A new arrival’s first week at Mawson, a homeward-bound reminiscence and the final update from Beche — the summer comes to a close at Mawson

What’s in a week?


Arrived by Basler DC3; style, form and function, can’t have enough photographs. The tail wheel makes her hold her nose dramatically high. She is a much loved theatrical dame of the air. Looks like the final scene from Casablanca… this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, soon and then forever. She has had her pistons replaced with turboprops.

Station induction then a late meal has been put by – heroic serve, no plate showing under the food.


Station tour, station briefing, three for the price of one. Kitchen orientation, good to see the cappuccino machine. Spend time in lab, new laser working well, an old laser flickering and making ominous clicking sounds, tut tuting at its own decay.


See Doc Lloyd and tell him I am in good health. No appointment needed in Antarctica where the doctor is pleased to see you and happy to chat about a whole range of fascinating topics. We get on to mad cow disease. He is safe because he visited England in the seventies; I lived there in the eighties and it was in the eighties that insufficiently sterilised sheep offal was fed to English cows. Scrapie in sheep jumped species and became BSE in cows and then jumped into people. People who have lived in the UK between 1980 and 1996 are not allowed to give blood in Australia. Australian blood donor leaflets used to have a picture of Mrs Thatcher just to make the point. Lloyd is a big fan of the Iron Lady so better move on.

Talk to Wilco about workshop modifications to the FPS (Fabry Perot Spectrometer). He says if I give him the parts he can complete the modifications by Tuesday. Great, only problem is I can’t reach the part on the FPS. It is too windy to be carrying ladders about; well, this is Mawson.


Nice formal dinner in the evening. Shared a bottle of wine with Josef and then slept through half the movie. Good to be amongst friends.


Discover kindred spirits in Rolf and Mark who are both into scientific marvels. Mark has built a Stirling engine during the winter. We decide to build a Kelvin Electrostatic Generator before Davis can get theirs to work.

Rolf who is taller than me helps me to dismantle the part of the FPS that I can not reach and Wilco finishes the modifications a day early. Sterling chaps.

Monday, Tuesday

Going well in the lab, looks as though the FPS will be operational by the time it is dark enough for aurora.

Woolies is a wonderful institution –  a cupboard full of the sort of things which back in the land of shops you might forget to buy and then have to make a special trip for. Toothpaste, cotton buds, deodorant, everything except chocolate but there is a box of that in the mess. In this climate chocolate lasts forever, even so I have probably eaten too much. Hmm, better move on.


Slushy. Only twenty people on station so slushy duties come around more often. Such a small number of people make little wear and tear on the kitchen and carpets. The chef is a kind man and everybody helps after dinner. Well, that was the week that was. It is good to be amongst friends.

Theo’ Davies

Prince Charles Mountains reprise

Josh Scarrow flew over to Mawson from Davis earlier this month and will be joining us on the voyage back to Australia

Here is an extract from my blog/journal I have been compiling over the course of our expedition in the Prince Charles Mountains (PCMs), after two and a half weeks at Mount Menzies.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Adrian and Fiona returned to camp with mites. It’s alive! Amongst melt streams at the face of a hanging glacier halfway up the valley, the geologist and soil scientist found the first reported invertebrates in the southern PCMs. Mites are less than a millimetre in size and quite difficult to spot. After the first discovery, we have found them at a number of different sites throughout the area, liquid water seeming to be the major determinant of mite presence.

Work at Accidental has gone very smoothly, with over 80 sites sampled and much valuable geomorphology and soil data/samples being collected alongside the biology work. The back of the valley is more than 6km from camp and over 500m higher, requiring at least two hours solid walking to get to these sites. In order to cut out a lot of walking time, and gain a headstart for the next day, Adrian, Fiona and I bivvied out one night near the back of the valley. Sleeping on a foam mat inside a nylon bivvy bag on the lee-ward side of a large granite boulder at 1000m altitude, under the invisible stars. It was a surprisingly comfortable night and definitely saved a lot of time. That afternoon we made another exciting discovery; lithified bird poo! In the overhang of another large boulder Adrian found piles of rock-hard guano with visible feather fragments), which we assume is evidence of a past petrel nest. Samples were taken, with some moss found nearby, and since then two more such nests have been found. It will be interesting to see if we can get a date on the nests, as they were only found above the LGM (Last Glacial Maximum) boundary, and thus have the potential to be fairly old (post-LGM moraines in the valley have been dated at 20,000 years or younger). These finds coincide nicely with our repeated sightings of at least one pair of snow petrels flying round the cliffs at the mouth of the valley. Amazing to see them here, as we are still several hundred km from the coast; the only potential feeding grounds for these resilient little birds.

Josh Scarrow

Penguin Ponderings and Scandalous Skuas — 15th Feb

Penguin Ponderings

Our days at Bechervaise Island have finally come to an end for another season. On Day 54 of our stay, the Zodiacs arrived to take us back to station. Most of the chicks are fairly developed now with their blue new feathers on show for the world to see. The first of the chicks were even seen moving away from their sub-colony and heading slowly (via other sub-colonies) towards the water. Our three chicks here are still thought to be going well. I say thought, as the chicks at nest A and C were hard to find once they started to crèche. We weighed chicks this week and the average weight was 3.59kg, with the biggest chicks weighing over 5kg (this included the chick from Nest D).

Scandalous Skuas

Both chicks are still going strong. Not all the down has gone yet, but they are close.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about the Beche happenings. If you did, come back here again next year; same time, same place.

Julie McInnes