Birthdays celebrated in sugary style and an update on what is happening at the Auster emperor penguin colony


With only 15 people on station you can expect 15 days of yummy birthday cakes. Unfortunately conspiring between the AAD and our doctor (wouldn’t want the expeditioners to get too tubby) has resulted in two less birthday cake days at Mawson.

The first of our dual birthdays was last Thursday with Darren (Hendo) and Vicki being recipients of a magnificent meal and chocolate cake. After a few knock down, drawn out fights, a menu of filet mignon, chips, carrots and some other vegetable (not parsnips or turnips) was agreed on by Hendo and Vicki and put to chef Bron. Bubbles for the night were also selected with the option of white or red sparkling wines to accompany the meal. Luckily they didn’t have to agree on footy teams, both being a part of the large South Australian contingent on station (the best state to live in).

Bron out did herself with an amazing chocolate mud cake, which was the uncompromising direction. (Hendo might not have had much input into that choice). Each half of the cake was decorated with the birthday people in mind. There were balls of wool, a crochet stick, and some crocheted squares to commemorate the granny blanket Vicki is making while Hendo’s side of the cake was a more of a memorial. As everyone on station knows, Hendo has a slight problem with misplacing items, but as he says ‘he’s found them all again, well except for his (first) beanie’ which departed during its first blizzard excursion. Hendo plans to search the penguins on Bechervaise Island when they return as he’s sure his beanie landed there. Bron’s figurines highlighted the tough and valiant equipment that returned to Hendo after their little adventures: his pager, pedometer, radio and goggles.
Thanks to everyone for a great night and Bron for the fabulous meal and cake.


An update on what is happening at Auster

On the last visit to the Auster emperor penguin colony on 21st August the penguins had moved onto clear snow and were gathered together in one large group. At 11am the penguins were facing the plateau with their backs to the sun, which was low on the horizon. As we approached the mavericks (failed breeding birds) as usual left the group and walked towards us. When they got to within one metre of us most seemed to lose interest but the occasional bird came closer. As the sun rose higher in the sky many of the mavericks were walking around, some even walking onto the lower aspects of icebergs. Others were eating fresh snow. By 2pm all the penguins carrying chicks had turned around with their white glistening bodies facing the sun.

The chicks had grown significantly bigger since our last visit and many appeared, at least to us, to be having difficulty fitting onto their parent’s feet and to be totally covered by the brood pouch. Parts of the chicks seemed to be sticking out exposed to the elements. We did see some chicks standing beside the parent penguin but we thought that they would climb back under the brood pouch later in the day.

We saw the first chicks in mid July so it will not be long before the oldest chicks are ready to leave their parent’s brood pouch permanently.

It is amazing how far the penguins walk around the colony. As we drive around the icebergs at Auster, there are always penguin’s footprints to be seen in the snow. I am also quite surprised how far the penguins with chicks actually walk and the very occasional one even made an attempt to walk towards us.

The next station visit to the emperor penguin colony is taking place as I write and it will be interesting to learn what was happening at this amazing place called Auster.