This week at Mawson: 15 June 2018

Penguin tasks and our last sunset

Penguin planning but no penguins

As mentioned last week, we tried to make it to Macey Hut this week in the hope of locating the Auster Emperor penguin rookery out that way, but sadly, no success. Less that 4km from the hut the team had to turn around and return as the sea ice was too thin for them to proceed. Nature is in charge down here after all!

Continuing the penguin theme, we are also prepping for a trip in the other direction to Colbeck Hut and Taylor Rookery. Taylor Rookery is the only Emperor breeding colony on land in Antarctica and the scientists have been collecting census data there since 1988. The census is done by photographing the colony and then counting the penguins in the picture, so as not to disturb the birds, and the ideal time for our first visit is between Midwinter (21 June) and July 5, when the males are ‘egg minding’ and before the females return from feeding, as having both parents on site can confuse the count. Again, whether we get there or not is all dependent on the sea ice – no one has managed to get there since the June visit in 2016, so we’re keeping everything crossed that the ice will be thick enough for us to get through in a couple of weeks.

There are various other Adèlie colonies near station besides Bèchervaise Island, that the science teams also monitor with fixed cameras, and on the weekend some of the team went out to Welch Island to change over the cards and batteries on those cameras. There are no Adèlies here at the moment but these cards still held last summer’s information as we hadn’t managed to get out to the island during resupply. Changing camera cards in thick gloves is extremely difficult, so some very rapid cold finger work from Matt was required. It’s amazing how quickly your fingers get so cold they’re useless when exposed to these temperatures and winds!

And today (it's Wednesday as I write this) is Matt’s birthday. Happy Birthday Matt! We also said goodbye to the sun with our last ‘day’ of 18 min and 39 seconds. To commemorate Donna organised hot chocolate and a picnic lunch in the Green Store so we could watch from there: and yes, lunch took all day! It will be two weeks until we see that yellow ball peek over the horizon again; not nearly as long as for some places, but still, long enough!

2 Haggs ready for departure in the dark of morning
All ready to drive off into the dark and snow at 0900
(Photo: E.Rodewald)
An iceberg in the sea ice
Iceberg in the sea ice en route
(Photo: Michael Brill)
Both Haggs in the gloaming on the sea ice
Both Haggs in the gloaming on the sea ice
(Photo: Michael Brill)
2 men changing camera cards at one of the penguin cameras
Matt and Mark changing camera cards at one of the penguin cameras
(Photo: E.Rodewald)
The view from Welch Island out to iceberg alley
The view from Welch Island out to iceberg alley
(Photo: E.Rodewald)
A group of people watch the sunset
Standing out in the wind and cold to watch the last sunset…
(Photo: E.Rodewald)