We celebrate the end of winter and the impending departure of Bron and Michael with a magnificent dinner while a chicken and champagne breakfast complement a viewing of the Melbourne Cup. As usual, we include gratuitous penguin photos to finish the week.

End of winter dinner

With the departure from Mawson of Bron and Michael planned for mid-November it was decided to hold our end of winter dinner on Saturday. The dining table looked immaculate with each table setting decorated with an origami peacock made by Mel. The views from the dining room windows to the harbour and across the sea ice to Bechervaise Island and the icebergs were glorious.

We started with champagne accompanied by sausage rolls and fried wontons. Bron basically served a buffet so that she could participate in the evening’s activities. The selection of food on offer included: 


Oysters natural, mornay and kilpatrick

Prawns and lobster with sweet chilli dressing or cocktail sauce 

Carve your own ham on the bone 

Barbecued quail in soy and ginger 

Beef fillet in demi glaze 

Roast potato, pumpkin mash and Mawson hydroponically grown salad

Layered panna cotta (vanilla, coffee and chocolate)

Berry and Cointreau trifles

Bob said some words about Michael and Bron, separately thanking them for their contributions throughout the year. Chris proposed a toast and we all raised our glasses and drank to Bron and Michael’s health. Many sat at the tables until late and afterwards, retired to the lounge.

The Melbourne Cup

At very short notice Pete decided to cook some chickens, Anders got up early and baked fresh bread rolls, Robert did a harvest of fresh greens, capsicums and tomatoes from hydroponics and made a salad. With a bottle of champagne left over from our end of winter dinner, we were able to have a chicken and champagne breakfast on Tuesday morning whilst watching the Melbourne Cup.

This week at Auster

In the last two weeks the weather has been warm with little wind so everyone has taken advantage of the ideal conditions for field travel and we have managed seven separate trips to the Auster penguin colony. 

The main emperor penguin colony is now divided into four sub-colonies, although the distance between them varies from several hundred metres to nearly one kilometre. A fifth sub-colony is 2.8km, as the skua flies, from the main colony. 

When a quad or Hägglunds stops many hundreds of metres from the colony, the “inquisitive” non breeding adults immediately approach us. When they get to within one metre they seem to lose interest and just stop and gaze or wander off. On our last visit, a small group of emperors wandered past Macey Island right in front of us and groups of breeding Adelie penguins. It is fascinating to wonder what it is that is attracting them. Some think it is the yellow Hägglunds as shown in the photo (below).

Last week Hendo noticed some small black stones on the ice. We discussed the significance of these stones with Barbara and she informed us that the adults whilst feeding pick up small stones from the ocean floor. The stones are passed to the chicks in the adult’s regurgitated food and, following feeding, the chicks spit the stones out onto the ice.

It is fascinating every time we visit Auster to see how the chicks have grown. Mortality has been low this year although now giant petrels and skuas are patrolling the colony and any sick or injured chick is easy prey.