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.

Illustration showing Mawson's blue hagg preparing to return to Australia.

At work

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.

Peter and his famous fresh salads
Peter and his famous fresh salads
Photo: Robyn M

Training

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.

Jock doing muster
Jock doing muster
Photo: Garry M
Dom and Jock on BA, Jodi is Fire Chief
Dom and Jock on BA, Jodi is Fire Chief
Photo: Garry M
Dominic in his BA gear
Dominic in his BA gear
Photo: Garry M
Charlie signals, the fire is out
Charlie signals, the fire is out
Photo: Garry M
Peter (Doc) and Dave provide assistance to Zane
Peter (Doc) and Dave provide assistance to Zane
Photo: Garry M
Boj and Nick testing the hoses
Boj and Nick testing the hoses
Photo: Garry M
Jodi as Fire Chief
Jodi as Fire Chief
Photo: Garry M
Nick and Jodi connecting the hose to the pump
Nick and Jodi connecting the hose to the pump
Photo: Garry M


At Play

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.

Film on the light box
Film on the light box
Photo: David W
Expeditioner checking film
David checking film before developing
Photo: David W
Expeditioner developing film in the Dark Room
Developing film in the Dark Room
Photo: David W

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".

Emperor penguin family
Family
Photo: Robyn
Emperor penguins and chicks in drifting snow.
Drifting snow
Photo: Robyn
 

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.

"In wind and snow drift, the chicks hunker down in creches for protection, or nestle on their parent's feet"

"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".

Emperor penguin crèche
First crèche
Photo: Robyn

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.

Fat emperor penguins
The heavyweights
Photo: Robyn

"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".

Emperor penguins at Auster rookery
Emperors at Auster
Photo: David


Digging out the RMIT van at Macey
Digging out the RMIT van at Macey
Photo: Garry
Lunch at the work site
Lunch at the work site
Photo: Garry


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.

Snow Petrel in flight.
The Snowies are back
Photo: David
Expeditioners on the summit of Rumdoodle
Andrew, Tony and David on the summit of Rumdoodle
Photo: David
The view from Rumdoodle summit.
The view from Rumdoodle summit.
Photo: David
Expeditioners on the summit at Rumdoodle
Andrew and Tony on the summit at Rumdoodle
Photo: David
Expeditioner on Rumdoodle summit
Andrew admiring the impressive view
Photo: David
This page was last modified on 8 October 2008.