The end of summer dinner celebrated in a heritage listed building, Friday drinks in Aeronomy including green monster, the weekly report from Bechervaise Island and the value of observing nature.

End of summer dinner

In last week’s “This week at Mawson” we featured an article on Mawson’s heritage listed building, Biscoe. As described in the article, three carpenters have been working on Biscoe during summer and as this heritage listed building needs a modern day use we thought it only appropriate to hold our end of summer dinner in Biscoe. It took a bit of setting up to get all the tables, cutlery and food to Biscoe but the result was worthwhile. Ray prepared an exciting and varied menu and commented that it was harder work than the meal he prepared for Christmas. 

Ray’s menu


Smoked salmon on a feta mousse and cucumber.
Lamb Kofta with spiced riata.


Duo of duck 

Pan fried breast served medium rare and confit braised leg served with a light brown lentil and macerated orange salad


Roasted beef fillet resting on a polenta cake with mediterranean vegetables and a light vanilla infused jus-a-lie


Almond and chocolate gateaux with berry compote and whipped chantilly cream.

Everyone was dressed as formal as possible but we were joined by a Knight Templar (Adam), a Scot (Graham) and Taekwondo “Master” (Luis), although some thought the later looked more like the Karate Kid or even Elvis.
The evening went into the wee hours but the helpers the next morning made the clean up and rearrangement of our existing dining room easy. 

Friday drinks in Aeronomy

The only physicist to work at Mawson this summer flew in on a Monday, gave a talk entitled “Auroras and Airglow” on Tuesday and by week’s end hosted Friday drinks in the Aeronomy laboratory.

For stimulation and interest, Theo displayed a selection of scientific exhibits including the Shadow Illusion, an aerial image formed by a concave mirror or colloquially called “Shake Hands with Yourself”, two stationary steam engines (one made at Mawson in 1997 and the other made at Davis in 2012), the Boffin museum and the piece de resistance, the “Green Corn Flour Monster”. However, for me, the steam engines stole the show. The Boffin museum contained a white laboratory coat and various artefacts such as chocolate, a slide rule, an electrostatic pistol and safety glasses.

The Internet claims that during World War II, “boffin” was applied with some affection to scientists and engineers working on new military technologies. It was particularly associated with the members of the team that worked on radar. The Oxford English Dictionary cites use in “The Times” in September 1945: “15 Sept. A band of scientific men who performed their wartime wonders at Malvern and apparently called themselves “the boffins”.”

The word, and the image of the boffin-hero, were further spread in books and films. Boffin continued, in this immediate postwar period, to carry its wartime connotations: a modern-day wizard who labours in secret to create incomprehensible devices of great power. Over time, however, as Britain’s high-technology enterprises became less dominant, the mystique of the boffin gradually faded, and by the 1980s boffins were relegated, in UK popular culture, to semi-comic supporting characters, and the term itself gradually took on a slightly negative connotation. I think this was the case in the Australian Antarctic program as well. However, Mawson’s only physicist Theo calls himself a boffin. His old supervisor worked on RADAR at Malvern and he is sticking with the positive connotations.

Corn flour and water is a none-Newtonian, sheer thickening fluid which means that it gets stiffer as you apply forces to it. Tendrils or stalagmites did develop during the demonstration but they did not coalesce into the true monster.

Overall it was a fascinating Friday drinks and everyone had a chance to view the Fabry-Perot spectrometer and officially open Aeronomy for boffin work.

Beche report 3

The penguin chicks at Beche are growing fast, with nearly all unattended when both parents are out foraging. Adult foraging trips have increased and birds are now out for 3–5 days, rather than the 1–2 days during chick guard. Chicks are still doing well, with over 1200 still at the colony. After complaining last week about the non-breeders harassing chicks, they are certainly proving useful for the chicks when skuas approach, often chasing them out of the colony. However, the non-breeders, or ‘hooligans’ as Levick eloquently described them during the Scott Antarctic Expedition, still take every opportunity possible to harass a chick. The weather has been its usually variable self, with some days of glorious sunshine leaving the chicks panting in their down jacket, yet other days they require every ounce of down to survive the blizzards. In other bird news, the skua chicks are also growing fast and nearly all the snow petrels on the island have hatched, with only a few still incubating their egg. 

With wind gusts to 80 knots predicted, it’s a good thing that the Beche kitchen continues to produce delightful goods to ensure we aren’t blown away. This week’s highlight was pizza on Saturday night and the perfecting of savoury cheese biscuits. Oh and the winning biscuit from last week was A! Thanks mainly to the star.

Julie McInnes

Beche report 1

Beche report 2

The value in observing nature

With technology the game changer today, few of us spend the time to actually observe nature with our own eyes. There is so much to learn but it takes time and it is not trendy but the short desription and the accomanying photos provided by Helen on Bechervaise Island show how amazing nature is and how it can enrich our lives.

“Last night I witnessed an interesting scene. A penguin came to the surface of a pool at the island’s edge. It appeared to have something in its mouth and was struggling with it. It spent about five minutes trying to get the fish it held in its mouth down. Eventually it jumped up onto the ice with only the tail hanging out of its mouth. Then there was choking noises followed by the fish being vomited back up. The penguin then tried to eat it again but with no success and another vomit. It then walked away from the fish and I got a little closer to get a photo of the fish. It then ran back and grabbed its fish as it appeared concerned that I was going to get it. In the end it spat the fish back out and walked off. See the following photos. Note how it is holding its feet. Must be a balance thing when holding the fish”.