This week at the station

This week at Mawson: 25 January 2013

End of summer dinner

In last week’s “This week at Mawson” we featured an article on Mawson’s heritage listed building, Biscoe. As described in the article, three carpenters have been working on Biscoe during summer and as this heritage listed building needs a modern day use we thought it only appropriate to hold our end of summer dinner in Biscoe. It took a bit of setting up to get all the tables, cutlery and food to Biscoe but the result was worthwhile. Ray prepared an exciting and varied menu and commented that it was harder work than the meal he prepared for Christmas. 

Ray’s menu

Canapes

Smoked salmon on a feta mousse and cucumber.
Lamb Kofta with spiced riata.

Entrée

Duo of duck 

Pan fried breast served medium rare and confit braised leg served with a light brown lentil and macerated orange salad

Main

Roasted beef fillet resting on a polenta cake with mediterranean vegetables and a light vanilla infused jus-a-lie

Dessert

Almond and chocolate gateaux with berry compote and whipped chantilly cream.

Everyone was dressed as formal as possible but we were joined by a Knight Templar (Adam), a Scot (Graham) and Taekwondo "Master" (Luis), although some thought the later looked more like the Karate Kid or even Elvis.
The evening went into the wee hours but the helpers the next morning made the clean up and rearrangement of our existing dining room easy. 

The chef in his kitchen preparing the dinner
Chef Ray in his kitchen preparing the end of summer dinner
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
The tables set up for the End of Summer dinner in Biscoe
The tables set up for the end of summer dinner in Biscoe
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
An expeditioner dressed as a Knight Templar making an entrance to the dinner
A Knight Templar making an entrance to the dinner
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
An expeditioner dressed as a Taekwondo master and another expeditioner at the dinner
Geoff and the Taekwondo "Master"
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
An expeditioner wearing a kilt kneeling next to the Scottish flag
A Scot next to the Scottish flag
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
An almond and chocolate gateaux for dessert
An almond and chocolate gateaux for dessert
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Five expeditioners sitting at a table during the dinner
Luis, Ray, Kelvin, Paul and Wayne enjoying the night
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Fie expeditioners sitting at a table after finishing dessert
Malcolm, Cliff, Robert, Bob and Theo after finishing dessert
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)

Friday drinks in Aeronomy

The only physicist to work at Mawson this summer flew in on a Monday, gave a talk entitled “Auroras and Airglow” on Tuesday and by week’s end hosted Friday drinks in the Aeronomy laboratory.

For stimulation and interest, Theo displayed a selection of scientific exhibits including the Shadow Illusion, an aerial image formed by a concave mirror or colloquially called "Shake Hands with Yourself", two stationary steam engines (one made at Mawson in 1997 and the other made at Davis in 2012), the Boffin museum and the piece de resistance, the "Green Corn Flour Monster". However, for me, the steam engines stole the show. The Boffin museum contained a white laboratory coat and various artefacts such as chocolate, a slide rule, an electrostatic pistol and safety glasses.

The Internet claims that during World War II, “boffin” was applied with some affection to scientists and engineers working on new military technologies. It was particularly associated with the members of the team that worked on radar. The Oxford English Dictionary cites use in “The Times” in September 1945: "15 Sept. A band of scientific men who performed their wartime wonders at Malvern and apparently called themselves "the boffins"."

The word, and the image of the boffin-hero, were further spread in books and films. Boffin continued, in this immediate postwar period, to carry its wartime connotations: a modern-day wizard who labours in secret to create incomprehensible devices of great power. Over time, however, as Britain's high-technology enterprises became less dominant, the mystique of the boffin gradually faded, and by the 1980s boffins were relegated, in UK popular culture, to semi-comic supporting characters, and the term itself gradually took on a slightly negative connotation. I think this was the case in the Australian Antarctic program as well. However, Mawson’s only physicist Theo calls himself a boffin. His old supervisor worked on RADAR at Malvern and he is sticking with the positive connotations.

Corn flour and water is a none-Newtonian, sheer thickening fluid which means that it gets stiffer as you apply forces to it. Tendrils or stalagmites did develop during the demonstration but they did not coalesce into the true monster.

Overall it was a fascinating Friday drinks and everyone had a chance to view the Fabry-Perot spectrometer and officially open Aeronomy for boffin work.

A desription of the Mawson boffin as displayed on the Boffin Museum in Aeronomy
A desription of the Mawson boffin as displayed on the Boffin Museum…
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
A white laboratory coat and on the floor a pistol, bar of chocolate, a pait of safety glasses and a slide ruler
A white laboratory coat and various artefacts in the Boffin Museum
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
A stationary steam engine made by Chris Boucher at Mawson in 1997
A stationary steam engine made by Chris Boucher at Mawson in 1997
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
An expeditioner and his steam engine made at Davis in 2012
Chris H and his steam engine made at Davis in 2012 and…
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Expeditioner holding the red and green glasses in the Shadow Illusion
Kelvin holding the red and green glasses to test the Shadow Illusion
(Photo: Theo Davies)
The string and stick either appear in front of the sheet or behind depending on whether your right eye is looking through the red or green lens of the glasses
The string and stick either appear in front of the sheet or…
(Photo: Theo Davies)
 A concave mirror used in the Shake Hands with Yourself exhibit
Shake Hands with Yourself exhibit
(Photo: Theo Davies)
Two expeditioners setting up the Corn Flour Monster test
Boffin Theo and Anders setting up the Corn Flour Monster test
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
The Green Corn Flour Monster
The Green Corn Flour Monster
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
The Fabry-Perot spectrometer
The Fabry-Perot spectrometer
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)

Beche report 3

The penguin chicks at Beche are growing fast, with nearly all unattended when both parents are out foraging. Adult foraging trips have increased and birds are now out for 3-5 days, rather than the 1-2 days during chick guard. Chicks are still doing well, with over 1200 still at the colony. After complaining last week about the non-breeders harassing chicks, they are certainly proving useful for the chicks when skuas approach, often chasing them out of the colony. However, the non-breeders, or ‘hooligans’ as Levick eloquently described them during the Scott Antarctic Expedition, still take every opportunity possible to harass a chick. The weather has been its usually variable self, with some days of glorious sunshine leaving the chicks panting in their down jacket, yet other days they require every ounce of down to survive the blizzards. In other bird news, the skua chicks are also growing fast and nearly all the snow petrels on the island have hatched, with only a few still incubating their egg. 

With wind gusts to 80 knots predicted, it’s a good thing that the Beche kitchen continues to produce delightful goods to ensure we aren’t blown away. This week’s highlight was pizza on Saturday night and the perfecting of savoury cheese biscuits. Oh and the winning biscuit from last week was A! Thanks mainly to the star.

Julie McInnes

Beche report 1

Beche report 2

Muddy chicks
Muddy chicks
(Photo: Julie McInnes)
Snow petrel and chick
Snow petrel and chick
(Photo: Julie McInnes)
An Adelie penguin on a large pile of stones
"Game of Stones"
(Photo: Julie McInnes)
Through the reduced visibility of the blizzard the image of the Googie accommodation is just visible
Blizzard begins
(Photo: Julie McInnes)
A chick and adult sheltering from the blizzard
Blizzard-chick and adult
(Photo: Julie McInnes)
A creche of penguin chicks in snow
Creche in snow
(Photo: Julie McInnes)
A creche of penguin chicks hit by a skua
Creche hit by skua
(Photo: Julie McInnes)
A pizza made on Bechervaise Island
A Bechervaise Island pizza
(Photo: Julie McInnes)
A biologist fully clothed with balaclava and googles for the blizzard conditions
Helen wearing the latest in summer Antarctic clothing and Sorel boots
(Photo: Julie McInnes)

The value in observing nature

With technology the game changer today, few of us spend the time to actually observe nature with our own eyes. There is so much to learn but it takes time and it is not trendy but the short desription and the accomanying photos provided by Helen on Bechervaise Island show how amazing nature is and how it can enrich our lives.

"Last night I witnessed an interesting scene. A penguin came to the surface of a pool at the island’s edge. It appeared to have something in its mouth and was struggling with it. It spent about five minutes trying to get the fish it held in its mouth down. Eventually it jumped up onto the ice with only the tail hanging out of its mouth. Then there was choking noises followed by the fish being vomited back up. The penguin then tried to eat it again but with no success and another vomit. It then walked away from the fish and I got a little closer to get a photo of the fish. It then ran back and grabbed its fish as it appeared concerned that I was going to get it. In the end it spat the fish back out and walked off. See the following photos. Note how it is holding its feet. Must be a balance thing when holding the fish".

An Adelie penguin with a large fish in its mouth
An Adelie penguin fishing
(Photo: Helen Achurch)
The penguin trying to swallow the fish
The penguin trying to swallow the fish
(Photo: Helen Achurch)
The penguin before it vomited with only the tail of the fish not in its mouth
The penguin before it vomited
(Photo: Helen Achurch)
The fish was longer than the biologist's hand
The fish showing its size alongside Helen's hand
(Photo: Helen Achurch)
A close up photo of the Adelie penguin with a large fish in its mouth
Penguin fishing close up
(Photo: Helen Achurch)
This page was last modified on 16 December 2010.