This week at Mawson: 19 January 2018

V3 is on the way so station activity this week is all about completing projects and getting ready for the homeward journey. Doug and Brendan put in a huge effort to upgrade our satellite communications to the delight and thanks of all.

Béchervaise Island update

At the moment, Lisa and I are living out on Béchervaise Island, just the two of us and over 1000 penguins.

We are only a few kilometres from Mawson station, but with the sea ice deteriorating, we moved to the island in December so that we could continue the long term monitoring work on the Adéélie penguins that breed here.

We live quite comfortably in a permanent field camp comprising several huts and we have enough water for about eight weeks (without melting any extra snow) and food to last even longer. The water and additional food was brought over in November with assistance from the 'Mawson Removal Company', whose services I can recommend. They are an enthusiastic and efficient crew!

This season we have a focus on tracking the Adélie penguins. We have been attaching GPS and dive loggers to adults (we use tape to secure them to the penguin’s feathers) to gather data on where they are foraging through the breeding season and how deep they are diving. Adélie penguins can dive to over 100m! To get the data from these devices we need to retrieve them, so we keep a close eye on the comings and goings around the colony so we know when the birds return carrying all the data.

Currently on the island, some of the Adélie penguin chicks are getting big enough to be left alone by their parents, forming créches for protection while their parents go out to forage for enough food for their growing offspring. The chicks are starting to explore their world, and it is entertaining to see them climbing onto rocks, interacting with their peers in the créches and surrendering to sleep in the afternoon sunshine.

By Anna Lashko 

A group of people stand in front of a googie hut on Bechervaise Island
The Mawson Removal Company. Pete L, Luke, Mal, Pete K, Haydn, Eddie,…
(Photo: Anna Lashko)
An Adélie penguin adult with GPS and dive logger attached.
An Adélie penguin adult with GPS and dive logger attached.
(Photo: Anna Lashko)
A woman stands looking at a group of penguins to try and spot ones wearing tracking devices.
Lisa looking for penguins carrying the tracking devices
(Photo: Anna Lashko)
A parent chick guarding their chicks
Some chicks are still being guarded by their parents
(Photo: Anna Lashko)
Penguin chicks are starting to move away from the safety of their parents and venture out in the world
Other chicks are starting to explore the world independently
(Photo: Anna Lashko)
A chikc lies flat out on the rocks in the sun
A chick flat out on a warm afternoon
(Photo: Anna Lashko)

Much higher internet connection speed comes to Mawson

The 12th January 2018 is now a day to remember at Mawson. There was some pain, as there was no communications available in or out of the station for about 10 hours during the day. The dedicated comms team worked continuously throughout this time making changes in the back of the satellite dish, and then carrying out the required performance and acceptance testing of all the main and redundant satellite uplink and downlink equipment on station. All this work is required to be carried out before live data can start passing over the link.

The end result was well worth it, as any of the expeditions on station will tell you. We now have a much faster internet connection. In fact the internet speed has now been increased by a factor of 10, and all of the issues we use to experience before are now a thing of the past.

Maybe not NBN type of speeds, but at least we can now download and/or upload to social media sites, download and upload files and data without it taking many hours to complete a simple task or timing out.

Lots of happy people and smiles all around on station.

By Doug McVeigh

A man working on the back of a satellite dish to remove the attentuator
Brendan removing the attenuator from the transmit waveguide
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
A man working in a tight spot at the back of a satellite dish
Doug jammed in the back of the dish doing the prelim work…
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
A man working in a tight space to make connections in the back of a satellite dish
Doug doing the filal connections after the polarisation change
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
The back of a satellite dish with all the wiring reconnected
Work completed in the rear of the satellite dish
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
A bank of newly installed computer equipment for the internet connection
New equipment all installed and operating in the racks
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)