Station leader changeover, field hut maintenance and a machine with personality.

Station leader changeover and field hut maintenance

Well we are finally starting to settle in to Mawson which is now without a doubt our home for the next 12 months. The last voyage is on its way back to Hobart taking the Davis and Casey summerers home after they have hopefully had a great season and completed their assigned tasks.

A bit of excitement for the weekend was the arrival of two Squirrel helicopters, one carrying Bob Jones our incoming Station Leader.  No doubt the outgoing Station Leader Mark (Fearless) is looking forward to some Queensland sunshine and a few avocados on his return.

During my short time at Mawson it’s been really busy with the re-supply, a successful refuelling of the station, some uphill learning and familiarising ourselves with our new surroundings.

Some of the team have been focused this week on a project to install a new building to house equipment for ARPANSA (unfortunately another acronym referring to Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency).  We’ve relied on the good weather windows and have been using the crane to lift and transfer 4 containers onto their concrete footings, then welding and sorting the internal components of each container.  I’ve noticed many of the new buildings around Mawson are of similar construction, the containers being insulated internally and then clad with colour bond outside.

I was fortunate to be part of a field trip to stabilise and level Rumdoodle Hut after the constant battering by wind over the last few years had moved it considerably off its footings.

On arrival in the Hägglunds, Chris and I immediately set to work leveling the hut with a normally uncooperative hydraulic jack, which almost without fail decides not to operate in the cold, but fortunately it hung in this time. The next task was to replace the bent ‘acroprops’ supporting the verandahs.  We used a special ‘Antarctic level’ (a glass on the table inside the hut) to make sure it was pretty close to perfect. The Hägglunds and a winch were used to secure wire ropes to large boulders and then we tensioned the ropes with turnbuckles.  Hopefully our fellow expeditioners don’t have to repeat the restoration in the near future and they can just sit on the deck and enjoy the view.

Cheers, Scando

(Wayne Scandrett)

The Pioneer

There have been a lot of different expeditioners at Mawson over the last 58 years with people from all walks of life experiencing this scenically spectacular place in Antarctica.  Diesel mechanics (Diesos) have presented every year since the station opened in 1954. The Diesos are a versatile and resourceful group and one of their primary roles is to keep the machines running.  In order to provide a challenge for the Diesos and to test their versatility and resourcefulness, there are a variety of machines used in the harsh environment at Mawson.

Arguably the crown jewel of the Mawson Mechanical Fleet is the vehicle called The Pioneer.  Many who have passed through the Mawson Mechanical workshop may have various opinions on this engineering mismatch.  The service history starts back in 1990 and reads like a novel.  Diesos have spent many hours welding, modifying, improving, repairing but best of all driving this unique piece of history.   

The Pioneer drives like a truck, with the speed of a tractor and the ride of a boat.  It is powered by a 3306 Cat, has an automatic Alison transmission through a transfer case via a number of drive shafts to front and rear diffs. Steering is via an articulated platform combination with the rear trailer and the front cabin/engine configuration.  Sprockets transfer power via rubber tracks strengthened by steel grouser plates and rubber road wheels.

The Pioneer would not be out of place in an episode of the Thunderbirds or maybe it was built for exploration of distance planets.  As the days of The Pioneer are numbered it seems a shame that future Mawson Diesos may not get a chance to experience this unique piece of history.  

Ian Petty, Plant Inspector