This week at Mawson: 25 July 2008

A quiz night, retrieval of a tide gauge from Horseshoe Harbour, a day trip to Auster Rookery and Mount Henderson, the annual kitchen shut down and spring clean, general works and maintenance programs, and again various stock takes dominated our time during the week.

On the job

This week, Robyn joined Tony to learn more about the disposal of the week's rubbish.

No Australian Antarctic Station would be complete without 'Warren', the so-called incinerator that handles each station's burnable waste. Due to the prevailing south-easterly winds at Mawson Station, Warren is housed on the edge of the waterfront, downwind from other buildings, and boasts views across Horseshoe Harbour.

Mawson Station incinerator
Introducing 'Warren', our resident incinerator.
Photo: Robyn M

We generate several types of burnable waste on station, so each garbage bag that finds its way from the living quarters or workshops is tied off with colour-coded tape to identify the contents. Our two plumbers, Tony and Charlie, look after Warren, and do not take kindly to their fellow expeditioners mislabelling a bag, or worse, placing a non-burnable item into a bag of burnables.

Should an aerosol can, for instance, find its way into the incinerator, the ensuing explosion could easily damage the inner lining of bricks and put Warren out of action for the remainder of winter. Luckily, other than the occasional hiccup, the plumbers have us pretty well house-trained.

Drum for storing human waste, returned from the field, prior to incineration
Human waste brought back from the field is double-bagged and stored in a special drum.
Photo: Robyn M
Mawson Station garbage awaiting incineration
Every garbage bag on station is coded with coloured tape to identify the contents.
Photo: Robyn M

The first task of the day entails shovelling out any built-up snow that finds its way into the incinerator building after a blizzard. Then begins the job of setting the fire, and like any good campfire, the key to success is in the preparation. In this respect, last year's summering plumber, Bob, is still spoken about in hallowed terms—Bob's skills are legendary in being able to efficiently ignite and burn the volume of rubbish that came his way.

Weighing and recording of items prior to incineration
All items fed into Warren are categorised, weighed and recorded.
Photo: Robyn M

Tony stacks Warren with a foundation of scrap timber, then a layer of cardboard, a handful of old newspapers (paper and magazines are among the most difficult items to burn), and lastly, bags of dry and wet kitchen waste, and any human waste returned from the field.

Mawson Station Plumber loading incinerator
This morning, Warren will consume 120 kilograms of flammables.
Photo: Robyn M

Once the door is secured, Warren is fired up with an injection of fuel—mostly old or contaminated fuel such as that from near-empty drums brought back from the field huts. Warren has two burners, one that manages the primary chamber, and the other that burns the smoke in the secondary chamber.

Window in control panel of incinerator showing flame in primary chamber
Warren's control panel has a small window showing the flame inside the primary chamber.
Photo: Robyn M

Within ten minutes, the primary chamber reaches 650° Celsius, and the fuel is cut off for as long as the rubbish continues to burn at an optimal temperature. The burn lasts four hours, and even with regular injections of fuel, the entire process uses just 50 to 100 litres of fuel.

Expeditioner opening the incinerator chamber door to check the progress of the burn
Tony carefully opens the chamber door to take a peek inside.
Photo: Robyn M

During combustion, as shown below, the chimney exhaust is barely visible—the sign of efficient burning. With only seventeen of us on station during winter, Warren manages our burnables with around one firing per week.

Incinerator building with chimney exhaust barely visible; the sign of a well-set, clean-burning fire.
With Warren fully fired, the chimney exhaust is barely visible—the sign of a well-set, clean-burning fire.
Photo: Robyn M

The Annual Kitchen Shut Down

The annual kitchen shut down started at the beginning of the week – everything, and we mean EVERYTHING was removed from the kitchen so we could start to clean walls, ceilings and floors. Ovens, cook tops and stoves were removed, pulled apart and cleaned as well as all utensils, filters and shelving.

All Expeditioners have been involved and by the time everything has been patched, maintained, cleaned, and put back into place it would have taken the team 6 to 7 days solid work.

Mawson Station Expeditioner cleaning the lights in the kitchen
Boj cleaning the lights in the kitchen
Photo: Tony D'A
Mawson Station Chef inspecting the cleaning work in the kitchen
Zane (Quality Inspector) ensuring Boj did a good job.
Photo: Tony D'A
Mawson Station Expeditioner ready to tackle the Annual Kitchen clean
David looking for something to clean
Photo: Tony D'A
Mawson Station Expeditioner washing down the kitchen walls
AJ washing down the walls
Photo: Tony D'A
Mawson Station Expeditioner cleaning kitchen walls
Peter – more walls to clean
Photo: Tony D'A
Mawson Station Carpenter repairing walls during Annual Kitchen clean
Graeme repairing walls
Photo: Tony D'A
Mawson Station Carpenter repairing tiles during Annual Kitchen clean
Nick repairing a few tiles
Photo: Tony D'A
Mawson Station Leader cleaning oven bits
Narelle cleaning oven bits
Photo: Tony D'A

In the name of Science

There are several tide gauges in operation at Mawson. During our resupply in February Roger Handsworth completed the necessary maintenance on the East Arm installation but was unable to download and remove the bottom mounted tide gauge in Horseshoe Harbour due to marine growth around the tide gauge.

To complete the project the team at Mawson had to wait until the sea ice was thick enough to safely drive heavy machinery on to the ice to assist in the removal of the gauge. This week the team under Roger's directions from back at Kingston, used a jiffy drill to cut a hole 1/3 metre wide in order to locate the tide gauge. The gauge was located on the ocean floor in a depth of 7 metres.

In the below photos Andrew is setting up the monitor and Ros is placing the camera down the hole and viewing it on the monitor. When the tide gauge was located the team of three then had to use hooks and rope to secure the gauge. Dom cut a large enough hole for removal of the gauge and housing and lift the gauge out of the water.

Mawson Station Expeditioner preparing camera gear and monitor to locate a tide gauge on the seabed
Andrew sorting out camera gear and monitor
Photo: Ros B
Mawson Station Expeditioner preparing to search for a tide gauge laying under the sea ice off Station
Ros preparing to search for the gauge
Photo: Ros B
Tide gauge and housing being raised from the seabed
Dom lifting the gauge and housing
Photo: Ros B
Tide gauge following it's retrieval from the seabed just off Mawson Station
The tide gauge and hitchhikers (star fish)
Photo: Ros B

In the Field

During the week Jodi and Zane had to take a quick trip out to Mt Henderson to make a few repairs to the repeater.

Station Chef driving Hagglund vehicle to Mt. Henderson near Mawson Station
Zane driving the hagg
Photo: Jodi W
Mawson Station Comms. Officer working on the Mt Henderson repeater
Jodi working on the Mt Henderson Repeater
Photo: Zane H
Expeditioner enjoying the view at Mount Henderson near Mawson Station
Jodi at Mount Henderson
Photo: Zane H
Mawson Station Chef at Mt Henderson
Zane at Mt Henderson
Photo: Jodi W


And what do the Mawson team do when they are tired and sore after a long week? Well they book in to 'Charlie's Massage Magic Parlour' for a one hour relaxing massage.

Poster advertising massages at Mawson Station
Free massages by Charlie if you work hard

This week’s illustration

This weeks illustration by Nick highlights the difficulties of wearing Antarctic clothing in strong winds