German and Australian scientists collaborate in the Prince Charles Mountains 2002–03

A combined German Australian expedition will work in the rarely visited southern Prince Charles Mountains region, 500km south of Mawson, during the austral summer of 2002–3. In the field for 10 weeks, the group of 34 comprises geophysicists, geologists, helicopter and fixed wing aircraft pilots and engineers, field guides, medical doctor, communications officer, mechanic and a field leader.

Known as the PCMEGA (Prince Charles Mountains Expedition Germany-Australia) the project’s Principal Investigator is Professor Chris Wilson of Melbourne University, School of Earth Sciences. He shares the coordination of the scientific program with Dr Norbert Roland of the Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR) in Hannover.

Planning for PCMEGA is being coordinated by an Operations Branch Project Team at the Australian Antarctic Division and includes specialists in safety, air, field and tractor traverse operations, environmental impact assessment, medical services and financial management and logistics. AAD operational support for the program includes a traverse by tractors towing sleds of fuel and equipment from Mawson to Mt Cresswell, a return journey of over 1000km, arriving to coincide with deployment of the field team in November 2002. This group of Mawson winterers will measure snow deposition on a section of the Lambert Traverse route last travelled in 1994.

The field leader will shortly be selected and the environmental impact assessment for the scientific and operational support programs finalised before the expedition departs on Voyage 2 later this year. The field parties will be deployed by Twin Otter fixed-wing aircraft and Aerospatiale AS350B (Squirrel) helicopters through Sandfjord Bay, southwest of Davis.

A major component of the program will be the conduct of an airborne geophysical survey with equipment fitted into the Twin Otter, delivered from Canada for the operation. Groups of geologists and surveyors will camp in the field using four wheel drive bikes (quads) and snowmobiles, assisted by experienced field guides and supported by helicopters.

The Expedition will return to Australia on Voyage 5 in March 2003.

Rob Easther, PCMEGA Program Manager, AAD

STOP PRESS: After almost five weeks away from Mawson, the six-member traverse team led by Jim Dragisic returned triumphantly to Mawson on Thursday 2 May in high spirits. They are to be congratulated on a magnificent effort, depoting fuel 300 kms south of Mawson in preparation for a second traverse in October 2002 which will deliver supplies, equipment and fuel to support the PCMEGA field season. Well done to all involved! — Dr Tony Press, AAD Director