In a surprise early Christmas present, two Canberra Year 12 college students have won a competition to secure a seat on the upcoming Antarctica Flights Qantas Dreamliner sightseeing flight, the first to fly over the frozen continent directly from Canberra.
The ANARE Club, Canberra, a group of Australian Antarctic veterans, announced the winners of the competition this week - Gungahlin College's Naomi Leszczynska and Hawker College's Toby Davis.
ANARE Club Canberra convenor Malcolm Robertson said the inaugural competition had been open to all secondary students in the ACT.
Students were invited to write a short essay about why they would like to fly over Antarctica and how they would use the experience to make the world a better place.
The ANARE Club raised the funds to purchase two superior economy tickets for the winners, and the competition was facilitated by the ACT Education Directorate and the ACT Science Educators Association.
"Naomi's winning entry was creatively written displaying passion and commitment about the natural world, while Toby's spoke from the heart about climate change and using his artistic talents to tell of Antarctica's pain," Mr Robertson said.
"Both will be marvellous ambassadors for Canberra's colleges and our club."
Toby, who turns 18 on Monday, was blown away to have won a seat on the flight.
"Oh, yeah, it's crazy. I still can't believe it," he said.
With aspirations to be a scientist, Toby also has a passion for art and intends to use the flight to inspire some new works.
"I'm most looking to seeing Antarctica, obviously. But I'd also like to know more about how things are affecting Antarctica. It'll be a good experience to hear from people and, who knows, maybe see some penguins as well," he said.
Naomi, 18, was also thrilled to win a seat on the flight, with her award-winning essay.
"I wrote it with a bit of an historical perspective, about the history of science and exploration going together," she said.
"It's going to be such a great experience and I get to meet Malcolm and all the other people who work in Antarctica."
Mr Robertson, who wintered in Antarctica during 1970, said the ANARE Club was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and dedication expressed by the students who entered the competition.
"I wish we could have funded another 10 seats," he said, with a laugh.
"The entries were uniformly strong with students showing a deep commitment to environmental issues, a sound understanding of the science behind climate change and a determination to make a difference."
The Antarctic flight will fly from Canberra on Saturday, January 22. It is operated by Antarctica Sightseeing Flights, with assistance from the ANARE Club which provides specialist advice and commentators during the flight.
The duration of the flight is about 12 hours, with some four hours flying directly over the Antarctic continent.
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