Lismore becomes Australia's Arctic climate research capital

Scenes from the documentary film about the 1985-86 expedition.
Scenes from the documentary film about the 1985-86 expedition.

LISMORE has become the capital of Australia's first international climate and oceanic research organisation.

In conjunction with Southern Cross University, the Oceanic Research Institute (ORI) is set to organise oceanic and climate research expeditions in the Pacific and the Arctic.

Their first expeditions will head to the Arctic as part of a "ground-truthing” process to try to discover why the frozen coast of East Greenland is melting so fast. The results of the research are expected to be of significance to climate scientists globally.

Greenland contributes 65% of the ice melt that is driving sea-level rises, said Earle de Blonville, the institute's CEO.

"Over the past four years, Greenland has tipped one trillion tons of ice into the sea - far more than the Antarctic.

"When melted, that's enough water to refill the whole of Sydney Harbour 240 times, and it will help create more Cyclone Debbies,” Mr de Blonville said.

The ORI explorers are an international team of experts, from NASA in the US, LAB in Spain and SCU.

"The institute is also unique because it is the only climate and oceanic organisation in the world to operate aboard classic wooden sailing vessels,” Mr de Blonville said.

"Our flagship, La Boheme, is a massive 34m Baltic schooner, launched in 1913 and built for ice navigation.

"Made of solid oak, it is the only truly sustainable research vessel in the world.

"The schooner operates under sail, and aims for zero carbon and acoustic emissions, which is vital when studying whales.”

To help raise funds, the institute is staging a series of film evenings in theatres during September. The film Savage Coast will screen in Lismore next Friday, and everyone is welcome.

"It's a film for the whole family, and we encourage everyone to come and support this exciting Australian initiative,” Mr de Blonville said.

The documentary film is of great significance historically and to climate change science.

It tells the story of Australia's first Arctic expedition, which was made in 1985-86: a 1000km sea kayak voyage that its four-man team miraculously survived during winter snow storms blowing 260kph (140 knots).

Shot in East Greenland, it shows the strength of the human spirit.

Today, the region is the world's hottest melt zone, and film-goers will see what the uninhabited wilderness looked like before the massive melt began.

The one-hour film will be introduced by the expedition leader and officially opened by Peter Harrison, the director of Southern Cross University's Institute for Development, Environment and Sustainability, and director of the university's Marine Ecology Research Centre.

Professor Harrison is one of world's foremost marine scientists, specialising in whales and corals and holds the prestigious Eureka Prize, Australia's highest award for scientific discovery for the mass spawning of coral.

Afterwards there will be a Q&A session where the audience can gain insights into the challenges and opportunities offered by the climate crisis.

The film is at the Kyogle Cinemas on Tuesday, September 5 at 7pm and Star Court Theatre on September 15 at 7pm Tickets $20 online and at the door. Kids under 12 half price.

Topics:  climate change