Awesome Mawson auras of auroras and a visit to Auster, something to get steamed up about.

Awesome Mawson auroras

Mawson is an awesome place to see auroras throughout the winter. Pick any clear night and there will be some auroral activity. Justin our chef has been particularly focused on getting that perfect photo and has spent many cold hours outside on those cold winter nights huddled over his camera, hands almost frost bitten, cheeks freezing, cold batteries warming against his skin to get just one more shot out of them.

Enjoy the following selection of the results of his determination and effort.

The emperors of Auster

The chicks are growing

It was 1.30 Wednesday afternoon before Peter Layt, Peter Cubit, Chris and myself (Rowdy) finally left station for Macey.

The original plan was to spend Saturday night there and a few hours on Sat and Sun checking out the chicks at Auster. Of course the weather changed those plans and the next fine day we had was Wednesday.

We took a slow drive to Macey checking out some interesting looking icebergs along the way.

We decided to just go straight to the hut as it was getting late and we wouldn’t have much light at the rookery.

After a brilliant sunset we sat down to a dinner of lamb stew and listened to the wind pick up. We hoped it would ease up by morning and our wishes were granted.

Woohoo! Clear skies and no wind… it doesn’t get much better than this. I didn’t even bother putting on my coat, the weather was so good. It’s not often like this at Mawson, so we were very lucky.

What’s even better was how incredibly gorgeous those emperor penguin chicks are. Little balls of fluff, stumbling round after their parent or making friends with other chicks. I was surprised by how much they had grown in the few weeks since I’d last been out here. There were a few we saw still keeping warm on their parent’s feet but it was obvious that some were getting a bit big to get fully covered by the brood pouch. Some of the chicks look like they’re already starting to crèche. Forming small groups where there seemed to be more chicks then parents.

It’s surprising how time flies when you’re having so much fun. Before you know it nearly four hours had gone by and it was time to head back to station.

So long little chicks, I hope I get back to see you guys before you all grow up and head out to sea.

All steamed UP

2 September: It was a beautiful day today, −30 degrees but not much wind. Thus ideal for water throwing. This is always an interesting spectacle.

A cup of boiling hot water thrown into very cold air will almost instantly freeze in midair and create a shower of tiny ice crystals. There are several reasons behind this phenomenon. First, the near-boiling water is already close to becoming steam when it is thrown into the air, which means that the water molecules are much closer to evaporating into the vapor state than they would be if the water were cold.

Second, the act of throwing the water into the air causes it to break up into tiny droplets. The water that was contained in the cup (which originally had a relatively small surface exposed to the air) now experiences a tremendous increase in the total surface area exposed to the air. This situation helps to speed up the evaporation process (evaporation is the process of turning from a liquid to a vapor).

Finally, very cold air typically has a low humidity level (that is, a low amount of water vapor present). This is yet another factor aiding the transition from liquid water, to water vapor, to ice crystals. At sufficiently low temperatures, this process seems to occur almost instantaneously.

PS: Watch our doctor walking around in shorts and T-shirts at a wind chill of −46 degrees!