Bear Grylls' adventure to Bechervaise Island
Four expeditioners and a bear (koala) named Bear Grylls went across to Bechervaise Island last Saturday for a fun filled evening and a windy ride home. Bear Grylls was sent to us from Colac Primary School where the Grade 3 children have been following his Antarctic adventures on their blog site. At Mawson, Bron is Bear Grylls' carer. On his last trip to 'Beche', as we call it, Bear Grylls forgot his camera, so this second trip was needed so that the children can follow his continuing adventures in Antarctica.
In 1987, the CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program (CEMP) was implemented by CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) with the aim to monitor change occurring in the Antarctic ecosystem and to differentiate whether these changes are the result of natural events or the result of harvesting of marine resources. There are several indicator species that are monitored by CEMP, one of which is the adelie penguin. In 1990, the CEMP program began at Mawson to monitor adelie penguins and Bechervaise Island was established as a CEMP site.
Beche is used primarily by biologists during the summer when they examine the foraging ecology of the adelie penguin during the summer breeding season and they also determine where the fledglings are dispersing using GPS and satellite trackers.
At the end of summer the scientists and penguins leave and once the sea ice has formed and is thick enough to travel on, then another field hut becomes available for the wintering expeditioners to explore. Accommodation on Beche is different to the other field huts, as the hut is more spacious and slightly round. While Fang, Hendo and Rummy are all versions of the rectangle and shipping container style, Beche has the smarties (also called googies) and an apple as well. The fibreglass smartie huts are on stilts and thus lack the repetitive exercise of clearing snow to gain access, while the apple is a moveable, smaller shelter on a sled.
Saturday started will Bear Grylls supervising the packing of the quads, checking tyre pressure, oil and fuel levels and making sure all the survival gear was included. The sun was setting as we headed out, turning the station and surrounding mountains pink. We arrived at Beche in time for Bear Grylls to watch sunset from the smartie balcony and enjoy some cheese and biscuits before exploring his island surrounds. The different buildings were investigated and bedding collected in expectation of a chilly night (temperature of minus 24°C and minus 28.9°C overnight). There are many nooks and crannies in the smartie and Bear Grylls was particularly taken with the underfloor storage in his hunt for chocolate bickies, being unable to pry a share of the chocolate from the other expeditoners.
Dinner was a scrumptious meal of roasted beef back strap and potatoes supplied by our lovely chef and cooked by Hendo. Dessert was yummy steamed chocolate pudding and custard. After many hours of conversation Bear Grylls curled up above the dartboard and snoozed until morning.
The wind picked up overnight and Bear Grylls had to scrape the ice off the window to see the sunrise. After our chippy Chris’s special of bacon and cheese toasted sandwiches for breakfast, Bear Grylls braved the wind and blowing snow to start the quads before packing up and heading back to station.