Marion Wheatland is
Canadian by birth, Australian by heart and has lived in Australia for over 40 years. She has been spinning for more than 20 years and runs a business called Fancy Spinning a Yarn. Marion is passionate about fibre and wool and also history, a trait she inherited from her father. As a child she used to attend agricultural shows in Canada. The Dandenong Show was her introduction to the Australian version of the Ag show. Her interest in fibre motivated her to get her wool classing certificate but she has found her niche as a spinning teacher.
Using an inheritance from her father Marion combined her two great passions by taking an amazing journey to Antarctica to spin at the South Pole and help raise money for the restoration of Mawson’s hut.
Equipped with a wheel donated by Majacraft and some wool top (clean enough to enter the sterile environment of Antarctica) Marion departed from Dunedin on the MV Orion, a very comfortable icebreaker well suited for the journey through the Southern Ocean. Marion did some spinning on the ship and naturally managed to intrigue some of her fellow passengers enough to encourage them to take some lessons from her. She had been preparing herself for the cold conditions by spinning in a hired freezer room and at an ice bar in Melbourne! Luckily when she finally landed at Commonwealth Bay and had a chance to look around Mawson’s Hut and set up her wheel to spin nearby, the temperature was a reasonable zero degrees with virtually no wind. This meant Marion could actually remove her gloves.
Mawson’s Hut was built in 1911 as part of the Australian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) and is being restored and preserved by the Mawson’s Huts Foundation. A great deal of equipment, foodstuff, books and ephemera remain at the site and are still in the process of being catalogued by archaeologists and historians. Marion was overwhelmed at the tangible air of history in and around the hut. Spinning just metres away from it was one of the biggest thrills of her life. She chose to spin a blue yarn in the hope of knitting it into a replica of Mawson’s famous balaclava. Her’s will be auctioned off to raise more money for the Foundation. She also spun a yarn she called Antarctic Sunrise which reflected the unique colours of the area.
After leaving Cape Denison the MV Orion stopped at the Macquarie Islands and the bird sanctuary of Campbell Island before returning to New Zealand. Marion hopes to raise more money for the Mawson’s Huts Foundation by selling photos and DVDs of her adventure and will be sure to use her unusual spinning experiences to instruct and entertain people for some time.