This week at Mawson 10 October 2008
This week's illustration
If Mawson's blue hagg could speak it would tells us some amazing stories about her life at Mawson – I'm sure the big blue girl would have a lot to say. But alas, she is getting old and tired and will be returning to Australia on V4 for a makeover, and it's about time too as she is starting to show her age and drop her bundle. Of late, our experienced and hard working dieso's have been doing everything they can to patch her up.
During the year our station Doctor – 'Green Thumbs Peter' has done a fantastic job with managing the station's hydroponics. Mawson expeditioners have feasted away on fresh garden salads with crispy snow peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces, and carrots just to name a few. The photo, below, shows Peter coming out of the hydroponics shed with a ready-made salad.
Last Saturday all station personnel were involved in a fire drill scenario which put us all to the test. Our Fire Chief Zane staged a fake fire in the laundry drying room then set off the alarm. When it was determined where the fire was we all had to muster in the green store and wait for instructions from the Fire Chief. We soon discovered we couldn't raise the Fire Chief and had to assume he was in trouble. Jodi (Deputy Fire Chief) was called in to take over – Jodi soon notified us of where the fire was and the first BA team was called to action with the second BA team on standby.
Zane was found lying on the floor of the laundry, both BA teams were used, the fire was put out, it flared up again, and again it was put out, Zane made a quick recovery and all personnel were stood down.
During the week Dave made good use of the Dark Room and developed up number of his photos taken recently. It's nice to see the Dark Room get some use.
Auster Rookery and its wildlife
News from Auster Rookery, by Robyn
"When the parents return from foraging at sea, they identify their chick through a series of calls".
Phase 3 of the 4-phase emperor penguin project was successfully completed at the end of last week, with the sampling of 100 emperor chicks at Auster Rookery. Daylight now stretches until 9:30 in the evenings, which meant we could work until evening. With the tremendous help of everyone on station, we completed the sampling in four and half days, and had only one morning where wind and snowdrift delayed work, as chicks and adults hunker down in poor conditions.
"Most chicks are now large enough to be left on their own for several days. While alone, chicks tend to form creches and huddle to maintain warmth".
Each day our volunteer field assistants drove quads 60kms from station to Auster, and return, often negotiating stretches of deep sastrugi. Nevertheless, everyone seemed eager to participate in this phase of the project, perhaps because the chicks make such adorable subjects. Once a chick was sampled, each 'catcher' took great care and delight in returning the chick to its home.
Gary and I carry out an identical sampling regime for the chicks as we do for the adults: throat and fecal swabs, and a small sample of blood. The one difference is that we take blood from the top of the chick's foot, as the flipper is still small and woolly. The bigger the chick the better for sampling, and it became something of a fishing competition with each helper waiting to hear the weight of their 'catch'. If a chick has been recently fed, his or her weight can increase by up to a kilogram. Most chicks weighed between 2.5 and 3.5 kilograms, but Geoff was the trophy holder with a chick weighing at 5.5 kgs.
"Recently fed, the chicks at Auster are growing at a rapid rate"
Yesterday, Gary and Robyn returned to Auster Rookery for a weekly check on the colony, and to retrieve the RMIT work van and tow it back to station. Monitoring will continue through to the fourth and final phase of sampling, in the second half of November.
"The Auster heavyweights - the adults returning from sea look to be in fine form, having regained the weight and condition they lost earlier in the breeding cycle".
In the field
Last weekend Tony, Andrew and Dave spent the day climbing Rumdoodle peak – it was a perfect day, plenty of sunshine, no winds and only -19 degrees C... they said it was so clear they could see the lights of Hobart.