This week at the station

This week at Mawson: 26 July 2013


We saw a few changes this week at Mawson. We are now starting to see the sun more often, and the weather has improved considerably from last week. Last weekend we experienced some pleasant still conditions for a change at Mawson. Some of the cloud formations above station were magnificent.

We also saw a few expeditioners doing different work this week, displaying their skills and experience in alternative fields to their usual work.

Trent is often seen cooking up a feast in the kitchen. His “chicken parmigiana” comes highly recommended. 

Justin happily assists with computer and communications work.

Craig now has skills to observe and, at times, take a damn good guess of what the weather will do, and is often right.

Doctor Lloyd can fix the plumbing – in both humans and buildings. He admits the tools are a little different.

Darron can work a multimeter almost anywhere on station, and also does Met, computer, library and hydroponic work.

Keldyn’s has no trouble changing certain parts of the Nuclear Radiation monitoring equipment.

In all seriousness, every person on station that shares the work does so with skill, training and professionalism. Having a team that can easily multi-task and lend a hand from time to time makes life that much easier on station. Thanks guys!

Trent pouring herbs into a pot.
Trent the Electrical Chef
(Photo: Chris Stevenson)
Justin wearing a chef's apron and fiddling with wires while wearing ahead torch.
Justin, part time Comms tech, full time chef
(Photo: Chris Stevenson)
Craig Hayhow stading outside holding two different instruments.
Craig not sure whether he works with weather or Comms.
(Photo: Chris Stevenson)
Lloyd Fletcher lying on the ground with a spanner wearing overalls.
Lloyd works on doctoring the ducting
(Photo: Chris Stevenson)
Darron Lehmann standing by a box full of plugs and fuses
Darron,multiskilled multimeter user
(Photo: Chris Stevenson)
Keldyn Francis wearing safety goggles, gloves and white lab coat at a tank.
Mr Break it, Keldyn takes on a nuclear physicist's job.
(Photo: Chris Stevenson)
Cloud formations behind the wind turbine
Sun and clouds so that there is at least one pretty photo…
(Photo: Chris Stevenson)

The Doc's update

Spare a thought for our station electricians who frequently have to climb the two Mawson wind turbines to exact repairs and maintenance. Their trip starts off in the base of the turbine where they put on their body harnesses. Then they start their climb up the 34 metre turbine on a T-Bar ladder . Once at the top they have to work inside a small and cramped space which, interestingly enough, is the interior of the electrical dynamo. Just imagine yourself as a beetle crawling around inside an alternator of a car and you can get an idea of what it is like. However, they do have beautiful views of the station whenever they want to pop their heads out of the top of the turbine.

Activity on the station this week has seen us undertake a few training activities. First up, we had fire fighting training down in the old hangar one day when the weather was blowing rather fiercely. The fire was impressive to start with, but after it was doused for the first time, the whole hangar filled with snow-laden smoke pretty rapidly. All of this added to the reality of a fire scenario.

Then we had some refresher search and rescue (SAR) training one afternoon. This training also happened to occur on a blizz-day, and thus it was held indoors in the Recreation Lounge. Everyone thought this was a way to train, certainly a warmer and more pleasant day way to undertake training rather than outdoors in the cold .

Not to be neglected, the diesos conducted a morning of Hagglunds recovery training in their workshop - another valuable and rewarding training session for all.

The Field Training Officer continued his weekly sea-ice drilling on what turned out to be yet another blowy Mawson day. The sea-ice proved to be over 1.10 metres in thickness at all four measured sites for the first time this year. He duly had to extend his drill-piece with an additional 1 metre length .

However, the week was not all work and no play. There was a brief trip up to Mount Henderson hut to takes some photos, dig out some accumulated snow, and check out some work options.

None of this fazed our resident Trades Assistant who smiled and took the week’s happenings in his stride.

Bottom of wind turbine
The bottom of the wind turbine
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Climb inside turbine
Starting the climb to the top
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Climbing the wind turbine ladder
Up, up and away, on the wind turbine ladder
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Electricians working on generator
Two microscopic electricians working in the inards of the generator
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
The view of Mawson from the top of the wind turbine
Mawson station from the top of the turbine
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
People in an old fire hangar working with red fire extinguisher bottles
Not Arsonists , fire training in the old hangar
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Expeditioner using a fire extinguisher with white smoke in plumes.
Fire Fire , sound the alarm.
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Expeditioner tries to smother flames using a blanket.
The Chief fire officer to the rescue with an extinguisher.
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Using a fire blanket in training
A fire blanket also does the trick. note the snow particles and…
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Two men laying out ropes on the ground inside a big room.
Indoor SAR (search and rescue) training
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Inside the mechanical workshop with Hagglunds
Hagglunds recovery training
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
An expeditioner standing on the front of a quad bike to drill into the ice.
Sea Ice drilling
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Clearing snow in hut that has sleeping bags and and clothes over the bunks.
A clean out of snow in Mt Henderson hut
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Cliff wearing a silly sunglasses.
What, me worry? I'm not fazed
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)


ARPANSA - Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency

General: An International Monitoring System (IMS) is being constructed to monitor compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT). By analysing, integrating and comparing data from the IMS, the time, location and nature of the possible nuclear event can be determined. The network consists of 321 monitoring facilities and 16 radionuclide laboratories that monitor the earth for evidence of nuclear explosions in all environments.

A Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) to ban all nuclear explosion tests was opened for signature in New York on 24th September 1996. Australia signed the treaty and ratified it on the 9th July 1998. As of November 2010, a 182 countries have signed and 153 have ratified.

ARPANSA is responsible for carrying out Australia's Radionuclide monitoring obligations to the Comprehensive Test-Ban-Treaty and also responsible for the installation, implementation and operation of seven stations within Australia and its Territories.

At Mawson we have a Primary Seismic Station and Radionuclide laboratory. In particular the Radionuclide laboratory needs to be serviced every day and this is done by our Communication Techs Chris and Craig.

The test facility consists of a high volume air sampler which basically sucks in the outside air at around 1000m3/h where particulate matter collects on a filter. This filter is changed everyday where the used filter (sample) is now processed. The sample is now prepared by being removed from the filter casing, non specific filter material removed then folded and inserted into a small 20 ton press for compacting. Once compacted  it is then placed in a small plastic capsule for loading into the Decay cabinet. The Decay process allows naturally occurring short half lived nuclides to decay leaving only the long term which are of interest, (reduces the effect of the Compton continuum). The previous days sample is removed and loaded into the detector so that spectral analysis can be performed to identify any fission products which may be contained on the particulate matter, job done.

This all sounds pretty straight forward but a strict process of steps need to be followed. A computer system monitors environmental, security, power and filter management at all stages in the process and utilises a barcode system for tracking all samples taken. The computer system also logs, stores and sends the sampled data every 2 hours to the parent organisation in Vienna and Australia

Peter Cubit

Cylindrical ARPANSA detectors inside a room
Detectors in the ARPNSA building.
(Photo: Peter Cubit)
Expeditioner stands next to a round ARPANSA detectors
One of the detectors
(Photo: Peter Cubit)
Inside a detector - hard to see but the inside is red.
Inside a detector
(Photo: Peter Cubit)
Sample point is a large steel box on top of a white circular dish.
Sample point
(Photo: Peter Cubit)
A person lifts a white tray out of the sample box.
Changing filter
(Photo: Peter Cubit)
A look at the new filter inside the steel smaple box.
New filter in place
(Photo: Peter Cubit)
Wires and tubes inside a box mounted on the wall.
Sampler controls
(Photo: Peter Cubit)
Large industrial vacuum cleaner
Vacuum machine
(Photo: Peter Cubit)
Black box with gauge and red emergency button.
Pressing sample
(Photo: Peter Cubit)
Person wearing white gloves placing a white gauze sheet into the tray.
Preparing filter for press
(Photo: Peter Cubit)
Gamma Ray spectrometer is a brown box with digital numbers and lights.
Gamma Ray spectrometer
(Photo: Peter Cubit)
Outside the red shed that houses the ARPANSA sample point.
Outside sample point
(Photo: Peter Cubit)

Harsh Reality

We visitors to the Antarctic are often amazed by the mere survival of the animals that call this continent and its surrounds home. The extreme conditions that are endured, both in summer and winter, give us a certain level of inspiration: if they can do it then we, with our warm buildings, electricity and seemingly endless supply of food can surely make it without any problem.

The miracle of life is very much alive, and every animal that ‘makes it’ another season must surely appreciate this better than we can. It’s quite easy to tell stories and show pictures of the ones that do make it, but instead here are some of the ones that didn’t make it, and those that did due to the demise of another. This is for the ones that fell victim as prey, the predators and scavengers, and to the harsh reality of the Antarctic.

Adelie chick carcass partly covered in the ice.
Adelie Chick remains at Low Tongue
(Photo: Jeremy Little)
Adelie chick remains
More carnage
(Photo: Jeremy Little)
Adelie footprints in the ice.
Following in their footsteps
(Photo: Jeremy Little)
Adelie chick remains.
Left for dead
(Photo: Jeremy Little)
Giant petrels on the ice. One is flying with a huge wingspan.
Giant petrels leave the scene of the crime
(Photo: Jeremy Little)
Three skuas feeding on the carcass of something dead.
Leaving the spoils for a braver skua
(Photo: Jeremy Little)
Skua feedings on a white bird.
Skuas feast on a snow petrel
(Photo: Jeremy Little)
Skuas feeding, one bird has its head raised and beak open.
Celebrating the kill
(Photo: Jeremy Little)