Mawson invites you to the Antarctic Food Festival. We also have Pete’s report, Bear Grylls embarking on another adventure and tea time for Paul’s birthday.

Antarctic food festival

Sunday nights are low key in terms of cooking on the station. People help themselves to the ‘grazing’ fridge, sometimes striking leftover gold. Sometimes, one just isn’t quick enough. Last Sunday, our skeleton crew (only nine of us on station!) enjoyed a special dinner cooked by the Mawson team taking part in the Antarctic Food Festival (AFF). The idea came from Pepe, the energetic chef at the German station, Neumayer 3.

The onus was to have as many people cooking together at the same time, linking the Antarctic wintering community through food, in a fun competition.

As most chefs will attest, being on the receiving end of a specially cooked meal is bliss. I opted to join the non-competitors and offered ‘logistical support’. It was a good opportunity for those who like to cook and don’t often have the time to strut their stuff. Our team included Anders, Pete and Bob. Each participating team/station was able to add an ingredient to a ‘shopping list’, from this, creating a menu or single dish. The final ingredients were: nuts, carrots, ginger, pineapple, olives, bacon with hickory wood chips or some other kind of smoke, beetroot, salmon and kangaroo or beef. The kangaroo was an interesting suggestion from our team, considering we don’t have kangaroo in our stocks and I would have been surprised if any other teams did either. But it certainly had an Australian stamp on it. With this style of competition, it’s a balance between suggesting ingredients everyone one can work with and then perhaps having something that will give your team an edge. There were a few general items like butter, flour and milk available to everyone also.

The competitors were:
Troll (Norway)
Neumayer 3 (Germany)
Arctowski (Poland)
Palmer (USA)
Dumont D’Urville (France)
Novolazarevskaja (Russia)
SANAE 4 (South Africa)
South Pole (USA)
Casey (Australia)
Mawson (Australia)

Some of the teams were chef only, others were group efforts including the chef and some were without.
Our guys played it pretty loose and cool, Anders coming to me on Saturday night after dinner and checking on ingredients. A few things were gathered then and there from the Green Store (for speedy defrosting) and they got to work on Sunday afternoon. They showed what a slick team they are, dinner was on the table at 6:30 sharp, with a minimum of fuss.

We were offered a colourful three course menu:

Salmon with black olive tapenade
Beef with beetroot, carrots and bacon
Pineapple with toasted nuts and ginger toffee

The salmon and olive combination is a favourite of mine, so the first course disappeared quickly: yum. It’s interesting the flavour intensity of the olives doesn’t overpower the salmon. 
I think everyone enjoyed having another special dinner so soon and I certainly was happy putting the feet up, as we speculated about what was coming from the kitchen.

Our team seemed pleased with their effort, perhaps we can convince them to do it more often!
For a look at the range of offerings from the different teams go to the AFF website:

Bronwen, Mawson Chef

Pete’s June report

Hi all,

It’s that time again for my June report after another busy month that included midwinter, always a fun-filled time here on the continent celebrating the biggest event on our yearly calendar. With the light disappearing, and some pretty windy conditions, there were not many trips off station this month. I only had a one-night jaunt out to Bechervaise Island, returning just in time to beat the weather before we would have been stuck out there for a few days. The sun bade us farewell on the 13th June and in amongst all the blizzards, gale force winds and lack of the sun there was much anticipation and preparation for midwinter’s day, and then, before you know it another month has passed.

During our midwinter dinner we were called to pause for a toast and reflect on those absent from our celebrations: friends, family and loved ones at home.

This was my inspiration for my June report, dwelling not on all the good times, but on the day to day mundane things we do down here, the things we don’t usually write home about or put in “This Week at Mawson” as it all seems a bit boring and day to day, and quite frankly who wants to write or ring home and go on about the boring stuff? A lot of our time is fairly routine; some might say boring so here’s a look into the other side of life down here.

Reading about our trips out to huts, and all the great times we have on station can make it seem as though all we do is enjoy ourselves and have fun, but in reality, of course, we are working quite long hours plus we are on call 24/7, keeping our little community safe and warm from the outside elements.

On average here on station the trades section works 5.5 days a week, plus station duties after brunch on Saturdays. Station duties involves mostly keeping the station clean and tidy, vacuuming the corridors in the sleeping quarters, vacuuming all the carpets in the lounge area, scrubbing the kitchen floor, cleaning the laundry, restocking Woollies with soaps, toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste etc, doing the garbage collection and drop off and setting up the dinner tables for Saturday night dinner. There are also certain other duties that are required to be done 7 days a week, Power House Observations twice daily and water transfers which are generally the on-call person’s responsibility, along with answering any after-hours pages 24/7 of which there are plenty! More on that below. We have two Fire Teams on station, and for the Trades on-call, we work our after-hours roster to match-2 weeks on, 2 weeks off.

If something goes wrong or the fire alarm sounds we are it, there’s no calling 000 here. The Fire Team effectively involves the whole station and even if it’s your fortnight not on the roster you still have to muster in the event of a fire alarm sounding. The main concern in the event of a fire is that one of us could be inside the building on fire, so muster and accounting for all personnel is of utmost importance.

As mentioned earlier on-call work is also done 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off, which involves varying numbers of calls dependant mostly on the weather. Windy conditions can mean more calls for the Electricians and Mechanics as when the wind turbines shut down a little too suddenly the Power House can be overloaded and a power outage can occur. Low temperatures outside can mean all sorts of alarms and things that require checking by plumbers, the list goes on. Apart from the multitude of pages during the day alerting us to changes or potential problems in buildings all over station, the after-hours ones are the most tiring. A few examples from last month between 11pm and 6am were 1:43am, low temperature in the MPH. 1:31am, 2:54am and 3:28am, Fire Panel Fault. 12:50am and 3:28am, low engine pressure in the MPH.

Much of the work here is preventative maintenance which comes around monthly, quarterly etc, depending on what the job it is. There is always some break down maintenance that needs attention, from a dripping tap to a wind turbine faulting and needing resetting. Only last week, late in the day, there was a fault showing on one of the engines in the main power house. This shut down one of the four engines, then a separate unrelated fault appeared on another engine meaning there were only two operational engines. Two of the guys worked for some time, while the rest of us on station enjoyed our evening meal until they decided we might need to changeover to the emergency power house which involved all hands on deck in the trades section with four of us making our way to the power house in 60knot winds. Thankfully it all got sorted out and everything put back to normal with us all finishing up and heading back to knock off for the day a second time at 8:30pm.

Other routine but important work involves monthly checking of all the fire alarms in each building. This involves the electricians walking around to each building on station and setting the alarms off briefly to make sure all is working well. The same is done with checks on electrical switchboards to ensure no problems are going to arise.

There are pumps and the like to be changed monthly, swapping between one pump and the other so that both get equal usage, fan belts to check, filters to change and the list goes on. All up there are over 50 buildings on station of varying sizes and complexities, requiring barely a glance in the door monthly for some, where others require several days work per month just checking the basics and making sure nothing is going to break down unexpectedly in the middle of the night or in a blizzard.
Another part of our job is to assist the chef, or be the ‘slushy’ as it’s called. This comes around twice a month and involves mopping floors, tidying the mess and kitchen area, washing dishes and generally helping the chef with whatever she requires to be done.

So despite all our adventures and all the fun time reported in “This Week at Mawson”, we do work hard, we do live in isolation and we often think of home, family and friends that we don’t get to see for a year.

That’s all from me this month,


Bear Grylls embarks on another adventure

Bear Grylls, the toy koala sent to Mawson by school children in Colac, Victoria, was keen to embark on another adventure following his trip to Bechervaise Island last month.

He waited patiently, clinging to the rear vision mirror of the Hägglunds (which was parked in the Green Store), before the early morning departure for the Taylor Glacier emperor penguin colony.  I am not sure what Bear saw on the trip and whether in fact he may have been forgotten amongst the mountain of gear that the party took with them, however, a full report on the trip to Colbeck Hut, the photography at the emperor penguin colony and the visit to Proclamation Point at Cape Bruce will be presented in next week’s news.  

Paul’s birthday

The first birthday to be celebrated by the Mawson winterers since arrival on station was Paul’s birthday on Monday.  The only person to have  a birthday before Paul was Mel but, as her birthday coincided with midwinter’s day, we have decide to celebrate Mel’s birthday on the summer solstice.

When I first met Paul in Freemantle, he invited me into his apartment and offered me numerous cups of tea.  I thought he was just being hospitable and I did not know at the time that Paul loved a cuppa himself.  His present from Mel was a gigantic tea bag and his cake baked by Bron was a mud cake with a coffee butter cream icing and was in the shape of a very large tea cup.  It was more a tea party than a birthday party.