Rumdoodle Hut a ‘must visit’ destination

Living and working in the field has always been a feature of life for Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE). The chance to break up routine station life and visit one of the many iconic ANARE field huts is a treasured experience. With well over a dozen field huts spread across the four research stations, debating the ‘best’ field hut is always a lively topic of conversation amongst expeditioners.

For those that have experienced the wonders of Mawson research station though, there is little to debate — visits to Rumdoodle Hut are consistently cited as season highlights.

Nestled on the leeward side of the North Masson massif in the Framnes Mountains (about 20 kilometres south of Mawson station), Rumdoodle Hut sits in one of the most spectacular locations in Antarctica. Fronted by the blue-ice beauty of nearby frozen Rumdoodle Lake and coupled with breathtaking views of the epic Masson Range to the rear, the chance to enjoy the view from the Rumdoodle deck is a true bucket list moment.

Yet its iconic location has also proved its Achilles heel, with the North Masson massif transforming the frequent blizzards into extremely strong downslope winds that funnel directly into Rumdoodle. Suffice to say, the hut has certainly had a weathered history!

Between its first iteration in 1960 as a depot for Royal Australian Air Force DC-3 flights, and 2017, the hut has been totally obliterated by blizzard (1972), so badly damaged it was swapped out for a new hut (1986), and twice condemned as unsafe following blizzard damage (2001 and 2017), which required use of a van for alternate accommodation.

Thus, for this season’s Mawson winter team (72nd ANARE), the recovery and restoration of Rumdoodle Hut has been a priority project. Leading the charge has been returning Mawson carpenter Chris ‘Scottish’ George. In the past 10 years Scottish has wintered at Davis (twice), Casey, and Mawson in 2011–12.

“Rumdoodle is my favourite hut,” Scottish said.

“Prior to coming south this time, I read the previous end of season report and it basically said that Rumdoodle was closed for business.”

In conjunction with Building Services Supervisor, Glenn Blackwell, a recovery plan was developed and a core team of six expeditioners assembled.

The first step of the plan involved the recovery of the hut in a two-day operation in May. The team spent a full day of back-breaking work extracting the badly damaged hut from its last remaining moorings, before carefully winching it onto a K1 Foremost Pioneer for towing back to station.

The second stage of the plan saw an intense two-week block of rebuilding and refurbishment during August 2019. Led by the core team, the Rumdoodle makeover works included fitting a new door and window, rebuilding the deck, installing new carpet, commissioning a new heater, adding new cushions, refitting electrical switches, and upgrading communications equipment. Rumdoodle Hut quickly gained a station-wide focus, with many others undertaking external and internal repainting to assist the core team.

Once the last lick of new paint had dried, Rumdoodle Hut was returned to the field by the recovery team in early October. Its return was back-dropped by two rare, near-windless sunny days, allowing the recovery team to enjoy a star-gazing night on the deck once work was completed. As best put by Scottish: “Rumdoodle is now back open for business!”

Read more about Rumdoodle Hut’s renovation and history.

Kyle Williams
Station Leader, Mawson