A jolly to Fang and Rum Doodle field huts, a climbing experience on Mt Elliot, the lure of quad travel on sea ice and the blue ice of the Mawson plateau. This is Mawson!

A jolly to Fang and Rumdoodle field huts

The first quad bike jolly of the season on the plateau, we left station on Sunday 4th November. Destination: Fang and Rumdoodle huts. The group consisted of Bronwen, Melanie and my good self (Paul).

It was beautiful blue sky day with little wind. The trip to Fang hut was steady with only the occasional rough patch of snow. The blue ice surface made for an otherwise uneventful journey to the hut. On arrival, the hut vents were opened, the gas bottle turned on and it was time for a warm cup of tea and then to sit back and relax and take in the breathtaking scenery around us.

The next morning the decision was made to go climbing in the David Range. Mount Elliot at 1237m was the destination and with all the necessary gear packed, it was time to set off. The ascent starts with a steep climb over rocky terrain and it then gradually got steeper with more obstacles and larger boulders to scale. Some two hours later (not quite at the summit, but pretty close) we stopped to survey the landscape around us. To say the views were magnificent would be an understatement. A real Antarctica experience. The walk back to the hut was equally impressive with more spectacular views to take in on the way.
Once back at Fang, the hut was tidied up, vents were closed and the quad bikes were made ready for the short trip across mostly blue ice to Rumdoodle hut. Upon arrival, we settled in and watched an amazing afternoon sunset that seemed to go on forever.

The next day (after the early morning katabatic winds had abated) Bronwen and Melanie opted for the scenic quad bike tour of the local area, while I endeavoured to photograph the numerous snow petrels circling the peaks above us.

We enjoyed the afternoon’s activities and then made the 40 minute or so journey back to station on the trusty quad bikes where hot food and a warm shower awaited.

It was a great couple of days away.


The lure of quad travel on sea-ice and plateau blue ice

Being guided by someone who interprets the landscape for you is a rare pleasure. So if you are thinking about coming south, make sure your FTO is also a doctor of glaciology as the landscape comes alive, animated by so many stories. We’ve spent more time on quads this past few weeks at Mawson. I’ve felt more in touch with my surroundings as I’ve jiggled over sastrugi, gotten bogged a few times in snow on the sea ice and shimmied over blue ice on the plateau. The Inuit have hundred of words naming snow I believe. Is there also a smaller version of that dictionary detailing the many shades of blue outside the window here?

Mel and I walked up to Patterned Lake in the Central Massons on a recent jolly and I marvelled at the ice in all its forms. We are fairly unique here at Mawson. The blue ice that covers the plateau close to station is found only on about 1% of the continent. Riding quads over it is almost like skating on water with your own little hovercraft.

We sailed over thousands of tiny waves carved and polished by the powerful winds that batter this part of the continent. Each little mound caught the sun and shimmered like a field of blue diamonds. We peaked down a melt line in the lake, into its frozen depths, and ran our hands over its perfectly smooth sculpted surface. Glass is not as perfect.

Just magic.