Caning on the plateau

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This week at Mawson: 18 October 2013

One of the great joys of working in Antarctica is the variety of projects it is possible to get involved with, many of which are unique to living in such a harsh environment. Each day brings new challenges and adventures.

Maintaining the cane lines connecting the station to field huts on the plateau is one such project which is undertaken every year. Bamboo canes, up to 6metres long, are placed at 500-1000m intervals to mark safe travel routes. Navigation these days is mainly by GPS, making it possible to keep moving and stay on route even in poor visibility conditions. However, it is always reassuring to see a cane come into view to confirm that you are in fact heading in the right direction!

Bamboo canes are very strong but the winter storms and summer melt take their toll. The cane lines to Henderson, Rumdoodle, Fang and further south to the Central and Southern Massons all need maintaining.

After preparing the canes and loading them into the Hagglunds trailer, along with the ice drill and generator, we waited for a fine weather opportunity to venture up onto the plateau. After a week of blizzard conditions, last Sunday was fine and Cookie, Keldyn and John managed to complete the Fang line as far as F10. This is a significant waypoint as the route turns more to the south to avoid large crevasses.

Unfortunately our Hagglunds developed a problem near F10 and we had to abort a planned visit to Fang hut and a possible ascent of Fang Peak. We turned for home, happy to have spent Sunday, our day of rest, productively.

A few more days are required to complete all the lines but it is a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying job, which makes field travel at Mawson safer for everyone.

On the Mawson plateau checking the cane lines bedded into the ice
Cookie and John; David Range in the background
(Photo: Keldyn Francis)
The tray of a ute filled with canes and a veiw of the cnae line in th distance
The important turn on the Fang route at F10, miss this and…
(Photo: John Burgess)
Two expeditioners inspecting a crevasse on Fang route
A crevasse near F10 on the Fang route
(Photo: John Burgess)
Hagglunds and trailer on plateau
Hagglunds with trailer on the plateau
(Photo: John Burgess)
The hole being drilled and a cane inserted, water is added to set the cane in place
After drilling the hole and inserting a cane, water is added to…
(Photo: John Burgess)
Keldyn drills while Cookie offers advice
Keldyn drills while Cookie offers advice
(Photo: John Burgess)
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