The weekly update from Beche, a new beer garden, ARPANSA footings: MK-II, and the sea ice continues to recede.

New ARPANSA footings

Late last year, we were informed that the concrete footings for the new Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) building (which were installed in summer 2010) would need to be repoured in a different location. This was due to the building’s proximity to the Bureau of Meteorology’s Stevenson Screen. The search lasted a couple of weeks and involved many different stakeholders, but eventually a new site to the east of the Wombat building was approved.

Our first task was to clear the years of accumulated ice and snow from the site and then mark out the corners of the footings. With this completed, we then fired up the air-track drill and drilled nine rock anchors 1500mm deep into solid rock. These were then grouted into place and cut to height.

The perimeter of each footing was then cut with a diamond saw to approx. 60mm deep. The rock was then scabbled away leaving a recess for the concrete to be poured into.

After a couple of trips to the Boneyard, we had enough concrete shutters to commence the formwork around all nine columns. This took us a few days to complete as the ground wasn’t exactly level. Steel reinforcing was also scrounged from the leftover stock in the Boneyard, and was expertly bent into the shape required.

The plumbers gave the batching plant the once-over and the chippies collected the pre-mixed concrete and tested the conveyor that delivers the mix into the truck.

With all this complete and formwork oiled and reinforcing placed, we’re now ready for a concrete pour on Monday.

Chris Wilson

Beer gardening — Mawson style

Its strange how being away from home affects you — you start to miss some things that you normally take for granted; things that are just around you every day, that you don’t notice until they are not around anymore — and so an idea begins. It starts as a bit of a joke at first, to see if anyone notices, and when they do you get amused and wonder how far to take it. This is how my garden started. I planted out one of our indoor plants — well, stuck it in some rocks stacked up behind some sleepers beside the path. I should explain that the plants are plastic, so the cold is not really going to be a problem. After my third trip out with plants Scotty, our chief, notices what I’m up to and says “you know you really need a water feature”. Well, what else could I do, it’s a great idea. The water feature’s installed and the rest of the gang are upstairs sitting by the windows, looking and wondering what the heck I’m up to, scratching around in the dirt carrying planks and buckets and pipes. I head back up to the red shed and announce, to everyone’s amusement, that the beer-garden is now open for business — and before I know it everyone comes out with drinks and chips, biscuits, more plants, Bundy-Bear, table and chairs, and an umbrella. Now everyone is outside enjoying the warm Saturday arvo in the garden — who would have thought that something that started as a bit of a joke would grow into something everyone could enjoy, even if it was for just one afternoon.

Mark Saunders

Penguin Ponderings and Scandalous Skuas — 18th Jan

Penguin Ponderings

This week, the Adelie chicks at Bechervaise Island have been doing well. Just under 600 chicks are in the colony, most still being brood guarded by a parent. Some chicks, however, have started to crèche together, forming fluffy penguin conglomerations. The chicks at the three remaining nests monitored here are all fat and healthy and starting to venture beyond their nests to explore.

The sea ice is slowly breaking up around the island, with more pools of water appearing and filling with penguins swimming and bathing. With more open water around, the icebergs off the island have also been more active, with the largest berg near the island now on the move. Adult foraging trips have increased in distance again, however this time without the long walk before the swim. With the red artwork on the rocks around the colony, it looks like krill is on the menu.

Somewhere in the world, January 20th is Penguin Awareness Day. So take a moment this Friday to stop and think of our flippered friends. Humans and penguins have had a sad history with species exploited for oil in the early 1900s, predated by introduced species, oil spills, degradation of breeding sites, the threat of global warming… the list goes on. It is a good time to stop and think about what we can do to help protect our penguins for future generations.

Scandalous Skuas

The skuas see every day as penguin awareness day, constantly watching over them. There are two skua chicks remaining, and both are growing fast and beginning to look gawky and out of proportion, with their legs looking far too long for their bodies.

Julie McInnes

Change is on the horizon…

It has been a hotly debated (and wagered upon) topic during our year here at Mawson — will resupply be over ice or water? Well, it’s perhaps a little too early to get excited, but we can at least see water now. The past few weeks have seen all eyes fixed upon the horizon to see if they can spot any dark areas which would indicate the approaching ocean.

Finally, two weeks ago, there was clearly an area of open water that could be seen. We could also see signs of the ice breaking up out past the islands, and also large patches of open water. The excitement is palpable as we all ponder the prospects of getting out and about on zodiacs, and the thought of a resupply that does not involve endless hours of packing cage pallets for helicopters. Even in Horseshoe Harbour, which last year did not melt out, there are the first signs of water.

Lisa O'Connor and Chris Wilkinson