Mawson highways and ANZAC Day celebrations.

Mawson Highways

Travel in Antarctica is not as simple as it seems. We have vehicles, the most common being Hägglunds and Honda quad bikes, both of which are well suited to the conditions at Mawson. There is a vast expanse of open spaces but no roads to travel on. This may sound easy but it can be quite dangerous and have dire consequences if things go wrong.

The highways at Mawson are carefully selected routes which go to 3 field huts located at Mt Henderson, Rumdoodle and Fang Peak. On the plateau these routes are marked by canes so they can be travelled along visually. One of the problems with cane lines is that they move. The ice is one large mass of ice hundreds of metres thick that slowly moves towards the sea and it can move up to 10 metres a year. In places there are slots (crevasses) that will easily swallow a quad and its rider only metres from this line, so the canes have to be replaced regularly and new ones positioned along the GPS route.

One Sunday Malcolm, Bronwen, Darren and myself set off in 2 Hägglunds loaded with new canes to start to replace the cane line to Mt Henderson. We travelled to the 1st waypoint and used 3 GPS units to obtain the correct position for the cane and drilled a 50mm hole about 1 metre deep. In this hole the cane was placed and water was poured into the hole which quickly freezes and holds the cane in position. The canes are about 4 metres high and near the top a can is secured in place to act as a reflector if radar has to be used in poor visibility.

Canes are placed so that they can be seen from each other along the route and are generally spaced a few hundred metres apart all the way along the 20km route to Mt Henderson. By about 2pm, we had replaced about half the canes along the route and it started to get quite windy, not to mention cold, about minus 15 degrees C. So we decided to call it quits and travel to the hut at Mt Henderson where Darren had to rewire the radio and replace the battery. We brought the hut mattresses back to station to give them a good airing and clean, two of them might even get new covers.

With a good start on the route to Mount Henderson completed, there will be no shortage of volunteers looking for a day or two to get off station, as many more days are needed before the highways are up to scratch.

Michael Peterson 


A traditional ANZAC Day Service starting at 8:15am was held in front of the flag poles. In the twilight before the sun rose it was quite chilly at −16.9C with a 32 knot wind blowing, but 13 of us gathered and braved the elements. Three addresses were followed by the laying of a wreath by Mel. Paul then read the poem In Flanders Fields and this was reciprocated by Anders, the youngest person on station, with a reading of We Shall Keep the Faith. Hendo read the Ode to Remembrance and this was followed by The Last Post, One Minute’s Silence, Reveille and the National Anthem. We were all quick to get back to warmth of the Red Shed where Robert prepared the gunfire breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast. ANZAC biscuits made by Bron the day before were enjoyed with a coffee and the optional dash of rum.

After a break and a few yarns it was over to the Green Store for some team sports and the letting off of steam. The indoor cricket game was played quite vigorously and this was followed by badminton and a short game of basketball. Whilst the sports were being played Wayne, Ian and others were setting up the spit roast and watching the pig and vegetables cook. The pork was cooked to perfection and accompanied by potatoes, carrots, onions and pumpkin was enjoyed by all.

After cleaning up we got down to the serious business of Two Up. We were unsure of the rules but we finally decided on our own Mawson rules and this kept us entertained whilst everyone had a turn at spinning the coins. The game finished about 4:30pm with the sun just setting.

It was then back to the Red Shed for the evening where several watched the AFL ANZAC Day football match between Collingwood and Essendon in the Sports Bar and to finish day’s activities there was a screening of Gallipoli in the cinema.