This week John takes us back through the decades at Mawson with excerts from the station logs and Ash tells the tale of a mercy dash to retrieve yoghurt mix from Bechervaise Island (oh yeh and our biologists who have been there since Christmas)

Looking back

Mawson Station was established in February 1954. The original Station Leader logs are kept in the Operations building at Mawson and detail the day to day running of the station over the past 60 years. The following extracts, all written on February 28 across the decades from 1954, are taken from these logs.


28/2  3 knots, S. Trace cirrus, temp min 17.7 F, max 22.2 F, Barometer 29.309 ins.

Ice conditions: no change except for longer lead of open water.

Today has been treated as much as possible as a day of rest. This has included a sleep in during the morning and a general washing of clothes and bodies. For the latter two stoves, the Hoover washing machine and the bath were installed in No 2 Store and the camp washing done by three men: Dovers, Schwartz and Summers. Power was supplied by the 5KVA as a temporary installation.

The AR5 was placed on AC supply for radio liaison but blew a fuse. Macey and Storer worked on this and repaired the damage. Storer’s amateur radio installation was assembled as a reserve.

Dingle completed the fitting out of the met screen with all instruments and installed the barograph in the works hut.

I have placed two kerosene primuses in the Kitchen to ease the use of gas.

A brilliant aurora overhead at midnight.


28/2  Weather: overcast and windy, still up to 60 knots.

All available hands to unpacking. John Beck, Ed Lawson and self carried out inspection of caravans.

At 1145 a call from a Russian aircraft seemed to indicate a refuelling stop. Took off with the Snowtrac and VW. Almost up ice slope, Snowtrac wrecked a clutch plate. I returned to station in VW and Vic said they had decided to carry on over Mawson. Recalled Snowtrac by radio and Ed Lawson managed to get it back OK.

Norm Cardell’s birthday. Gave him a party.


28/2  After yesterday’s blizz all but one aerial is U/S. The ice loading from sea spray, plus passing bergy bits sailing between East Arm and Hump Island cause havoc. The radio techs will be pleased to see East Bay freeze.

Everywhere people are busy rearranging things — there is a giant cleanup underway in the dieso’s department. Inspected the IPSO building this afternoon. It’s in a terrible state; its foundations and guying are appalling.


28/2  Weather today: windy, temp approx −3C

I received a call from Ian Marchant re our SAB stocks and he agreed to get the Nella to pick up some 80,000 litres from Davis, my main concern being to have no restriction on the building program and not to have to use any ATK. Spoke again to Director Jim Bleasel and to John Whitelaw re the probability that the Nanok S had not in fact lost as much fuel as reported. No conclusions reached.

Ray Mitchell, Ted M’croft and myself conferred and agreed that the total station power load is reaching a critical stage and that our Gen Sets are barely up to the task.

Fitness testing by Lynn Williams continued today.

Winds were too strong for Nanok to manoeuvre safely, nobody came ashore until 1:00pm, and she did not leave until 7:00pm after we used a 950 as a hauling bollard, in the RTA dump area, so that she could swing her bow to the East and safely move out of the harbour.


28/2  Max temp 6.9C, min temp 14.2C, wind from the East, max gust 37 knots.

Davis people ashore after lunch. VL spoke to all Mawson expeditioners at 1:30pm about behaviour on Icebird and expectations. Chris Morrison took 4 Larcies onto the plateau after lunch. Tidying up, still a hive of activity. Station Leader taking photos of sea containers used for food storage. EPH guys still hard at it with converting the station load onto the EPH. Fire alarm in the morning with the loss of power. Made life interesting with the raising of the EVS door, no alarm in the Old Station and the loss of the repeater and Channel 7. Backloading of the last couple of E containers, cage pallets and WOV container. All Davis personnel back to the ship at 5:00pm. Showed the Captain and the VL around the husky display. After dinner presented Mal Stewart, LARC Captain, with a gift which was reciprocated. I followed this by a presentation to the Captain of the “Icebird” of a book. The captain gave me a bottle of Glenfiddich for the cold winter months. I thanked everyone for the summer and one of the Davis expeditioners thanked us all for our hospitality and then it was everyone out to the ship. All were aboard by 9:30pm and so endeth the summer.



Windy and cold all day, reached 50 knots early this afternoon. The AA sailed from Casey last night, heading for Macquarie Island with Jane Golding, our favourite weather forecaster aboard. We’ve still got event-specific forecasts on request and with notice, but from Hobart or Melbourne.

Wally finished the air-inlet flue on the MPH this afternoon in bitter conditions. The load testing has not been satisfactorily completed — one engine is refusing to take load to specification. PI will continue investigations tomorrow. The EPH hasn’t been trouble free either, with one of the engines there not doing its full share of the work. I feel sincerely sorry for Don and all the tradies who’ve worked so hard and such long hours in the MPH this week — and dealt with a string of emerging problems.

The Mess chairs were steam cleaned for Station Duties, also the helipad mats straightened out and weighed down. Next week we need to sort out all the rotten potatoes.

Lovely relaxed evening meal — a mixed grill “buffet” on the pool table, with your choice of lemon meringue pie or custard tart.

Retrieving yoghurt and biologists

With the news that we lucky intrepid expeditioners here at Mawson will have some extra time to enjoy this unique part of the world still sinking in for some people on station, we awoke last Wednesday morning to the sight of Horseshoe Harbour finally clear of its ice, opening access to our small patch of open water that has been gradually increasing in size over the last week.

As expeditioners slowly gathered in the mess, the morning conversation turned towards the possibility of mounting an audacious operation to recover the yogurt mix that was still on Bechervaise Island and while we were out there also picking up the two bird biologists that have been living on the island since just after Christmas.

Talk soon turned into action and the boats where retrieved from their place of hibernation and were loaded and made ready for the peril-less journey across the strait. With all the preparation complete, the adventurous souls that had been selected to undertake this great adventure waited for the wind to drop off and as fortune has it a spot of lunch. So finally, with the boats prepped, crew feed and winds abated three boats where launched into the harbour and set out in search of clear passage around the island to the camp site on the Beche. Unfortunately the winds had not cleared all the channels between the islands and it was decided that it would be quicker to land on the southern side and go overland to recover the precious cargo.

After trekking across the desolate expanse of the island, the shore party arrived at the camp site to be greeted by the Ladies of Beche. Due to the overland approach the yogurt regrettably had to be left behind and so after returning to the other side of the island the boats loaded we returned to station. On arrival back at station the cargo was transferred ashore and the decision was made to take advantage of the opportunity to assist the Bio’s in some additional field work on two of the other accessible islands while the weather was still agreeable and so off we headed again for an enjoyable evening on the water all in the name of science.

We had not forgotten about the unfulfilled goal of the previous day’s activities and Thursday afternoon presented another perfect opportunity for the retrieval of the precious yogurt mix as well as a few scientific samples that were also left behind. So once again the boats set out toward Bechervaise in search of a clear channel around the island. This time the crews were able to navigate a clear path and the supply of yogurt mix was recovered along with a number of flour bins that contained all the samples collected over the previous weeks by the hard working team of the island.

With the successful completion of the recovery effort, the team then spent some time exploring our small accessible patch of water.