This week at Mawson: 29 November 2013

Possibly the last look at the Auster emperor Penguin colony for the year. Retrieval of an errant eBox shipping container and the Antarctic premier of the Walkley nominee doco “Mary Meets Mohammad”

Antarctica meets “Mary Meets Mohammad”

It is a rare event for sure that a new release movie makes its way to Antarctica for a premiere before most of the rest of the world gets to see it. Having this once in a lifetime opportunity had the Mawson crew out in strength to stride down the red carpet dressed to the nines for the Antarctic premiere of “Mary Meets Mohammad”. Strangely this feature length doco about how a member of a small Tasmanian knitting group (Mary) changes her thinking about refugees who have been placed in a detention centre in her town has an obscure connection to Antarctica. More on that later.

With almost the entire Mawson population squeezed into our small theatre the show was watched in relative silence as the story unfolded. The silence ended with the film. Inspired by the questions and opinions raised on refugees, asylum seekers and detention faced by all Australians discussions continued well into the evening. The film is just that, thought provoking and a catalyst for further discussion. It personalises and provides another facet to an issue that has filled the pages of our newspapers and driven political opinion for some time.

So, what is the connection to Antarctica? Well, the producer, writer and cinematograher, Heather Kirkpatrick spent a few seasons in Antarctica as a Field Training Officer where she pushed expedtioners to their limits trudging with heavy packs and heaving lungs through the Vestfold hills and other places to ensure they could remain safe in the field.

Thanks for allowing us to premiere the film Heather. Enjoyed by all and certainly food for thought and discussion. Not so thankful for the death marches in the Vestfolds.

Film poster stuck to a rock surrounding by penguins
Advertised widely throughout the colonies
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Man and woman enetering a room all dressed up being photographed
Guest plagued by hordes of paparazzi
(Photo: Lydie Lescarmontier)
Guests milling around for the film premiere
The not so rich and infamous gather
(Photo: Lydie Lescarmontier)
Man wearing beanie and a suit
Beanies for the well dressed film star
(Photo: Lydie Lescarmontier)
John Kelly talking and wearing a beanie
World renowned artist John Kelly takes a break from his world tour to attend
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Guests walking in the door for the film premiere
The red carpet almost thread from the constant influx of personalities
(Photo: Lydie Lescarmontier)
Matt Donoghue wearing glasses and a beanie
Wow, a special appearance by Matt "iceberg" Donoghue, director of Airport
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Man wearing sunglasses and pretending to be Liberace
Liberace is still with us posing as a plumber at Mawson
(Photo: Lydie Lescarmontier)

The last look at Auster for 2013, perhaps

Last weekend saw an overnight quad bike trip out to Macey and then on to Auster Rookery. We used the opportunity to get out and about during a small break in the otherwise ordinary weather we have been encountering here at Mawson.

In the two days of riding we covered nearly 150km, travelling along the sea ice. It took around an hour and a half to reach Macey Hut after we departed Mawson on Friday night. It was mostly smooth riding apart from some sastrugi in the last 15km. We reached Macey and all settled in for the night. We shared some drinks, some stories and some laughs before retiring to our bunks.

Pete had us up nice and early in the morning for part two of the ride out to Auster Rookery. After breakfast in bed (thanks Pete) we packed up our gear and headed out on the quads. The scenery was remarkable, passing through towering icebergs, each different from the last. The size and formation of each iceberg is truly incredible. We rode through some more sastrugi and also some soft snow, getting bogged a few times (thanks Geoff) before we reached the rookery.

At this point there is barely a knot of wind in the air, the sun is shining and the air temperature would be lucky if it was minus five. Perfect!

We settled in for the day being cautious to keep our distance from the penguins and their chicks but before long, their curiosity gets the better of them and they make their way over to us. This allowed for some incredible photo opportunities, which we all took advantage of.

After spending the day at Auster, we rode back to Mawson before the weather closed in. This will be one of my most memorable trips in Antarctica. A big thanks to Pete Cubit, Keldyn Francis, Geoff Brealey, Steve Edwards and Paul Shaw.

By Matt Donoghue

Matt Donoghue surrounded by ice.
Matt Donoghue
(Photo: Keldyn Francis)
Macey Hut — little red hut aurrounded by ice.
Macey Hut
(Photo: Matt Donoghue)
Round red hut on Macey Island
The Apple on Macey island
(Photo: Steve Edwards)
Emperor chicks and one adult amongst them
Emperor penguin chicks
(Photo: Matt Donoghue)
Quad bike bogged in soft snow
Keldyn bogged in soft snow
(Photo: Matt Donoghue)
Expeditioners sitting on quad bikes all lined up in a row.
Geoff, Pete, Keldyn and Paul
(Photo: Matt Donoghue)
Emperor penguins
Emperor penguin
(Photo: Matt Donoghue)
Exeditioners on quads driving past an ice cave in berg
Incredible
(Photo: Matt Donoghue)

The flight of an eBox shipping container

Awesome winds at Mawson

Following on from the Doc’s comments last week — it’s been an amazing experience spending the last summer and winter at Davis. And to transfer to Mawson for a summer stint before heading home is just icing on the cake.

Apart from the awe-inspiring scenery, the other major difference between The Riviera of the South (aka Davis) and Mawson is the weather. Here we are truly experiencing all that Antarctica has to offer. Our first few days were glorious sun, blue skies and next to no wind. Of course we laughed at the Wintering crew that said they hadn’t had weather like this all year, it just seemed like another day in the Riviera… Well, were we in for a shock! After a great day hiking in the Framnes Mountains we came back to station to rest up, waking the next day to our first Mawson blizz. The visability dropped, snow blew, and everything that wasn’t tied down made a hasty exit from station. But of course, the experienced Wintering crew had prepared for it, so everything was tied down…

But life on the ice is not without it’s little mishaps!

We had tethered down an eBox (shipping container) out in front of station for our artist in residence, John Kelly, to shelter in while painting the Mawson vista. Unfortunately it seems no amount of stakes, pegs and 2.5 tonne strapping was able to contend with the almighty forces of mother nature. The consistent battering winds, topping out with gusts of 98 knots (176km/h), made short work of the e-Box and sent it careening across the ice to Stinear Island where it eddied out from the frozen hurricane-force winds to await retrieval.

Yesterday, the retrieval party headed out to collect it and whatever else we could find. Some strategic tetris-like maneuvering of the e-Box with assistance from the almighty Hagg finally got it free and down onto the sea ice for a simple drag back to station. We also found several 44 gallon drums, obviously blown free in a previous storm and buried in the snow.

It was a really positive feeling amongst the retrieval crew while we were out recovering the e-Box and other debris. In that, despite the monumental forces of nature that we battle on weekly basis, we continue to reduce our footprint on the frozen-frontier that is Antarctica.

By Richard Youd

Sunset and blowing snow
Sunset through the blowing snow
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Late sun from the Red shed during blizz
Late sun from the Red shed during blizz
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Hagg recovering container
Rolling out the eBox with the Hagg
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Dragging container with Hagg
Using the Hagg to drag the eBox
(Photo: Richard Youd)
One of the many stakes used to tie down the eBox
One of the many stakes used to tie down the eBox
(Photo: Richard Youd)
The missing eBox door
The missing eBox door
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Man hauling door
Man hauling the missing door
(Photo: Pete W)
One of the found and recovered drums
One of the found and recovered drums
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Recovery crew, proud of their work
Recovery crew, proud of their work
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Heading back into Mawson
Heading back to station
(Photo: Richard Youd)