At Mawson we celebrate the arrival of ten new expeditioners, Hendo cooks up an Asian banquet, Ian has a birthday and scientific work starts in earnest on the Adélie penguin programme.

The arrival of 10 summer expeditioners

The scientific and resupply vessel Aurora Australis arrived at Davis on Sunday with 10 expeditioners and approximately 900kg of cargo bound for Mawson, all of which had to be flown from Davis in the Twin Otter KBC. There were no flights on Monday as gale force winds and blowing snow reduced visibility and the ground and horizon definition were poor. On Tuesday and Wednesday the weather was fine so the Twin Otter piloted by Bob and Richard made three flights into Mawson. The new expeditioners hit the ground running and, in order to celebrate their arrival, a barbecue was held outside the carpenter’s workshop, affectionately known as the Rosella building due to its multiple colours. It was a nice evening and we were lucky to see a sun dog and arcs around the sun.

Asian banquet

Our winter chef, Bronwen, departed Mawson on 23rd November in order to be certain of arriving in time at Davis to catch Voyage one (V1). This meant we were without a chef for 12 days. Each person was rostered on to cook and everyone did an excellent job. It was Hendo’s turn on Saturday and the request was for an Asian banquet. Bron had set very high standards for Saturday night dinners and Hendo was not deterred in the least to maintain the same high standards.

Hendo’s Grand Asian Buffet Menu


Chicken laksa

Main course

Beef and black bean, satay chicken and Char Siu pork served with fried or steamed rice.


Coffee and coconut jelly with cream

Ian’s birthday

It was Ian’s birthday last Friday and, as has been usual all year, the person with the birthday could select the main course for dinner. I am not sure whether Ian selected the course or whether Pete, the cook for the day, decided that he would prepare a lamb on the spit. Ian owns a family farm appreciated the gesture. The lamb was cooked to perfection and we all enjoyed the meal in the green store. Anders and Hendo prepared a chocolate cake in the shape of Ian’s favourite piece of plant, the D7 dozer. Kathy and Wayne made a beautiful miniature ice axe mounted on a wooden plaque as a special birthday present. 

Adélie penguin programme

The two Adélie penguin scientists, Julie and Helen, flew into Mawson from Davis on Tuesday 4th December and the very next day they started work on Béchervaise Island. Male penguins have been incubating eggs for 18 days and the females are starting to return from their feeding trip to take over the second half of the incubation period. Julie and Helen managed to attach GPS recorders to six departing males less than 24 hours after arriving at Mawson. Julie mentioned how nice it was to see two long lines of penguins on the sea ice, the males departing for the ocean with their black backs to the island and the females returning with their glistening white fronts approaching the island.

Before Julie and Helen arrived, the wintering expeditions counted the penguins as they came to the island. The winterers started counting on 10th October and the first penguin was recorded on 16th October. The numbers arriving rose slowly at first and then increased exponentially to a maximum on any one day of about 3500 on 12th November. The first egg was recorded on 11th November. By the 20th November, the numbers were decreasing significantly as the females had laid their eggs and were departing to feed in the ocean, leaving the males to incubate the eggs. Counting stopped on 24th November when only 2000 penguins were counted.

The programme on Béchervaise Island is a long term study and from examining the data over the years it is known that by about 28th November, the only penguins on the island are males. So despite a gale force wind with blowing snow, Hendo and Anders had the task of determining how many of the males had been previously tagged (by inserting a small device under the skin between the penguin’s shoulder blades). Hendo and Anders individually waved a wand-like piece of equipment over the back of the penguins and the tagger recorded 206 tagged penguins. We had previously been given permission via a permit to enter the colony trying hard to cause the least amount of disturbance as possible.

Julie and Helen will continue their work through December and January and they will be keen to report their findings in more scientific terms than in this short note.