Bear Grylls’s adventure to Bechervaise Island, a partial eclipse of the moon, retro night and a story on some happenings from this week at Mawson station.

Bear Grylls’ adventure to Bechervaise Island

Four expeditioners and a bear (koala) named Bear Grylls went across to Bechervaise Island last Saturday for a fun filled evening and a windy ride home.  Bear Grylls was sent to us from Colac Primary School where the Grade 3 children have been following his Antarctic adventures on their blog site.  At Mawson, Bron is Bear Grylls’ carer.  On his last trip to ‘Beche', as we call it, Bear Grylls forgot his camera, so this second trip was needed so that the children can follow his continuing adventures in Antarctica.
In 1987, the CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program (CEMP) was implemented by CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) with the aim to monitor change occurring in the Antarctic ecosystem and to differentiate whether these changes are the result of natural events or the result of harvesting of marine resources.  There are several indicator species that are monitored by CEMP, one of which is the adelie penguin.  In 1990, the CEMP program began at Mawson to monitor adelie penguins and Bechervaise Island was established as a CEMP site.
Beche is used primarily by biologists during the summer when they examine the foraging ecology of the adelie penguin during the summer breeding season and they also determine where the fledglings are dispersing using GPS and satellite trackers.
At the end of summer the scientists and penguins leave and once the sea ice has formed and is thick enough to travel on, then another field hut becomes available for the wintering expeditioners to explore.  Accommodation on Beche is different to the other field huts, as the hut is more spacious and slightly round.  While Fang, Hendo and Rummy are all versions of the rectangle and shipping container style, Beche has the smarties (also called googies) and an apple as well. The fibreglass smartie huts are on stilts and thus lack the repetitive exercise of clearing snow to gain access, while the apple is a moveable, smaller shelter on a sled.
Saturday started will Bear Grylls supervising the packing of the quads, checking tyre pressure, oil and fuel levels and making sure all the survival gear was included. The sun was setting as we headed out, turning the station and surrounding mountains pink. We arrived at Beche in time for Bear Grylls to watch sunset from the smartie balcony and enjoy some cheese and biscuits before exploring his island surrounds. The different buildings were investigated and bedding collected in expectation of a chilly night (temperature of minus 24°C and minus 28.9°C overnight).  There are many nooks and crannies in the smartie and Bear Grylls was particularly taken with the underfloor storage in his hunt for chocolate bickies, being unable to pry a share of the chocolate from the other expeditoners.
Dinner was a scrumptious meal of roasted beef back strap and potatoes supplied by our lovely chef and cooked by Hendo.  Dessert was yummy steamed chocolate pudding and custard.  After many hours of conversation Bear Grylls curled up above the dartboard and snoozed until morning. 
The wind picked up overnight and Bear Grylls had to scrape the ice off the window to see the sunrise. After our chippy Chris’s special of bacon and cheese toasted sandwiches for breakfast, Bear Grylls braved the wind and blowing snow to start the quads before packing up and heading back to station.

Vicki Heinrich

A partial eclipse of the moon

On Monday afternoon about 4pm I received a phone call from Pete, who had just returned from the sewage treatment building, saying that there was an eclipse of the moon visible.  I immediately paged everyone on station so that as many people as possible could see the partial eclipse of the moon.  The moon was about one third covered by the Earth’s northern umbral shadow at the maximum eclipse.

Bob Jones, Station Leader

Saturday night was retro night at Mawson

Last Saturday, 2 groups of 4 were in the field, thus leaving only 7 on station.  Vicki, Pete, Chris and Hendo were on Bechervaise Island and their report appears in the previous story. Malcolm, Paul, Michael and Bob spent the day caning the routes to Fang Hut and across to Rum Doodle Hut where they spent the night. This left 7 on station which was the barest minimum able to run the station and consisted of the rostered work and emergency response team of 6 with an incident controller.  However, this did not stop them enjoying the evening and partaking of a nice dinner.  Chef Bron said her meal had a retro theme, so thinking of something different, fun and maybe a little hair brained, it provided a good opportunity to play with the lighting system and to really find out what we had at Mawson in preparation for the midwinter festivities.  It was decided to eat in the theatrette which was set up with all the lighting and a mirror ball and the 7 expeditioners were joined by “Simon”, the resuscitation dummy, who had been lying in the theatrette waiting to be used in medical training.  It was decided to select a black and white movie to accompany the dinner so a Roy Orbison DVD was projected on the big screen.

Bron’s menu for the evening was:


Deep fried Camembert with Melba toast, lettuce and cranberry sauce


Roast fillet of beef with potato Boulangere and red wine jus accompanied by salad leaves with roast cherry tomato and marinated black olives


A vegetarian option of potato gnocchi with blue cheese and onion sauce


White chocolate and ginger brulee with brandy snap basket and macerated strawberries


No wonder they all had fun.

Some happenings from this week

A lot has been achieved in the last week and I will mention some of the things that happened in this short segment and include a random selection of photos. 
Malcolm led a group caning the route to Fang Peak and across to Rum Doodle Hut.  It was very cold on the plateau but the beautiful light on the mountains, the pink hues in the sky and a large moon rising behind the Massons made the days enjoyable.  The NASA Space Analog Study involves Malcolm in a lot of administrative work.  This week he has downloaded all the data from our light/activity watches, re-calibrated the watches and handed them back to us.  He has collected all our daily sleep logs and our last urine test sheet as well as downloading from our computers all the results from the battery of performance tests which are in blocks of 10 once per month. 
Bron continues to prepare and serve delightful food.  Her menu for last Saturday is reported in the Retro Night segment.  She has a Bad Taste Bling Nite organised for Friday and her morning tea delights this week have included friand, apple and walnut muffins, ANZAC biscuits and egg and bacon pastries (we were lucky to get these as puff pastry is in very limited supply on station). 
Mel and I did a 25-minute answer and question session via video conference with an audience attending a RiAus (an Adelaide–based national not-for-profit organisation dedicated to increasing the public’s interest and involvement in science) open forum/discussion held in Adelaide and hosted by Dr Paul Willis, formerly with ABC’s Catalyst and now Director of RiAus.  We answered questions from the floor and it was especially pleasing for me to receive questions from Peter Attard, a plumber I wintered with at Mawson in 1997 and also from Noel Mifsud who was the Casey Station Leader in 1992.  Mel was a star and she dazzled the audience with her descriptions of the aurora and her love of ice.  Mel has been busy organising the gear and sorting out the paperwork required for our first trip to Macey Island and the Auster Emperor Penguin Colony. 
The Meteorological Team of Vicki and Kelvin have tested the hydrogen and Man Down Alarms, prepared the monthly weather summary for May and are anxiously waiting for the last of the sunshine predicted on the 12th June. 
Anders and Hendo are setting up the detectors in ARPANSA but they wandered into the Main Power House (MPH) during shutdown and were photographed.  Hendo was also spotted up the Met Communication Tower removing a loose egg insulator. 
Chris has been working in ARPANSA putting together the work benches and varnishing the tops.  A photo of him installing a window in ARPANSA (below) is a few weeks old. 
Wayne has tightened the bolts on the drive shafts in the Sewage Treatment Building and 2 photos of Pete and Chris show them using the Wayne Scandrett Dredge.  Wayne designed and manufactured this piece of equipment in his workshop in order to be able to access the last of the sludge in the bottom of the tanks and to be able to drain the contents from the dredge to a tank easily and cleanly.  In his normal no nonsense manner, he identified a problem late one afternoon and by next morning the dredge had been made and was put into use immediately.
Paul worked in ARPANSA wiring up a heater and running UPS and Robert is overseeing the very productive hydroponics facility.     
A major project this week was the shut down of the MPH on Monday and the running of the station on the Emergency Power House (EPH) until Thursday.  A 20,000 hour service was due on Gen Set #3 in the MPH and the work involved Ian, Pete, Michael, Paul, Robert and Wayne.  The operation of the damper shutters was checked and the bearings on the alternator were replaced as well as various assorted pipe work and fitting adaptors carried out.  The Mechanical and Trade Teams seamlessly changed from the EPH to the MPH on schedule at 11:15am on Thursday and shut down the EPH. 
The reading of the stars (horoscope) in the Mercury newspaper has become a sort of ritual at morning tea.  One of our Section Heads' stars for Thursday said "There is a need for care in all dealings with government officials.  Judging by your stars you could be in a paper war with some sort of official with more power than brains.  Good luck with that".

Bob Jones, Station Leader