Glacier in Greenland

My favourite: David McGonigal

4 October 2017

David McGonigal (BA ’71 LLB ‘75) worked in insurance law long enough to save for a round-the-world motorbike trip. This led him to Antarctica, a role as an Antarctic Expedition Leader, and favourite things on all continents. 

A book called Antarctica co-written by David


That’s Antarctica, of course. I first wrote to the Australian Antarctic Division when I was at the University of Sydney but didn’t get there until almost 30 years later. It’s a place of endless space and beauty where humans are irrelevant. There’s also the history. I studied in the Edgeworth David Geology Building so it was a special thrill to walk in the footsteps of the professor and Sir Douglas Mawson on the shores of the Ross Sea.

Two Adelie penguins


Of course it’s penguins. More specifically, the endlessly cute Adelie penguins with their monochromatic feathers, mad eyes, pink feet and flat heads.

David with his motorbike

Road trip

I rode around the world again 20 years after my first trip, aiming to ride through all 24 time zones. On that expedition I was the first person to ride a motorcycle on all seven continents. It covered the world, from Vladivostok to Morocco, and it’s still pure joy to hit the road, feeling the wind, yet locked away with my thoughts inside my helmet.

A group of penguins


South Georgia Island resembles a slice of the European Alps dropped in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is crowded with penguins, seals and nesting albatross and has an abundance that is hard to describe. Standing on Salisbury Plain or Gold Harbour and looking across a vista of tens of thousands of king penguins is awe inspiring.

David rugged up in snowgear


I was transferring new passengers by Zodiac from a dock in Greenland around 2002 and recognised a passenger as the now-retired Associate Professor Bob Young, who had been my inspirational geography tutor in first-year geography. He still has the ability to make rocks come alive and I learned a lot about the landscape on that voyage.

A mother polar bear scolding her baby


On the road it’s photography and capturing the moment. At home it’s using the mental discipline I developed in arts and law to endeavour to write articles that both capture place and inspire others to visit.

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