An igloo with a view ... Australians go to the polls in Antarctica

Fri Jul 1, 2016 1:56am EDT
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By Tom Westbrook

SYDNEY (Reuters) - In an igloo overlooking Vincennes Bay, Antarctica, 27 Australians did their democratic duty and cast ballots on Friday, the day before the rest of the nation votes in a general election.

"It's about minus 20 degrees today and not much breeze, so we thought the igloo would be a good place to do it," said Adam McLaughlin, who doubles as an electrician at Australia's Casey Station on the frozen continent as well as being the electoral returning officer for the base.

Voting is compulsory in Australia and, thousands of kilometers away on the mainland, conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and center-left Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten were making their final pitches to skeptical voters on Friday at the end of an unusually long eight-week campaign.

Opinion polls published have the race too close to call.

Not surprisingly, the campaign has not come to Antarctica, where the last contact with the outside world was a resupply visit in April. The next ship is due in October.

"It's pretty good being down here because we do escape that constant bombardment through the media," McLaughlin told Reuters by telephone.

Australia's Antarctic expeditioners do not elect their own member of parliament, their votes counting towards results in their home electorates. McLaughlin's home is Bramston Beach, 6,000 km (3,725 miles) away in tropical North Queensland state.

His home electorate is a gigantic 568,993 sq km (220,080 sq miles) that stretches from the ocean through sugar cane and banana farms to the arid Outback, with mining and grazing interests thrown in for good measure.   Continued...

Voters stationed at the Casey Research Station in Antarctica pose with their ballots for the Australian federal election in this handout picture taken by Michael Brill of the Australian Antarctic Division, June 28, 2016.   Australian Antarctic Division/Michael Brill/Handout via REUTERS