Fire alarms, fire drills, a flurry of field trips, fluffy penguin chicks, a fuzzy gift bearer, and some throwbacks to the sixties see the new year in. Happy New Year from Mawson.

Hendo or bust!

A few weeks ago Mozzie (Meteorology Observer) and Cotty (Plumber) decided to test their mental and physical capacity by trekking the 19km to Mount Henderson and then back again. Mozzie pulled a ‘Pulk’ loaded with supplies and other essential field items whilst Cotty carried his field pack. The trek to Hendo was more difficult than both had expected. It was not so much because of the distance and the fact that it was all uphill, but more so due to the relentless head wind that progressively increased from 25 knots to 50 knots. At some stages the wind velocity was considerably higher than that!

The next day was spent crawling up and down the mountain and taking in some of the most amazing vistas in the area.

The third day was spent trekking back to station and it was this particular day that made it all worthwhile. It was all downhill with blue skies and a gentle tail wind and the day seemed to have that delightful summer feel about it.

The experience over those few days will always be remembered and gives a real appreciation of the super human achievements made by past Antarctic expeditioners, the likes of Amundson, Scott and Mawson!

Grant Cotterill

Fire drill

With fire being a big issue in Antarctica it is important that we have regular drills on what to do in case of emergency. With a fire drill being planned for the 23rd of December at Mawson, we had an actual fire alarm on the 22nd when a fire sprinkler pressure switch failed in the EPH. As an added bonus to the drill we actually got to spray some water around, due to the fact the plumbers are trying to empty one of the tanks to clean it in the next couple of weeks.

Nick Murdoch

Penguin Ponderings and Scandalous Skuas — 28th Dec

Penguin Ponderings

Susan and Julie moved out to Bechervaise Island (2km from station) to live last Friday, and will be here until mid February. Each week we will try to give you a small update on wildlife happenings. We will follow four Adelie nests and put photos up each week so you can watch them too.

Adelie penguins typically lay two eggs, which they incubate for approximately 34 days. After laying, the female goes to sea for 18 days to forage while the male incubates, then in early December they swap. Eggs are tucked against a small patch of featherless skin called the brood patch, which allows the eggs to remain warm. Once the chicks hatch, the adult foraging trips reduce to 1–3 days in length, with one parent remaining at the nest. Nests B and C both hatched around Christmas Eve, whereas Nest D hatched at least 3 days earlier.

Scandalous Skuas

The south polar skua (Catharacta maccormicki) typically lays two eggs, which they incubate for 28–31 days. On Bechervaise Island this year there are four skua nests, all in close proximity to their main food source, the Adelie penguin. So far no chicks have been seen.

Julie McInnes

Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve

Well, Christmas 2011 and New Year 2011/12 have come and gone, and we all find ourselves a year older. Here’s a brief view of some of our Mawson events during this festive period.

On Christmas Day, Santa found time to visit us at Mawson, and he arrived in true Antarctic style.

Everyone gathered in the lounge for Santa and his Chief Elf to distribute “Secret Santa” Christmas gifts.

The chef excelled with his yuletide fare, including turkey, duck, chicken, prawns, oysters, crayfish, salmon, ham, and pork. Take a look at his Christmas menu.

After Christmas, Ken worked off some Christmas calories by scrubbing and wet-vacuuming the kitchen.

The festive season wound up with a 70s-themed, New Year’s Eve fancy dress party. An entertainer was imported for the night from Scotland, and he put on a very professional show for us.

Lloyd Fletcher

Christmas — the holiday season

At Christmas time we all look forward to the festive season, the presents, the chocolates and above all the holidays. The festive season is the time of year at Mawson Station where the sea ice is closed and the holiday travel is about going to the huts that are nestled in wind protected places across the vast blue ice plateau. On the Christmas long weekend, Ken, Tom and Mark (that is station leader Mark, also known by the alias Fearless) took a long weekend and headed for Rumdoodle Hut. This quaint hut is situated on the fringe of the majestic North Masson Range and at this time of year is surrounded by the semi-frozen Lassitude and Rumdoodle lakes and overlooked by what is known as the Spires.

The weather, as the pictures will attest to, was close to perfect and the walking conditions were brilliant. On arriving at the hut, to make the most of the wonderful weather, a quick walk was had to Rumdoodle Peak. Whilst we did not all make it to the pinnacle peak, the views were certainly breathtaking.

The second day provided brilliant weather, which provided an opportunity to climb a peak of about 700 metres. Our Fearless station leader, having experienced the uphill slog to reach the magnificent views, believes the previously unnamed ledge should be known as “Fearless Ledge”. I think we might be waiting awhile for that proclamation but it is none the less worth humouring him. The views from Fearless ledge were spectacular, with a northerly view showing the edge of the sea ice with icebergs clearly surrounded by water. The opposing view was the Central Masson Range and off into the thousands of kilometres of white wilderness.

In all a great weekend with glorious food, fine company and a brilliant way to remember the Christmas holidays of 2011.

On that note this has been the first opportunity for the Mawson crowd to wish all our readers a healthy, happy and prosperous 2012.

Ken Owen

Penguin Ponderings and Scandalous Skuas — 4th Jan

Penguin Ponderings

Nearly all the Adelie chicks have hatched now on Bechervaise Island and the colony is a hive of activity, with the sea ice resembling a busy highway as adults come and go regularly. Exciting news from the science side of things is that recent tracking data has shown that the adults were foraging over 350km away during incubation!

Of the 4 nests from last week, all still had two chicks this week, with Nest A hatching before New Years. Nest C was camera shy this week, so there are two pics from Nest A for your enjoyment. A big blizzard hit last night and heavy snowfalls and winds of over 80 knots have rocked the Island. The fate of the chicks at our four photographed nests is yet to be determined.

Scandalous Skuas

Skuas have been actively hunting the Adelie chicks this week, with birds seen diving in to grab chicks that have fallen out of the nest, or some plucking them from under the adult. Timed with the plentiful food supply, skua chicks have started to hatch on the island, with one chick seen venturing out from under the parent for a feed. No other chicks have been sighted as yet.

Julie McInnes