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Fijian in the deep freeze

Dawn Gibson
Saturday, April 06, 2013

BORN in the heat of the West, the adventures of Abrar Shabren have taken him about 8000 kilometres away to the coldest place on Earth.

Mr Shabren, 26, is the first Fijian treader of the South Pole.

After migrating to Australia in 2009, Mr Shabren recently marked his three-month anniversary at the Antarctic Regional Office in the freezing temperatures of the South Pole.

With 10 months left to go before he returns to Australia, Mr Shabren said the journey was the greatest adventure of his life.

"I have come across a lot of things, travelled several times to the Wilkins ice runway and had the pleasure of meeting the Australian governor general, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce. It's going great," the expeditor told this newspaper yesterday from his camp as a storm raged outside.

"As I am writing, we have a blizzard with winds up to 60 knots and blowing snow happening outside."

Mr Shabren, who was born in Votualevu in Nadi, said the trip to the South Pole was "amazing".

"After the first day most of us were seasick but after that it eased off and it was smooth sailing. On the fifth day, we saw the first iceberg and it was amazing."

"We saw wildlife such as mink whales, several penguins, seals, seagulls, petrels and the stunning view finally when Christmas arrived in Antarctica and we set foot for the first time.

"It is an amazing, majestic and beautiful place ... so pristine, clean and peaceful."

Asked about the stark change in weather, Mr Shabren said the "unique weather pattern" brought a feeling of awe and fright at once.

"Antarctica currently experiences temperatures below minus 20 degrees. Blizzards happen now and then with average winds of 75 knots, gusting up to 85 knots ... but it's amazing to feel snow falling on your skin.

"However, the Antarctic weather is extremely severe, unpredictable, cold, windy and dry, opposite to what is observed in the Pacific. A small change here affects the Pacific."

Mr Shabren, who is one of only 21 people at Casey Station, is the station's weather/climate observer and spends much of his time studying weather patterns on that side of the world.

He told The Fiji Times that the next batch of expediters are not expected in the South Pole until October this year.

Mr Shabren attended Votualevu Public School in his primary years and Votualevu High School, now known as Votualevu College.

He worked at the Fiji Meteorological Services as a meteorological technical officer/ weather and climate observer until 2009 when he migrated.

"We all miss certain things from the mainland but there is so much adventure here and so many things to do which keep us occupied."

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