This week Chris takes us shopping, Luc highlights a lesser known Belgian Antarctic legend and Cliff takes us out to Auster to check on the progress of the Emperor penguin chicks.

Shopping at Mawson

With only a week to go here at Mawson our winter is about to end. Five wintering expeditioners will leave the station soon, and about 22 summerers will fly in. For those going home they will need to be retrained for dealing with some things they generally haven’t dealt with for a while. This includes rain, crowds, heavy traffic, pets, kids, lawyers and money!

Some of us (who are very slowly packing to leave) discovered our dusty unused wallets recently, and realised we will need to use these funny coloured plastic notes called “money” in about a month’s time.

Having done a few winters previously, I can recall going back to Hobart and on my first night back I went to a bar, ordered a beer, walked away and forgot to pay for it. The local barman who had worked on the Hobart waterfront for a while had seen this scenario before — wintering expeditioners who desperately needed re-training on how to use money, and to remember to pay for things! They don’t run courses for that!

Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to have many of the usual things we need from day-to-day automatically provided for us — and mostly for free. The AAD does a pretty good job with providing most of the things we need (with a few minor exceptions). Ignoring some of the things that occasionally run out over winter, we can go shopping here and get nearly all our daily needs without needing to pull out the wallet or credit card.

Here are some examples:
  • Shopping at Woollies, for all those personal items
  • Our hardware store is great — has all of the essentials — but you MUST ask the tradies first! They’ll even help you with your requirements.
  • Vegetables are very seasonal here — only the potatoes are on special this month!
  • Clothing store — not a lot of variety or style — but very bright colours this season and the prices are unbelievable. Customer service is excellent.
  • The best supermarket in town — no weekly specials, but prices are down, down, down! Customer service is excellent.

Which was the first expedition to winter in Antarctica?

Q1:Which was the first expedition to winter in Antarctica?

A1: The Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897 to 1899.

Q2: Who was leading the team?

A2: Baron Adrien de Gerlache.

Q3: Who was one of the most notable expeditioners on board?

A3: Roald Amundsen!

Adrian de Gerlache was born in Hasselt on 2 August 1866. He showed a very strong interest in the sea and he joined up in the Belgian navy. He took part in multiple long distance trips and later on became captain on the Ostend-Dover ferry. Soon he became bored with this job and decided to organize his own expedition to Antarctica. He bought a Norwegian-built whaling ship (Patria) and renamed it the Belgica. A multinational crew of 23, two of whom were Roald Amundsen and Antoni Dobrowolski, departed from Antwerpen on 16 August 1897.

They had planned to be back at the start of the next year, however, on 28 February 1898 the expedition became trapped in the sea ice and it looked like they had no other option then to spend the winter in Antarctica. The long winter drove many men mad and they suffered badly from scurvy.

Finally, on 15 February 1899, after clearing a channel in the sea ice by hand they managed to break free from the ice and sail back to Belgium. It had taken nearly a month to sail the initial 10km of ice they were trapped in. The expedition returned to Antwerpen on 5 November 1899. In total they spent two years and three months away from home, of which they spent 15 months in Antarctica. It must have been horrible conditions.

Amundsen gained lots of experience during this trip which would become valuable for him to reach the pole in the summer of 1911–1912.

Baron Adrien De Gerlache participated in more expeditions to Greenland, Barents Sea, Spitsbergen, etc. He died in Brussels on 4 December 1934 at the age of 68.

Everybody knows the names such as Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton but without people like Adrien de Gerlache they would have never achieved what they are now known for.

The chicks are getting bigger

Thank you Trent for getting in the kitchen for me… because I had a fabulous time at Auster Rookery again. The chicks are getting bigger, it won’t be long now and they’ll be moulting. They’re all so active now, it’s incredible to see them all getting worked up when a skua flies over head. The drive out to Auster is always interesting, even more so now that there are seal pups, lots of Adelie’s and skua’s, to make it even more enjoyable. Let’s hope I get out here again real soon.