This week at Mawson: 16 January 2009

Weather: A few days of sunshine and no wind, then four days of 70-knot blizzard.

Cleaning out the tankhouse

The tankhouse was this week's site for heavy industrial work at Mawson with the yearly cleanout of one of the three water tanks. Built in the late 80s from prefabricated steel panels, bolted together on-site and then sealed, these three water tanks hold 90,000 litres each for both drinking and emergency fire supplies. In summer, they are filled from the sparkling meltwaters of thousands-of-years-old ice gushing down from the plateau and in winter by us melting a tiny corner of the glacier just behind the station.

Mawson expeditioners prepare for cleaning job
Spence and Hotdog test out the Mawson flight suits prior to the upcoming satellite check
Photo: Peter S
Mawson expeditioner poised above water tank
The doc wonders how his laparoscopic bariatric surgical stapler ended up in water tank No. 3
Photo: Tony D'A
Mawson expeditioners hose each other after tank cleaning
We can't believe we're getting paid to do this
Photo: Peter S

"It's dirty work cleaning out these things", said Dave "Hotdog" G today from deep within Tank No. 3, "but Spence and I – we just love this sort of stuff".

Fire-fighting Training

With the need to throw away 30,000 litres of water to clean out the tankhouse, and rivers of nice clean stuff running off the plateau, what better time is there than to conduct the annual summer cleaning of the Mawson rocks out the front of the Red Shed? For this, the traditional fire-fighting costume of Antarctica was donned and all on the Fire Team had a go at squirting that rock clean.

Mawson expeditioner explains fire training
Fire Chief Lee sets out the dramatic rescue operation
Mawson expeditioner shows off his handiwork
The quality of Aaron's work is even more astonishing given his vision is partially obscured by a large white sticker
Mawson expeditioner with reflective sunglasses
You don't mess with the man with no eyes

Mawson expeditioner gets enthusiastic with the fire hose
Barry likes the fire hose
Mawson expeditioner with fire hose
Matt likes the fire hose too
Mawson expeditioner celebrates birthday with sparklers on cake
Tubby's 62nd birthday, supervised by the Fire Chief

Zucchini Corner

If you thought last week's intensively-farmed zucchini was special, wait till you see the monster that came out of hydroponics this week. Quite what Gunny has been putting into the electrolyte mix he won't say, but together with the heat and light powered by our eco-friendly wind turbines, it is certainly setting new records.

In fact the zucchini was so large this week that the fleet-footed baton-relay approach for delivery into the kitchen (see last week's This week at Mawson, 9 January, 2009 ) had to be abandoned in favour of a more conservative Hagg-based traverse.

Field Training Officer Hully cancelled a day's search and rescue training in order to be on hand to guide the loading of the zucchini onto the Hägglunds, which he achieved with a network of cunningly-arranged rope pulleys and karabiners.

Giant Zucchini lashed to Hagglunds vehicle
After being lashed to the Hägglunds, Gunny's Giant Zucchini was taken on a tour of the ice plateau
Photo: Hully
"Slippage was a real risk however", said Hully afterwards. "Once those zucchinis get going, there's just no stopping them, so I had to make sure she was roped down good and proper".

Some interesting calculations.

From our in-house aficionado of this kind of thing

The definitional distinction between "fruit" and "vegetables" can often give rise to heated discussion, owing to the fact that "fruit" is a botanical term but "vegetable" is not. Thus tomatoes and zucchinis, being the ripened ovaries of the plant, are both fruit, whereas in culinary terms we think of them as vegetables. It is interesting to note that the United States Supreme Court however, decreed that the tomato was a vegetable, for the purposes of the 1883 Tariff Act on imported produce, while acknowledging that it was in fact a "fruit".

In the Dental Chair

From this week's guest "dentist":

The cusp of Carabelli, first described in 1842 by Georg Carabelli, a court dentist of the Austrian Emperor, is a small additional cusp at the mesiopalatal side of the maxillary first molars.

This cusp is absent in some individuals and present in others in a variety of forms. It is present in approximately 70% of people of European ancestry but interestingly, is found in only 40% of Pacific Islanders.

A partial dental survey (n=5) has shown that the cusp is present in 40% of Mawson expeditioners, although because less than a quarter of the summering team have been examined, hopes are high that we may yet uncover further examples of this attractive variation.

"I'm absolutely thrilled to be involved in this survey down here at Mawson", said station doctor Peter S (not a real dentist). "Two days ago I didn't even know what a Carabelli cusp was, and here I am writing authoritatively on them".

The cusp may also be found in dogs and cats.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Mawson expeditioner having dental exam
Nathan takes part in the Mawson Summer Carabelli cusp survey
Photo: Spence
Mawson 'dentist' squirts patient in ear
After successfully locating a Carabelli cusp, Peter celebrates with the traditional washing of the right ear
Photo: Spence
Plastic-wrapped chair?
Spence finds art in everyday things
Photo: Spence

Mawson in the News

The much-googled fame of This Week at Mawson has led to several articles on Mawson expeditioners hitting the "old-media" papers:

Peter H cools down the sweltering readers of the Adelaide Advertiser

and Jasmine has hit the big time with the Sunshine Coast Daily

Meanwhile, closer to home, read Peter H's article on our very own mad genius Kym Newbery

On the Penguin Front

From our Special Correspondent on Bechervaise Island:

Dave and I kicked off our Beche darts competition. Dave got off to a flying start, and although my comeback was equally impressive, he won the game with a bulls-eye.

On a serious note, there are around 1700 penguin chicks on Beche (all individually counted), which is four times as many as this time last year.

Mawson expeditioner plays darts
Darren takes aim in the Bechervaise Island combination sports-centre/kitchen/bedroom/lounge/blizzard-survival-shelter and rubber-duck-display-area
Photo: Dave W
Mawson expeditioner with automatic penguin monitoring camera
Kym basks in his recent celebrity status
Photo: Peter S
Adelie penguin portrait
An Adélie poses for Kym's famous Penguin Cam
Photo: Penguin Cam

Matt's Magical Mawson Nature Tour

Faced with the option of wasting a windless sunny Sunday afternoon installing his new network card, or leading a group of expeditioners on a search for hidden gems found in the historic diggings about the station, comms tech Matt L chose to venture into the tour-guide business to great acclaim and mild sunburn.

Hangar building at Mawson
Wonder of Antarctica – when built in 1956 (the year television began in Australia) this hangar was the largest building in Antarctica
Coat-hooks of past sled dogs
Coat-hooks of past doggy expeditioners
Expeditioner with Mawson signpost
Jasmine checks out her home town on the horizon
"I've considered a change of career to tour-guiding many times", said Matt, "because I do like the outdoors, but programming computers is just such a great way to meet people".

Portrait of pipes at Mawson
Not actually a Cosray telescope at all, really
Mawson station and Adelie penguins
Penguins admire the historic 1956 hangar – from afar
Mawson expeditioners with 'it's home, it's Mawson' sign
The end of another nature tour, from left Peter S, Barry, Jasmine, Bob, Half a Noodle, Andrew & Geoff

Field Training with Hully

With the lost Mars bar still lost despite three searches around Rumdoodle hut, the final field training team widen their search area.

Mawson expeditioners admire view from Rumdoodle
Aaron, Lee and Pete look for the lost Mars bar from altitude
Photo: Hully
Mawson expeditioner balanced on rock
It's not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves
Photo: Hully
Expeditioners check compass
Narrowing the Mars bar search down to the triangle of probability
Photo: Hully

Art Corner

Mawson Expeditioners switch their digital camera controls to "Black & White Art Mode" this week for a more tonal rendering of their world.

Penguin chicks covered with snow
Chick No. 1667
Photo: Darren S
Mawson expeditioner with baked bread
In the background Aaron is wearing an Air Supply fan club member T-shirt
Photo: Hully
Expeditioner's tense foot during dental exam
Spence's empathic study of the dental patient reminds all of us of the importance of daily flossing
Photo: Ben S

A few photographs unrelated to anything else in this edition

Expeditioner entering building at Mawson
No comment from Mike on the recent Angelina Jolie rumours*
Mawson expeditioner
Still working on 'Magnum'
Expeditioners holding plank
Matt and Tubby with their new renewable-materials network card

* see last week's This week at Mawson, 9 January, 2009

And then there is COSRAY.

This week the cosmic fluxes aligned and intersected the Mawson Cosmic Ray Observatory in such a way as to allow the upgrading of the 20 year old electronics with the latest whiz-bang remotely tweakable Pulse Height Analyser (PHA) monitoring thingies. Bob, assisted by Kym, Peter and Barry managed to perform manual hand dis-assembly and re-assembly of the 48 tubes on telescope number P3 in near-record time.

Expeditioner installing Cosray tube
Another Cosray tube gets operated on

Expeditioner compares old and new cosray circuit boards
Good enough to eat

Now that all of the surface telescopes have been upgraded, they are pumping out 144 PHAs and untold millions of co-incidences each day.

Next step is to start on the four telescopes down in the vault – but that's a story for next week's edition of This Week At Mawson!!!