New heights in Antarctica

22 January 2003

The correct height of Mount Shinn, the third highest mountain in Antarctica, has recently been accurately measured with some help from Geoscience Australia.

Damien Gildea on his way down Mt Shinn

Damien Gildea
on his way down
Mt Shinn
© Geoscience Australia

Australian mountaineer and author, Damien Gildea, and his Chilean climbing partner reached the summit of Mt Shinn just after midnight on 1 December 2002. He used a satellite phone to send data from his Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and lap top computer to Geoscience Australia's online GPS processing system, AUSPOS. After descending to his base camp, Damien received an email from AUSPOS with the correct height of Mount Shinn which is 4660.5 metres above sea level.

"The climb was harder and steeper than I had imagined - mostly 50 degrees angle, with some sections 60+ - with some danger at the top from unstable ice, and the downclimb from the summit was one of the scariest things I have done," said Damien.

The GPS, wrapped in Damien's black jumper, on the summit. The round white antenna is next to the little red summit marker and the orange ice axe is to stop it all falling off. At this point the temp was about -30 degrees Celsius. © Geoscience Australia.

The GPS, wrapped in
Damien's jumper
on the summit.
© Geoscience Australia

Mt Shinn is located in the Sentinel Ranges, adjacent to Antarctica's tallest peak Vinson Massif, in the Ellsworth Mountains. The height of Mount Shinn had not been measured since the 1960s when it was estimated to be 140 metres higher. The new height means Mt Shinn is only slightly higher than nearby Mt Craddock at 4650 metres.

Damien is no stranger to Mt Shinn having been a member of an expedition to measure its height last year. Although the climbers managed to traverse to within 100 metres of the summit they were forced to descend because of severe storms and dangerous ice conditions.

AUSPOS is a free online GPS processing service which automatically computes accurate co-ordinates to international standards from GPS data files submitted over the Internet.

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