The morning colors of the Antarctic plus Mawson station gets hit with World Cup fever!

The morning colors of the Antarctic

About eight months ago I was sitting on my veranda listening to the cockatoos and crows talking to each other — or maybe it was arguing, who know? It was about 42°C and I had sweat dripping down my arm. I was sitting there thinking of the journey I was about to undertake to get to Antarctica. I had a house to pack up and load into a shipping container, a long drive from outback Queensland and a trip on a ferry to Tasmania,  an estimated 2,895kms with a few detours and all the scenery in between. Outback Queensland was pretty dry and dusty for this time of year so the landscape was a mix of brown hues with the olive green of the gum trees. We had the occasional downpour which would make the dead grass spring to life so there would be fluoro green patches that would stick out against the arid backdrop.

The drive down from Outback Queensland was a different story as you went further down the coast and crossed the borders. The scenery was alive with all the shades of green imaginable. Some of the sprawling mountainsides were cover in yellow flowers, a stark contrast to the dusty dry of Dysart. It was on this drive I started to think about the lack of vegetation in Antarctica. I knew that there would be lots of snow, sea ice and huge mountains that we can see off in the distance, but nothing green and lush like newly emerging grass. Boy how I was wrong! I must admit there is no greenery (except for the plastic plants in the red shed, as natural as they look) but the Antarctic more than makes up for that.

The sun isn’t getting up till around 10am down here at the moment so your walk to work is in the dark. Some mornings you're greeted with an Aurora that is a pale, milky green that is mesmerising to see and often stops you in your tracks. The sky is a deep inky blue, a backdrop to the stars that are many different colours. There are bright white ones, pale pink ones, red ones, some with a yellowy-orange tinge and pale blue ones that look amazing sitting up there twinkling away.

Then the real light show starts. Now it may just be the lack of vegetation that makes these colours stand out to me, but what I have seen at 0930 in the morning is that inky blue sky start to lighten across the back of the glaciers. There is a chocolate hue that indicates that the sun is on its way which blends into a deep burnt orange. This gets lighter and blends into a orangy-mauve that slowly turns pink. This pink colour is intoxicating as it seems to ooze over the glaciers and mountain ranges like a thick blanket of pink air — I never knew what mum meant about looking through rose coloured glasses, but she must of meant this) — because the sun is slowly waking up the glaciers. They become visible and are this intense light blue with white snow filled cracks that sit up against the pink backdrop of the sky. It is breathtaking to see.

Above the thick blanket of pink the sky is starting to turn a shade of orange. This orange gets lighter as it goes up into the sky and blends into the blue above it. When the sun is nearly about to come above the horizon the pink slowly fades out to this rich orange and in the middle is intense light orange — nearly bright yellow. This is where the sun will make its grand entrance. She comes above the horizon line in this explosion of orange, red and yellow. I just can’t find the words to describe it but I recommended that you don’t look at it. The sky is now a pale orange-yellow and the sun is up for now. I just looked out the window and it’s 12:45pm, the sun is already going through the motions of setting, the landscape is thick in the intoxicating glow of the pinky-orange, the glaciers and mountains are saying goodbye to another few hours of sunlight, and so am I.

On another note I was fortunate (after a lot of nagging and begging) to go out on a trip to Auster rookery. We headed off on Saturday morning at about 0900 (again I saw the amazing colours of an Antarctic sunrise). There were six of us in two Hägglunds and it was a bumpy sastrugi snow field drive out to Macey Island, which would be calling home for the next two nights. Upon arrival it was decided that we should drive a further hour to the rookery to see the penguins and take photos in the amazing light. By that time the sun was starting to set.

So we drove out and parked the Hägglunds. On our arrival, the inquisitive emperor penguins were already on the march over to see us. The comment was made that they were coming over to check out our ride because four of them just walked on by and straight up to the Hägglunds. We were greeted by another few that came right up to us. They are quite a big bird - it’s a bit intimidating how close they would come to you, but to see them was just an amazing experience. We are the lucky few. Now I’m sure that there will be an onslaught of station news stories about the trips out to the rookery because another group is set to leave tomorrow, bound for Auster.

So this is where I'll bid you all a fond farewell  - until the next story, stay safe.

Lydia Jean Dobromilsky

World Cup fever hits Mawson research station

With the World Cup kicking off in Brazil, the Mawsonites, ever keen for an opportunity to celebrate, thought they should start their celebrations with a South American themed fiesta. Rocket, our chef, worked up a treat and served up pea, broad bean, egg and anchovy salad; calamari stuffed with prawn & salmon, poached in smoke paprika, tomato sauce; shredded lemon roasted chicken with tomato, lentil sauce; trevalla slices marinated in lemon juice, olive oil and capers; chorizo sausage with black eye beans and capsicum; azado — Argentine dish of grilled meats; chicken & prawn paella; Haricot dip with olive bread; and a plate of cheese with marinated condiments. Jose made sangria, a traditional punch from Spain. It was amazing! Well done Rocket and to the slushy that helped him. Oh, that was probably me?

Our comms guys worked their magic and pre-recorded Australia’s first game against Chile whilst the rest of us avoided newspapers, Facebook, telephone calls from home and emails so as to not spoil our delayed telecast. The Germans may have Paul the Octopus and I hear the Chinese have a group of baby pandas, Brazil have a loggerhead turtle named Big Head and Australia Zoo have Flopsy aka Predictaroo the Kangaroo, all predicting the results of World Cup games, but here at Mawson we have Dom the Decider (affectionately known as, Dom ‘the very unattractive stuffed toy’). With big shoes to fill and a very uncompromising team of expeditioners watching his every prediction, Dom ‘the very unattractive stuffed toy’ has predicted Australia to rein supreme over Chile.

So it wasn’t until the evening after the game that we had an opportunity to sit and watch our delayed telecast. Apart from the opening 20 minutes, when we were all very quiet, the Socceroos played well and can hold their heads high. Dom ‘the very unattractive stuffed toy’ got off to a poor start and I hope for his sake that he gets it right for game two!

With the disappointment of the loss behind us we turned to the foosball table for our own World Cup, Mawson style. This brought about many laughs and a few jeers, and fun was had by all.

Recently we ventured out onto the sea ice where we split into two teams. The orange coats aka the tradies in their orange reflective shirts, aka The Netherlands versus The Onesies aka The Socceroos. I would like to report the game was played in good spirits but I’m not so sure. By half time it was clear the tradies ought to try out for the Australian Olympic Diving Team as they were very good at taking ‘dives’! Things didn’t improve after the break with the tradies subbing in their secret weapon, ‘Curly’. He braved the cold conditions and donned his beloved Essendon Bombers jumper and shorts. Whilst he was touted as their secret weapon, I’m not so sure Curly knew this as his ball passing abilities made it unclear what side he was actually on!? 

Shortly before full time the game fell apart and it was hard to determine if it was a game of soccer or a theatre production with almost everyone on the ice going down and screaming for a foul. A lot of good fun was had by all.


Dom ‘the very unattractive stuffed toy’ has boldly predicted Australia over The Netherlands. If he is wrong, by the time you read this story, Dom ‘the very unattractive stuffed toy’ may well be taking the plunge during our midwinter swim.

Steve Robertson