At Mawson, bright green auroras light up the sky like fireworks, majestic emperor penguins are observed and, we learn how vital technology is to daily life and work in Antarctica.

Life on station

It has been a relatively quiet couple of days at Mawson, with not much outdoor activity possible due to winds between 60–90 knots on several days. This provided a good opportunity to get some inside jobs done, including working on end-of-month reports and compiling lists of required items for delivery on voyage one (when the ship travels from Australia to Antarctica to resupply the stations).

Some decent weather last week allowed our station training officer to conduct some abseiling training out on West Arm. Some great skills were learned and some fears of heights were justified while hanging by a rope thirty metres above the hard sea ice. Some good laughs were had when the anchor rating system of one to ten was replaced with ‘Would you hang an electrician off of that or just a plumber?'. Pictured below is an electrician cautiously lowering himself over the edge. After the exercise was over, a couple of expeditioners returned to station via the Mawson sign on the station mountain bikes.

Last weekend our much loved warehousing officer graciously conducted a trip out to Auster Rookery to visit the emperor penguin colony. Auster Rookery is approached from Macey Island, where the hut is located about ten kilometres away, passing for the last five kilometres or so through hundreds of huge, closely packed icebergs, grounded on the Storegg Bank. The sea ice here looks like it is multi-year ice, locked in through the summer by the grounded bergs, and the rookery itself is dirty enough to make us think that it is the same ice surface as used last year. The ice was smooth and trouble free all the way from Mawson, including the last part from Macey Island to Auster. Passing through the grounded bergs, the effect is like driving along the streets and alleyways of a fantastic city. You feel as though there should be street signs around, and taking “the first turn on the left, third on the right…” as you approach the rookery location, using a GPS recorded ‘best track’ around known areas of rafted and jumbled ice.

We are seeing great auroras at Mawson at the moment, and the best ones seem to be around 0200–0300. So the keen aurora photographers are up and about at all hours of the night to capture that one special shot. Below is a lovely aurora shot, taken at Béchervaise Island.

While this edition of the news was being completed, it can be speculated with reasonable statistical analysis that some folk retired to their rooms and their hobbies, some to the pool table, some to the bar, and some to the cinema. So there you have it, another week at Mawson.

Life in comms

This is my third winter in Antarctica with the telecommunication section (comms) and I still love it.

There are two of us here at Mawson, known locally as the ‘Comm’s Guys', and we provide hands-on support for the various equipment types.

Just some of the gear we are responsible for includes:

  • VHF Marine Band Two way radio
  • Satellite data link (ANARESAT)
  • Radar units in the Hägglunds
  • Portable GPS
  • Iridium Satellite phones
  • Station Servers
  • IT support to expeditioners
  • IP Network and Switches
  • FM radio (ICY FM)
  • Station and Field HF radios
  • Solar Battery charging systems
  • Station Audio / Video equipment
  • Phones and Paging
  • Antennas and feeders

We also perform daily ARPANSA and weekly geomagnetic readings, and periodic maintenance of remote penguin cameras and weather stations.

The best thing about the job is there is something different every week to keep us occupied. I have inlcdued several photographs below that show the varied work we do.