Hi Girl Powerettes!
Last week we told you all about the Australian Science Festival and this week there’s even more science stuff on the calendar! National Science Week is now on and there are lots of events on in every state so make sure you check out their website.
To celebrate, we got chatting to Dr. Hazel Barton. She’s a microbiologist AND a cave explorer… how cool is that!? She’s gone caving all over the world because she hopes to find specimens in the deepest darkest caves that will help her make the next medical breakthrough! Hazel has even starred in her own IMAX film, Journey into Amazing Caves, which looks at crazy caves from ice caves in Greenland, to underwater caves in the jungles of Mexico. Check out the trailer, it looks a little spooky! Here’s what Hazel had to say about making a career out of caving…
Dr. Hazel Barton
Girl Power: So how did you combine caving and science for one of the coolest careers ever?!
Dr. Hazel Barton: I wanted to keep my cave exploration and my science separate, as I didn’t want to turn caves into a job or use my science as an excuse to get into neat caves. After my Ph.D. my boss suggested I go and do microbiology in places where no one else could, so I decided to take a look. The results were fascinating. I’ve been doing it ever since!
GP: So what’s your proudest achievement?
HB: Getting my PhD.
GP: And your most amazing discovery?
HB: In microbiology – I think it’s the finding that microorganisms are actually involved in making cave formations, stalactites and stalagmites. Very, very cool. In caving, we found a new section of Wind Cave that was about 5 km long. We called it the Lunatic Fringe because when we found it we all ran around like lunatics with excitement!
GP: Any top tips for Girl Powerettes who want to be super scientists like you?
HB: If you want to know how things work, why things the way they are, then you are a scientist. Everyone thinks being a scientist is hard work, but as long as you just want to understand the world around you and keep following that passion, you will become a scientist. It’s the same for all science in all fields.
GP: So caves can be pretty cramped…Do you ever get claustrophobic?
HB: Not really. I got nervous one time while I was cave diving in Mexico. I was squeezing through a hole and my helmet got jammed. I was about 100 feet underwater and about half a mile from the entrance and I really did get quite nervous. But other than that, no, not really. The tightest passage I’ve gone through was about 20 cm wide, but that didn’t bother me.
GP: You’ve been in lots of docos and films. What’s more nerve-wracking, going into a cave or talking in front of the camera?
HB: Definitely talking in front of a camera! Although the scariest thing is when they want you to abseil while they film you – there’s something really nerve-wracking about sliding down a rope while it’s being recorded on film!
GP: So what’s it like seeing yourself on the IMAX screen?
HB: I closed my eyes the first time – I couldn’t watch. I’ve seen it so many times now I’ve gotten used to it, but I just don’t like watching myself on TV!
GP: So to finish up Hazel, you’ve been caving in over 1000 caves, is there one you still dream of visiting?
HB: Hmmm… that’s a difficult one. I would guess it would be Gua Nasib Bagus cave in Mulu National Park, Borneo. It contains the Sarawak chamber, which is the largest cave chamber in the world – you could put seven jumbo jets tail-to-tail in there.
Hazel explores a cave...
Hazel sure is one brave woman! So girls, do any of you want to follow Dr. Barton’s lead? Can you see yourself caving in deep dark canyons or would you prefer to stay in the light of day?! Let us know!
The GP Team xx
Tags: Adventure, Caving, Hazel Barton, National Science Week, Science