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Geographers in the Spotlight

22 Jun 2018 9:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Sydney L. Kirkby AO MBE Polar Medal

Mr Syd Kirkby has been awarded the Australian Honour of Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 2018 Queens Birthday Honours List. The award is in recognition of his 65-year career and his distinguished service to surveying and mapping in Australia, particularly in the Antarctic, to polar exploration, research and mapping expeditions, and to professional scientific societies.


Courtesy of Syd Kirkby. On the left: observing at Rumdoodle Peak. On the right: sledging in the ‘60s.

Sydney L. Kirkby, MBE, Polar Medal has been an active member of RGSQ and of the ANARE Club in Queensland since moving to Queensland in 1986 following his retirement from the Division of National Mapping, Melbourne office.

Syd has contributed enormously to the work of Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) since first wintering at Mawson in 1956. It has been stated by P.G.Law AC, CBE, Polar Medal, that

“Syd Kirkby has explored more of Australian Antarctic Territory than any other Australian. “

The fact that Syd has been involved in exploration of Antarctica from Cape Adare at 170°East, to the west of the Australian sector at 45°East, west of Enderby Land, and also inland to the Southern Prince Charles Mountains, is unique; while his management of Surveying and Mapping techniques for the extension of knowledge has become legendary.

Syd has also led the way in communicating Antarctic Affairs to the community with his regular availability to speak at community organisations.

As a Member of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, Syd Kirkby has been a popular contributor and lecturer. On one occasion, the lecture had to be repeated to satisfy the lack of space for those interested at the first presentation. In April 1993, Syd presented a major paper to the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, titled “From Sledge dogs to Satellites”. This is published in the “Queensland Geographical Journal”, 4th Series, Volume 8, in 1993 and subsequently in the “Queensland Surveyor”, Volume 1998 Number 5, in October 1998.

The exhibition “Our Frozen Frontier” was also supported by RGSQ and was opened in the RGSQ Auditorium (Brookes Street, Fortitude Valley) in 1997 - the key feature of this venture being the number of display venues over a period of six months: Brisbane (Geographical Society), Rockhampton, Longreach, Mount Isa, Townsville and then was mounted at Brisbane Museum for the month of November.

At his Thomson Address in 2002, Syd Kirkby was presented with the RGSQ Thomson Medal.

The award of Officer of the Order of Australia recognises Syd’s wide involvement with the community and his professional career.

RGSQ congratulates Sydney Lorrimar KIRKBY on the receipt of the Award of Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

By David Carstens, RGSQ member and past President

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