The Mawson trades team spring into action, the rainbow of Hägglunds is celebrated and more on Mawson hydroponics.

The Mawson trades team spring into action

With all the hard work and effort that has gone into conserving fuel on station, it was heartbreaking to learn the melt bell had sprung a leak. Not to fear though as the tradies themselves sprung into action, and within a day of identifying the issue it was fixed. Well done guys! This might elevate you to superhero status? Just behind Station Leader Steve!

The melt bell

The melt bell is the ingenious plumbing device which allows us to have water on tap here at Mawson.Last week in the middle of the night an alarm came through to the on-call plumber suggesting that there was a problem with the melt bell water circuit. Precautions were put in put in place and the alarm was investigated to find that there was a split in one of the flexible hoses that comes up from the bell. As we have a good few days supply of drinking water and more again for fire fighting, preparations were made, parts and equipment were gathered and an assessment of risks was performed. It was decided by the diligent trades department that the repair job would be performed the following day, a Saturday.

The melt bell and its circuit consist of a standard bore pump installed into a sealed bell-like case that has a check valve on the bottom of it. The circuit is coupled to a heat exchanger, the circuit is primed and the bell’s bore pump is run. There is a draw off valve on this circuit which is operated by the plumbers to transfer water out of the circuit to fill our storage tanks. The bell is installed in a hole in the ice out on the plateau and warm water is circulated, thus melting out the hole and forming a well. When the plumbers draw water off from this circuit the check valve in the bottom of the bell operates and water in the circuit is replenished.

In the photos below, you will notice that the well is almost frozen over from where the split hose was spraying. It is to be noted that the melt bell is a dangerous place and Lassie is no longer here.

The brave men who performed these repairs are highly trained professionals who have assessed all of the risks and put adequate precautions in place. This type of repair should not be attempted at home.

Dan Suttle

Hägglunds 101

The ‘Mawsonites’ unleashed their inner rev head and took to the Mawson smarties (multi-coloured Hägglunds) to show Jens and Jose (the two diesos on station) that they are worthy of a ticket to drive. I am pleased to report that no-one was injured in the making of this story!

Hägglunds training

A few weeks ago we made the most of a break in the weather and took this as an opportunity for Hägglunds training around station. All drivers need to be capable of using these vehicles in various conditions so a training course was set up by the ‘Diesology’ department at Mawson. Additionally, the vehicles carry GPS and Radar equipment to allow navigation in the worst conditions as well as VHF /HF radios for communication.

The Hägglunds (Bv206 as it is officially known) is a versatile, amphibious tracked vehicle used by the Swedish army. Its versatility enables it to successfully negotiate difficult terrain, including ice and snow. Antarctic operations rely on them more than any other means of transport and they have been used in Antarctica by the Australian Antarctic Division since 1983. They are typically used within medium range (<150km) of Casey, Davis and Mawson stations. Each station also has a dedicated fire Hägglunds.

The Australian Antarctic Division in Kingston, Tasmania rebuild one or two each year to suit the Division’s requirements, before they are put into service.

They even come in different colours.

Andy Burgess

Mawson hydroponics up and running

The team continue to let their green thumbs run wild in the hydroponics producing some clean, green Antarctic veg.

The grass is always greener

The concept of being able to grow something green and edible in Antarctica has always intrigued me since starting my journey south. I wasn’t one of the lucky early birds to get their name on the list as hydroponics extraordinaire (I think I had my head in a snow pit analysing snow crystals and being assessed for eight days while hydroponics training happened) so I was a late comer to whole the thing. Nevertheless I tagged along with Dr James (hydroponics extraordinaire) and learned a few things. 

Being able to spend time in a warm building with humidity and green growing vegetables and herbs herbs is enough to persuade me to get involved. For me, it’s an opportunity to escape Antarctica for a hour or so and put my hands into, hmm, not soil but a Perlite/Vermiculite combo.

Our hydroponics building is a separate building a mere 20 metres from the red shed (living and dining room building). It’s kinda just like your own veggie garden back home — just out the back door — but you need to dress up to head out into the −20°C temps, to only remove layers as you head into the 17°C greenhouse. What a treat!

Waiting to greet you through the door is about 12 tomato plants around 30cm tall, ten snow pea plants starting to climb up the netting, some dill and parsley in the herb corner, and over in the other section is the lovely green leafy varieties of bok choy, rocket and lettuce. James first planted the first lot of seedlings around four weeks ago and of these, the bok choy and rocket has just had their first harvest, weighing in around 590 grams of produce!

There is a range of seeds that were sent down south, a good variety of herbs, radish, carrots, cucumbers, capsicums, chillies and celery to name a few. 

So, with a new found passion on station, I’m planning on heading out to the greenhouse tonight to plant a few seeds of basil, bok choy, parsley and mint — the vision being to create a herb garden!  

Heidi Godfrey