Awesome birthday cakes, fire and emergency rescue training and expeditioners ‘needled’ into supporting our surgical team training were the highlights this week at Mawson.

Emergency response exercises

Fire training at Mawson station

As if we didn’t have enough ice on station, the Mawson fire team decided to make a little more. About three tonnes of extra ice was added to the existing station allocation that nature would normally provide us.

We aim to have a fire training exercise every month and this time we mobilised our fire Hägglunds and the entire fire team — that’s basically all 15 of us — as we may need everyone on deck should there be any threatening fire. Under the direction of our fire chief, Trent, we rolled out hoses, connected our fire pump to the station fire hydrants and squirted large quantities of water at high pressure onto an imaginary fire that we hope will never happen in reality.

Even though the wind speed was down and the sun was out, it was still minus 12 outside and our ‘fire fighting water’ soon turned to ice within seconds on the ground. Nearly all of it was deposited in an area of snow where no-one usually goes, as we knew the inherent dangers of slipping on ice around station. Making more ice in this way is something we usually don’t encourage!

Our fire exercise taught us the many difficulties we face when fighting fire in Antarctica. Our extinguishing water must be kept moving at all times, otherwise it will freeze. Dealing with all the fire equipment and metal fittings at −12 degrees was challenging enough but this would be worse when temperatures drop further paired with regular katabatic wind.

Hence, there is considerable emphasis here for fire prevention and monitoring so that we can avoid any serious fire incident that would inevitably devastate our winter, like it did here in 1959 when the main power house burned to the ground. (Below: refer to J Bechervaise picture)

Staying safe with Rescue Alive

An interesting piece of safety equipment arrived here at Mawson on resupply. This is our ‘Rescue Alive’ sled for sea ice and water rescue. Essentially this is a combined ice sled and highly buoyant water craft that can be used to rescue someone who has fallen through sea ice or is floating in sea water. By the way, the sea temperature here is usually close to freezing at around −1.9 degrees C.

The following pictures tell the story of our rescue exercise early in the week where Chris (in the water) was ‘rescued’ by Peter L. using the Rescue Alive sled on the sea ice.

The exercise went extremely well with many on station giving it a try, all wearing dry-suits and appropriate safety equipment. At the same time, the newly formed sea ice in Horseshoe harbour was measured at around 100mm.

Expeditioners get needled into training support

Most people back home think that those of us who chose to spend a winter down here are just on one big holiday. Fair enough — the pictures we send home do give that impression — but there is a fair bit of work and training that goes on along with all of that.

Some of that training involves the Doc making sure our LSAs (lay surgical assistants) haven’t forgotten some of what they were taught in Hobart. The downside of this is some of us get volunteered to help our nurses with their training. The pictures say it all.

Happy Easter from Mawson, stay safe and have a fantastic long weekend.


Awesome Mawson birthday cakes

The station news comes around almost as quickly as birthdays down this end of the world — three in a week! This put quite a strain on our Earth Hour candle supplies, which were used to adorn some very exotic cakes prepared by master chef Justin “Heston” Chambers and lovingly created to reflect each expeditioner’s character.

First was Jeremy’s very tasty CAT excavator - a natural choice for the bearded Digger guru of Mawson town.

Next was Chris’s, aka “Pepe”: an amazing farmyard creation involving sheep and a New Zealand skunk — almost a nativity scene and quite surreal.

Capping off the week of birthday celebrations was Lloyd’s mouth watering cake: a psychedelic submarine reminiscent of his youth and wild “Sgt Pepper’s” times. One could almost hear the words “Coo Coo Ca Choo”.

In all, another great week at Mawson.