Mawson station Field Training Officer Mel Fitzpatrick at work
So it's a pretty windy day here at Mawson and Malcolm and I are heading out to drill some sea ice. Every week we try and take sea ice measurements.
This is the drill. The weather's a little bit inclement, but we're going to use an electric drill today instead of a hand drill to make it a bit quicker.
So we're looking at the sea ice here, this sea ice has formed about six weeks ago. It's now about 80 centimetres thick and we take weekly measurements just to check how it changes. So this is science, Antarctic style.
And, the bottom of the sea ice.
[Wind, crackling sound]
Back on station. Well that was another excellent day at the office. See you all later.
Neptune memorial ceremony at Wilkes station Antarctica
Video transcriptWilkes Ceremony
Mark Hunt, Casey station leader
So we've come here today to formally acknowledge the tragedy of the Bluebird which was a Neptune P2V aircraft that crashed on take off near here, early in the 1961-62 summer. The aircraft involved was call-sign Bluebird and it was heading back from a trip over to Moonie station. It was on its way to McMurdo and it just stopped near Wilkes here, up on the plateau behind us to refuel overnight. It came in the afternoon, the Australians went up to help refuel and everybody went back down to station that evening for some food which the Americans had brought in and everybody really enjoyed that. They had a few drinks, got to know the dogs, and then in the morning headed off for the plane to return and unfortunately it crashed on takeoff and five people died and four people survived. It's worth remembering that today, in the middle of summer, we have an aviation program where scientists can leave Hobart and come down here for a week then go home again and be back there after a flight of four and a half or five hours. It's very different to what it was fifty years ago. It's also worth remembering that some of us standing here actually started our season coming in through McMurdo with a shared logistics program with the US and in fifty years much has changed but it's interesting to note that we're still working with the US, just as we were here fifty-odd years ago and we're still working together in the aviation program. So it's particularly salient that today we remember the people who were involved in that crash of the Bluebird, fifty years ago. It's exactly half-way in our Antarctic history. Fifty years after Mawson. Fifty years before us. I'm dedicating this plaque. It's worth taking some time to reflect on the sacrifices made by all of the people who've been impacted by the crash of the Bluebird but particularly those based at Wilkes at the time. Both those who survived the crash and those who lost their lives in it.
I was really lucky to be in Hobart in November when there was a commemorative ceremony for the crash of the Neptune aircraft and I met quite a few of the guys who were down here in 1961 and who were part of the whole refuelling and then recovery exercise from the wreck and I talked to people like Neville Smethurst, who was the OIC at the time and Bill Burch who photographed it and Ernie Hand who was the co-pilot in the aircraft itself. Talking to those guys fifty years on, trying to understand what they must have gone through, realising how fresh the memory was, gave me an enormous appreciation of the importance of the event and the importance of making sure that we appropriately remembered it and dedicated the memorial down here this season.
US Neptune plane crash, November 1961, Wilkes – narrated by Bill Burch
Video transcriptNeptune Crash Eyewitness Account
We had had a day or so's notice that a US Airforce Neptune would be calling in on its return run of a magnetometre (sic) survey from McMurdo sound to Moonie, the Russian station about eight hundred kilometres west of us at Wilkes. They would stay overnight and fly back to McMurdo the next day so we became the ground staff of banana belt airlines (BBA). Trundled a sled of fuel up to a more-or-less flat spot on the plateau known as the Wilkes airstrip and whilst Max Berrigan (sic) toed and froed up and down the strip flattening out the [?] a bit more with his D4, the rest of us waited in a beautiful, calm sunshine for their arrival. Before landing, they circled a couple of times, establishing contact with our radio crew in the Weasel and trying to gauge the best spot to land. After landing in a flurry of powdered snow, the ungainly looking black bird with its bright orange tail and wingtips waddled over to our terminal, shut down and nine men emerged from a door in the middle of the fuselage. After all the self introductions, much patting of the dogs and comments about the strip being nearly as bad as Moonie, all but one of the crew, Bill Chastain, piled onto the ground transport with our welcoming party except for me. The sled was now fitted with chairs from our canteen, leaving him and I with the Weasel and the task of refuelling the aircraft. All we had was a hand-pump so it was a very tedious task made all the more frustrating because as we pumped up into the belly of the plane, fuel seemed to be streaming out from some drain hole in the rear. Normal spillage, my companion assured me. Well, he should know. I'd never seen an aircraft like this before, let alone refuelled it from forty-four gallon drums in Antarctica. After what seemed like hours of arm numbing pumping, he deemed the tank full so we closed everything down and took off to join the rest of the team in a big party back at the station. Next morning, a farewell contingent, diminished by some excesses the night before, escorted our new friends back to the airstrip on yet another perfect day. Some jet-assisted take-off rocket bottles (JATOs) were clipped on to the sides near the tail. Hand-shakes and back-slaps, a final pat of the dogs and all but the engineer climbed on to the plane as the engine starting routine began. With all engines running smoothly, the engineer climbed on board. Variants (sic) of us moved in to good viewing positions. I committed to the telephoto lens on the movie camera to maximise the sight of the JATOs firing. The Weasel headed off down the side of the runway. Four cockpit crew actually walked out of this, but the five in the belly of the plane had no chance. Apart from severe burns to exposed skin, those who got out were relatively lightly injured. It was agreed that the five others must have perished and our priority (sic) was getting the injured back to base as quickly as possible. Max and I were asked to stay back and record the wreck site as well as we could in case a blizzard wiped out vital evidence for any crash investigation. Locating the bodies of the others for later recovery was also part of the plan. After forty minutes or so, the burned-out centre of the middle bird was cool enough to approach closely. Knowing where most of the crew had been sitting, it was obvious where they should be. It was three days later when a C130 Hercules from the US Antarctic Squadron VX6 arrived to repatriate the injured and retrieve the bodies of the dead.
Latest Southern Ocean research shows continuing deep ocean change – Steve Rintoul
Video transcriptDr. Steve Rintoul, Southern Ocean science
So the ocean affects climate by storing and transporting huge amounts of heat and carbon dioxide. And so if we want to understand how climate's going to evolve in the future, we need to know what's happening in the oceans. About ninety percent of the extra heat energy that's been stored by the earth's system over the last fifty years is in the ocean. So when we talk about global warming, we're really talking about ocean warming in a real sense. What we're here to do in this voyage is to, there are three or four main parts to the voyage, but basically we're looking at how the southern ocean is behaving today. What the temperature, salinity, oxygen, carbon dioxide levels, what organisms are living in the sea and where, and relating those distributions to the ocean currents and also comparing what we measured today to measurements we've made in previous decades. Work we've done in the past has shown one of those sinking motions around Antarctica where water sinks down to great depth. Down to four or five kilometres below the sea surface. That seems to be slowing down with time. The water that sinks is becoming fresher. That is, less salty and less dense. We know that in previous parts of the previous periods of the Earth's history the changes in those sinking motions in the polar regions have been linked to changes in climate. We haven't seen changes in climate result yet from the changes in southern ocean currents but it's moving in the direction that would drive similar sorts of changes to those we've seen in the past. The evidence that we have so far is that the southern ocean is changing. It's warming at a greater depth and at a faster rate than the global ocean average. And it's also changing its salinity. The salinity changes are important for two reasons. One is that part of the salinity changes are being driven by more rainfall and snowfall than happened in the past. That's exactly the sort of signal that we expect to see as a result of global warming. That is, the areas that are dry, where there's more evaporation than precipitation, will get drier and saltier in the ocean. Places where it's, there's more rainfall than evaporation, will tend to get wetter or fresher in the ocean. We also see those changes in salinity down deep, right along the sea floor and that's giving us a hint about how the ocean is interacting with the ice sheet on Antarctica. As the ice spreads off the Antarctic continent into the sea, it starts to float and forms glacier tongues or ice shelves. Where that interacts with the ocean, the ocean can either melt (if it's warm enough), it can melt the bottom of the ice, or it can actually freeze to the bottom of the ice. The evidence that we found for freshening around the edge of Antarctica is an indication that that melting process is happening more rapidly than it did in the past and that's a result of the warming of the ocean, we believe, and part of what we're doing on this trip is trying to confirm that picture. In terms of the science, in terms of sorting out what's happening with the the climate system and what the impacts of change are going to be. We've made really dramatic progress, really, in the past five or ten years and so that's a positive. It means that at least we know what we're doing and we know what the impacts of that are going to be so we know what, we have a better idea of what to expect if we do, or don't, act.
Narelle Campbell – Macquarie Island station leader 2012
Narelle Campbell Macquarie Island Station Leader
My name is Narelle Campbell and I am from the north coast of New South Wales, a little place called Foster. This season I am heading down to Macquarie Island and I’ll be down there for the full 12 months.
2007 I was selected to go down to Mawson station as the station leader for 12 months. I came home for about 6 months and then was asked to go south again and the next time I went south was Casey, that was in 2010 for about 15 months.
The Station Leader is responsible for all personnel on station and providing support for everyone, regardless of what they are down there to do. Life on station for anyone who goes down south can be very exciting, it is a wonderful way of life. The work is exciting, the environment is exciting, the wildlife. It’s an absolute privileged, for every single person who is selected to go down south to work amongst some very very talented, community minded, tolerant, patient people.
I am very much looking forward to going to Macquarie Island having spent a couple of years down on the continent surrounded by white. Macquarie Island is very much a different station, it’s very much like the bottom end of Tasmania. It’s going to be cold and wet and windy, but the wildlife that Macquarie Island attracts is just something that we are all looking forward too.
The island is 30 kilometres long and I am sure we will probably trek over every inch and that’s a nice way to take a little bit of a break from station life, you can go for a walk you can go and sit down amongst some of the wildlife and take some time out.
One of the biggest projects that we will be supporting at Macquarie Island is what we call the MIPEP program, which is the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program. So going back over 100 years ago rabbits were introduced to Macquarie Island and they bred up to an extent there was over 150,000 of them. In the last couple of years, quite a major project is underway to eradicate all the rabbits. Last I heard they hadn’t seen a rabbit for quite some time which is hugely successful. And then other research during the year will be around the fur seals, the albatross and the various species of penguins as well.