Mawson is a particularly favourable location for a station. It has excellent access to the hinterland and surrounding coastal waters. The harbour is sheltered from ocean swells and has a depth reaching 90m.
During the ice-free period usually experienced in February, a ship may anchor within 100m of the station. Barges carrying cargo take only a few minutes to travel from the ship to shore.
Living at Mawson is very comfortable. Everyone lives in the main accommodation building known as ‘the Red Shed’, in modern air-conditioned single-room dongas (Antarctic slang for bedrooms). The Red Shed also houses the surgery, lounge, kitchen and dining room.
The ablutions facilities in the Red Shed consist of two communal bathrooms and a number of smaller bathrooms.
The local ‘supermarket’ is substituted by a walk-in cupboard called ‘Woolies’, where all expeditioners can browse the shelves for soap, linen and other household requirements.
When blizzards inhibit fieldwork, the Red Shed has indoor climbing, a home theatre, a library and several communal sitting areas for expeditioners to pass the time. There is a small gym in the Green Store, as well as sports equipment for volleyball and badminton, and a range of cross-country ski equipment. A spa and sauna is also available.
All expeditioners contribute to the day-to-day running of the station. Rosters are set up for duties like vacuuming the living area, shovelling snow and cleaning the cold porches. Expeditioners are rostered on ‘slushy duty’ to help the chef feed the station.
The station is a listed heritage site. More than a dozen early buildings which predate the 1980s rebuilding program are considered historically significant.
Depending on weather and sea-ice conditions, it takes about 10 to 12 days to reach Mawson direct from Hobart by ship.