This week at the station
This week at Mawson: 17 June 2011
Colbeck Hut Visit
Following on from the recce to Low Tongue some weeks ago, a group of six travelled to Colbeck Hut to inspect the hut and confirm sea-ice travel conditions for the important Taylor Rookery census later this year.
Chris, Rod, Wilko, Rich, Scotty and Rolf departed station at 7 am in two Haggs. One Hagg was towing a trailer loaded with fuel drums, the other a RMIT van for supplementary accommodation at Colbeck. (We later discovered a stowaway, Peanut the Camel, hiding in a day pack.)
The sky-gods obliged with a still morning, and auroras until 9:30. After dropping some of the fuel at Low Tongue Depot for the next group, we travelled on to Colbeck, encountering some tide-cracks as we rounded the end of the Jalbert Glacier. On arrival at the hut, we discovered that a blizz-tail had covered in the door. A spot of digging was called for.
Next day, again in light winds, we awoke to 7/8th of the sky in aurora. We visited Proclamation Point, a little further west. En route, there was a stunning jade berg to admire.
At Proclamation Point, we located the plaque, and raised the flag for a group photo. We were unaware that there is a copy of Mawson’s proclamation document and a visitors book cached at the site. Perhaps the next group will find it.
(A check of past news items by Chris Wilson after our return located the following entry from 4 July 2008 which shows how things can change and yet be the same. It also has some further history of the location.)
Quad Run to Auster
The weekend of the 11th and 12th June looked like a good chance for a recreational trip to Macey — the last chance to get away before midwinter, however the weather didn’t look that good for Sunday. As the end of the week got closer the forecasts confirmed that the winds would be up Sunday but Saturday was still looking good.
Plan B was swung into action. Plan B was a day trip to Auster rookery, starting early to time arrival with the lightest part of the day. Because it was out and back in the day more people could go along.
So Friday night we had the quads loaded and fuelled ready to go. Departure time was 8:00 am. The day length was 58 minutes 27 seconds with sunrise at 12:19 pm.
In the darkness of Saturday morning, six intrepids headed off under the stewardship of Lisa, our trip leader. Following were Tim, Fearless, Skiddy, Cotty and Dave. The wind was up a bit in the high 20’s and temperature around -17 degrees C.
The track was a mixed bag with some very easy sea ice and in other places kilometres of deep rutted sastrugi. With only short stops to check on everyone and make minor adjustments to tie downs and helmets we were at Auster by midday.
Spending a little less than an hour watching the penguins and taking photographs of the rookery and the various members of the emperor penguin delegations that came across to see what we were up to, we refuelled, had a drink and a bite to eat and started back to base.
The day proved to be a great training run with the added bonus of visiting the Auster rookery and riding into the most magnificent pre-dawn sky scape.
Back at base after hot showers the length of the long strenuous day started to show. Aching backs, thighs, shoulders and almost paralysed accelerator thumbs. Seven to eight hours on a quad across the sea ice is a big call. The war stories around the bar are becoming more intrepid by the day...
Hydroponics: 'Plants Gone Wild'
On arrival to the station at the beginning of our rotation, the previous expeditioners did a great job in cleaning and setting up the hydroponics container. They gave us a couple of tips and hints on planting and away we started, planting and looking after the hydro set up.
A lot of the expeditioners have secondary duties like being on the fire team, search and rescue team (SAR), medical team, hairdresser, post office, librarian, gym, powerhouse observations, kitchen hand (slushy), photographer, brew team, etc.
Hydroponics is one of these duties and, for some, its a little home away from home which we enjoy. Having noticed more and more expeditioners are getting involved in the roster, we get a lot of volunteers for hydroponics. As we have no sunlight around for a couple of weeks, this might be the place to hang out.
Some of the expeditioners did a crash course in hydroponics in Hobart during the training period. There are a lot of things that go towards determining the quality of a good crop. Some of them are keeping the ideal humidity at around 60-70% and the temperature around 20-25 degrees C. Also the lighting at appropriate levels and feeding the plants correctly by monitoring and controlling the pH (percentage hydrogen) levels and CF (conductivity factor) levels to suit the plants being grown.
Plants grown at Mawson station consist of tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, choi sum, cucumbers, capsicums, zuchinis, snow peas, rocket, alfalfa, mung beans, chillis etc. Some herbs such as coriander, basil, thyme and parsley are also grown. We normally try to harvest twice a week on Wednesday and Saturday.
It is the last week where the sun will rise and set for a couple of weeks at Mawson station. The sun rose at 1240 hours and set at 1302 hours, 22 minutes from sunrise to sunset on 13 June 2011. The sun will rise again on 30 June here at around 1238 hours and set at 1308 hours, 30 minutes from sunrise to sunset.