Another wander around station with the Doc, harsh reality for some wildlife and what is ARPANSA.


We saw a few changes this week at Mawson. We are now starting to see the sun more often, and the weather has improved considerably from last week. Last weekend we experienced some pleasant still conditions for a change at Mawson. Some of the cloud formations above station were magnificent.

We also saw a few expeditioners doing different work this week, displaying their skills and experience in alternative fields to their usual work.

Trent is often seen cooking up a feast in the kitchen. His “chicken parmigiana” comes highly recommended. 

Justin happily assists with computer and communications work.

Craig now has skills to observe and, at times, take a damn good guess of what the weather will do, and is often right.

Doctor Lloyd can fix the plumbing — in both humans and buildings. He admits the tools are a little different.

Darron can work a multimeter almost anywhere on station, and also does Met, computer, library and hydroponic work.

Keldyn’s has no trouble changing certain parts of the Nuclear Radiation monitoring equipment.

In all seriousness, every person on station that shares the work does so with skill, training and professionalism. Having a team that can easily multi-task and lend a hand from time to time makes life that much easier on station. Thanks guys!

The Doc’s update

Spare a thought for our station electricians who frequently have to climb the two Mawson wind turbines to exact repairs and maintenance. Their trip starts off in the base of the turbine where they put on their body harnesses. Then they start their climb up the 34 metre turbine on a T-Bar ladder . Once at the top they have to work inside a small and cramped space which, interestingly enough, is the interior of the electrical dynamo. Just imagine yourself as a beetle crawling around inside an alternator of a car and you can get an idea of what it is like. However, they do have beautiful views of the station whenever they want to pop their heads out of the top of the turbine.

Activity on the station this week has seen us undertake a few training activities. First up, we had fire fighting training down in the old hangar one day when the weather was blowing rather fiercely. The fire was impressive to start with, but after it was doused for the first time, the whole hangar filled with snow-laden smoke pretty rapidly. All of this added to the reality of a fire scenario.

Then we had some refresher search and rescue (SAR) training one afternoon. This training also happened to occur on a blizz-day, and thus it was held indoors in the Recreation Lounge. Everyone thought this was a way to train, certainly a warmer and more pleasant day way to undertake training rather than outdoors in the cold .

Not to be neglected, the diesos conducted a morning of Hägglunds recovery training in their workshop — another valuable and rewarding training session for all.

The Field Training Officer continued his weekly sea-ice drilling on what turned out to be yet another blowy Mawson day. The sea-ice proved to be over 1.10 metres in thickness at all four measured sites for the first time this year. He duly had to extend his drill-piece with an additional 1 metre length .

However, the week was not all work and no play. There was a brief trip up to Mount Henderson hut to takes some photos, dig out some accumulated snow, and check out some work options.

None of this fazed our resident Trades Assistant who smiled and took the week’s happenings in his stride.


ARPANSA — Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency

General: An International Monitoring System (IMS) is being constructed to monitor compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT). By analysing, integrating and comparing data from the IMS, the time, location and nature of the possible nuclear event can be determined. The network consists of 321 monitoring facilities and 16 radionuclide laboratories that monitor the earth for evidence of nuclear explosions in all environments.

A Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) to ban all nuclear explosion tests was opened for signature in New York on 24th September 1996. Australia signed the treaty and ratified it on the 9th July 1998. As of November 2010, a 182 countries have signed and 153 have ratified.

ARPANSA is responsible for carrying out Australia’s Radionuclide monitoring obligations to the Comprehensive Test-Ban-Treaty and also responsible for the installation, implementation and operation of seven stations within Australia and its Territories.

At Mawson we have a Primary Seismic Station and Radionuclide laboratory. In particular the Radionuclide laboratory needs to be serviced every day and this is done by our Communication Techs Chris and Craig.

The test facility consists of a high volume air sampler which basically sucks in the outside air at around 1000m3/h where particulate matter collects on a filter. This filter is changed everyday where the used filter (sample) is now processed. The sample is now prepared by being removed from the filter casing, non specific filter material removed then folded and inserted into a small 20 ton press for compacting. Once compacted  it is then placed in a small plastic capsule for loading into the Decay cabinet. The Decay process allows naturally occurring short half lived nuclides to decay leaving only the long term which are of interest, (reduces the effect of the Compton continuum). The previous days sample is removed and loaded into the detector so that spectral analysis can be performed to identify any fission products which may be contained on the particulate matter, job done.

This all sounds pretty straight forward but a strict process of steps need to be followed. A computer system monitors environmental, security, power and filter management at all stages in the process and utilises a barcode system for tracking all samples taken. The computer system also logs, stores and sends the sampled data every 2 hours to the parent organisation in Vienna and Australia

Peter Cubit

Harsh Reality

We visitors to the Antarctic are often amazed by the mere survival of the animals that call this continent and its surrounds home. The extreme conditions that are endured, both in summer and winter, give us a certain level of inspiration: if they can do it then we, with our warm buildings, electricity and seemingly endless supply of food can surely make it without any problem.

The miracle of life is very much alive, and every animal that ‘makes it’ another season must surely appreciate this better than we can. It’s quite easy to tell stories and show pictures of the ones that do make it, but instead here are some of the ones that didn’t make it, and those that did due to the demise of another. This is for the ones that fell victim as prey, the predators and scavengers, and to the harsh reality of the Antarctic.