17 February 2006

Mawson station has spent this week recovering from our resupply visit from the Vasiliy Golovnin V4 which left last Friday, and then hot on the Vasiliy's heels, receiving a 2 day visit from the Aurora Australis on the V3 Broke-West marine science voyage.

We farewelled on V3 the last of our summer expeditioners, Greg , "Wozzer", Glenn Kevin Gunn, and Gordon. Thanks to these people for their hard work during the summer and great contributions to station life. So now we are down to our complement of 14 wintering expeditioners and no new faces for the next 9 months.

The AA entered Horseshoe Harbour on Monday morning to carry out a calibration procedure on its acoustic measuring equipment, used in krill estimates. It needed to be accurately moored above the deepest part of the harbour. As many will know, mooring ships in Horseshoe Harbour is a delicate procedure at the best of times, so this time it was a bit more fiddly than usual. However with the station crew at a very well practised level of training following the Vasiliy's visit, it was hardly a challenge.

About 60 marine science voyagers and AA crew came ashore on Monday afternoon to stretch their legs ashore after 5 weeks of bobbing around the southern ocean, to have a look around, and to have dinner and enjoy an evening party with us. Many stayed ashore that night. For most, it was their first opportunity to set foot on the Antarctic continent.

An enjoyable social evening was had by all.

Aurora Australis enters Horseshoe Harbour

Aurora Australis enters Horseshoe Harbour this week.
Photo: Ivor Harris

Gordon with hydrogen powered barbeque

Gordon cooking on Antarctica's first hydrogen powered barbeque.
Photo: Ivor Harris

Before departing on V3, Gordon took the opportunity to christen his new hydrogen powered barbeque. This was constructed as part of the HO-GEN hydrogen generation project at Mawson, which has investigated the future of turning our sometimes surplus electricity from the wind turbine generators into a storable energy form.

The Weber style barbeque cooks very hot but without drying the food, as water is produced from the combustion of hydrogen and maintains the humidity inside the barbeque while cooking. Also there is no taste of cooking gas or heat beads. The sausages were proclaimed as very tasty!

We took advantage yesterday of an unusual very calm afternoon and evening to do some boating. Boating has only been possible here since the Vasiliy's visit last week, which broke up the ice in the harbour and in Kista Strait sufficiently for it to all blow out over the last couple of days.

During the afternoon, four of us visited Bechervaise Island to count Adélie penguin chicks, as a follow-up on Lisa's and Matt's penguin ecology studies there. Lisa and Matt left on V4 last week, and have requested us to do a few more chick counts this summer, and start the counts of arriving birds next spring.

In the evening, a few recreational boat trips went out. On one of these trips, four lucky people were treated to the rare experience of having a pod of Orcas surface and swim around them for several minutes in Kista Strait, just outside Horseshoe Harbour.

Chief Scientist working in refrigerated container

AAD Chief Scientist Michael Stoddart Photo: Tony D'Amico

Orcas surround zodiacs in Kista Strait

Orcas surround zodiacs Photo: Renae Baker

Orcas surround zodiacs in Kista Strait

Orcas in Kista Strait
Photo: Renae Baker

Bureau of Meteorology senior observer Renae B tells the story:

What a magical experience was had yesterday in the waters surrounding Mawson. After dinner, berg cruises were organised to make use of the wonderful calm winds and clear skies. No sooner had the first cruise departed and entered Kista Straight, a pod of Orca's was spotted in the distance.

At first there appeared to be just a couple of whales surfacing every so often, then it became apparent that there were perhaps 10 or more in the pod. For my first ever boating experience in Antarctica, I will be searching hard to beat yesterdays amazing journey. We did see an ice berg too, but for me, the sighting of killer whales for the first ever time, was by far the highlight of my Antarctic experience so far.

IRBs in front of ice cave

An icecave in icecliff in West Bay
Photo: Ivor Harris

Zodiac approaches the Bechervaise Island huts

Zodiac approaches the Bechervaise Island huts
Photo: Ivor Harris

Iceberg in Kista Strait (looking from IRB), Frammes Mountains in background

Iceberg in Kista Strait, Frammes Mountains in background.
Photo: Ivor Harris


In order to justify station claims of how hard everyone on station works over the resupply period, I include a photo taken last week of AAD Chief Scientist Michael Stoddart, who was visiting Mawson on V4, hard at work inside a refrigerated container helping to unload station stores.

Best wishes from all at Mawson

Ivor Harris

This page was last updated on 17 February 2006.