-up, one of the members of the expedition is the photographer Hurley. Ask students, working in groups, to create a powerpoint presentation featuring Antarctic photographs taken by Frank Hurley. Each group could focus on a different subject, for example, wildlife, expeditioners, ships, landscapes. A good starting point for Hurley images is Trove.
  5. Ask students, working in pairs, to create a board game called Fantarctica. They could draw on the incidents and challenges depicted in the story.

Book details

Antarctic Close-up by Hazel Edwards
illustrated by Meegan Parkee

ISBN 978 1876944 54 4
198mm x 130mm, 64pp
black and white illustrations
RRP $11.95

Published September 2007; re-released 2015. This book can be ordered through good bookshops and educational suppliers.


Collection record – the telescope that belonged to John Collinson Close, a member of Sir Douglas Mawson’s 1911 Antarctic expedition

Learn more about Hazel Edwards

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