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Crows at South Pole  September 27, 2017 12:51 PM

Crows fan Gary Hill spent the 1997 Grand Final stationed at the South Pole

Crows fan Gary Hill spent the 1997 Grand Final stationed at the South Pole

As Mark Bickley and Malcom Blight hoisted the Premiership Cup in 1997, one fan was left in the dark. Literally.

Even someone on a space station – or on the moon – could have heard the result via a message from mission control.

Not this supporter. He was in a total information blackout.

This is the story of Gary Hill, a Crows fan based at the South Pole in 1997.

That supporter was me, and I spent the final quarter of the 1997 Grand Final in the dark. In fact, for several of the months leading to the finals series, I was literally living in the dark - 24 hours a day.

As a 30-year-old scientist, I was stationed for a full year at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole research facility overseeing a new astrophysics project. My home was a large aluminium dome, protecting a set of small buildings from the elements - snow storms, and temperatures sometimes in the minus 70-degree Celsius range. Very different conditions to that at the MCG on that day!

I followed the Grand Final from a small science lab, only a few hundred metres from the geographic South Pole, the rotation axis of the Earth. The game was played only a week after the sun had started to re-appear on the horizon following its total 24-hour absence during the mid-winter months.

I was able to follow the game through to three-quarter time; but, in those days there was no live video streaming. Our only internet came through old weather satellites that had drifted into otherwise useless orbits, but, importantly, made them visible above the South Pole horizon for a few hours each day.

All I could see were updates on the AFL website as the game progressed, no pictures, just the progressing scores. Unfortunately, the satellite feeding me the scores moved below the horizon just before three-quarter time. I knew that moment was coming, and once the link was gone, I was in the dark.

With hours to go before the next satellite pass would bring anything to be learned about the result, I would have to wait to know if we went on to win.

While the rest of the world watched the heroics of the Crows in the final quarter the five goals off the boot of Jars I was in the communications centre desperately trying to pick up any stray radio signal from the outside world. It was a real hit or miss prospect. Finally, hours later, the news came through. We had done it!

I celebrated the news and in the following weeks, while my fellow supporters were proudly wearing their Premiership t-shirts around Adelaide, I again had to wait.

Finally, in November, the station re-opened with the arrival of the first summer flight. This brought mail from home, and, in a box for me was a Crows Premiership T-shirt! When the weather permitted, the South Pole branch of the international Crows fan club (in picture: myself in t-shirt, American Chris and German Robert) took photos at the geographic pole.

My Crows scarf  seen in the picture tied to the actual South Pole still goes to games with me.

The well-travelled scarf has gone all the way from Adelaide, to the South Pole and was with me at the Preliminary Final vs Geelong last week. As the boys advance to what we hope will be an equally historic win as the first one was, I'll be once again cheering for them as they "get the job done.”

Thankfully, this time the satellite link only has to connect the MCG to my living room in Adelaide, so I'll know the result as it actually happens. 

Gary Hill, Adelaide Crows supporter since 1991