Emerging from an ice-locked Christmas while the world watched and waited, an Australian scientist and researcher with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) was announced on Wednesday as the winner of the prestigious Australian Academy of Science prize for his work in climate change science.
After finding himself in the center of both an international media and localized arctic storm, Professor Chris Turney will be a controversial winner of the honorific award, presented by the Australian Academy of Science, to celebrate researchers who have made outstanding contributions to their field.
Professor Turney has been awarded the 2014 Frederick White Prize for his research on understanding past and present climate change and on improving climate change models.
The energetic Turney, an Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellow in the UNSW Climate Change Research Center, was also the now internationally famous (or infamous) leader of the ill-fated expedition to Antarctica that ended with a international ice-breakers also becoming locked in the ice.
It was Professor Turney's calm reports that became the very human voice of unseen climate impacts.
"In this little haven of civilization surrounded by a chaotic jumble of white to the horizon, everyone is taking stock of being locked in sea ice for 10 days," he wrote during the ordeal.
"We are all incredibly grateful for the bravery of our Russian crew, the courage of Captain Jianzhong Wang on the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long and the wonderful perseverance of the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis."
The Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) set out to retrace the journey of Douglas Mawson using the Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy. The six-week expedition was split into two legs, the first focusing on the New Zealand sub-antarctics, the second the Southern Ocean and the immediate area around Mawson's Huts at Commonwealth Bay.
As the expedition traversed the Southern Ocean, oceanographic measurements were made, weather conditions recorded, trawls of the surface taken and bird counts noted; while on the sub-antarctic islands, teams cored trees, dug peat sections, investigated bird burrows and underwater surveys were made in the shallows. Many were firsts for the region.
When criticized for single-handedly dragging the world into an icy Antarctic Christmas, Professor Turney responded, "In spite of the situation we found ourselves in, the AAE had a conversation with the public about science, exploration and (Douglas) Mawson."
"There really does remain a passion for these subjects. Sadly though, there seems to be a few people who have just caught the last few days of the conversation."
The prize, awarded biennially, recognizes the achievements of scientists in Australia who are engaged in research of intrinsic scientific merit that has contributed to community interests, rural or industrial progress, or the understanding of natural phenomena.
Professor Turney is expected to arrive back in Australia this week after leading the 2013-2014 Australasian Antarctic Expedition, a scientific program aimed at increasing the knowledge of the vital Antarctic region.
"I am absolutely delighted and incredibly humbled to receive such a prestigious award," Professor Turney told Xinhua.
UNSW Associate Professor David Warton has also been awarded the Christopher Heyde Medal for distinguished research in mathematical sciences by a researcher under the age of 40.
He is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics. His work focuses on developing statistical methodology to further ecological research.
Associate Professor Warton said he was excited to receive the award and was grateful for his colleagues' support.
"Hopefully the ARC will continue to prioritize supporting young researchers doing fundamental science," he said.
The Academy president, Professor Suzanne Cory, said it was the Academy's privilege to recognize excellence in diverse fields of science.
"These awards celebrate both career-long contributions by some of Australia's most distinguished researchers and remarkable discoveries made by younger investigators."
The awards will be presented to Professor Turney and Associate Professor Warton at the Academy's annual meeting in Canberra in May.