A collection of beautiful photos highlight what’s new at Mawson this week.

What’s new at Mawson?

The region around Mawson Station has changed significantly since the Winter Crew arrived here in March of this year. One of the most obvious differences is the almost constant daylight we now experience. The twilight period between around 10pm and 2am often brings beautiful orange skies over the back of the station towards the plateau and equally impressive pink and blue skies over the sea ice. Also, in the sky are many more cumulus clouds which are reminiscent, to me at least, of clouds at home. The warmth of the sun is melting the ice and there is now regular relief from the strong winds. Gloves can be removed outside without rapidly developing painful fingers and the threat of said gloves being blown away to Bechervaise Island!

On Bechervaise Island, as at Macey, the Adèlie penguins have returned in their thousands and occasionally one or two wander over to the station for a visit. Hours can be spent watching them as they meticulously select that perfect pebble to add to their nest (providing an ideal opportunity for their neighbour to then steal a pebble from their unattended nest and in turn for another bird to steal one from the thief’s nest). Eggs are starting to appear and the ever present skuas are increasing their overhead surveillance, much to the dismay of the vigilant Adèlies. Meanwhile, over at Auster Rookery the emperor penguin chicks are growing larger and stronger every day. There are now also plentiful Weddell seals and their pups to be seen along the coast en route to Auster.

Aside from the countless snow petrels overhead at Mawson station, a rare sight in the skies here is: The Basler. A recent sighting of The Basler at Mawson coincided with the appearance of two AGSOs (Jenn and Lance) and I am pleased to say they are a much welcome breath of fresh air to Mawson station, even when one of them accidentally sits in a certain someone’s chair!

Alas, I now eagerly turn my attention to the Mawson sky in anticipation of spotting a ‘Twatter'. As I learn once more that it is not going happen today, I look around at all the marvels surrounding me, shrug my shoulders and resign myself to one more day in The Hotel California…

Getting a caning on the plateau

Here at Mawson the Framnes Mountains are always in our view. Access to this area is via several routes up on the plateau. Gaining access up to these areas involves several things to happen. Firstly, you need a reason to go there whether for recreation or work, then a reasonably good weather forecast, a mode of transport, a secondary form of back up communication, an appropriate group of friends of personnel to achieve what your outcomes are, and then finally this all needs to be given approval from the station leader.

My season is coming to an end and to be marked by a plane landing on our ‘runway’ — easier said than done! So there’s no point in sitting around waiting — time to get a few more jobs done, and what better place than in the mountains working.

The routes up on the plateau are navigated by using a GPS unit with a series of waypoints that make up around 12 different route options, names such as GWMHEN, GWMRUM, and RUMFAN are familiar sites on the intentions board. These routes provide an area to travel that has been identified as a low risk, but hazards still exist.

Along these routes, bamboo canes are placed at junctions or corners and are spaced far enough apart that you can see the next cane on a rise or just over it. The idea is not to have a bamboo forest growing, and that it becomes a full time job replacing canes after every decent wind event (we don’t have a bamboo forest growing to replace the canes.) So with time in credit I put out a radio call for keen cane liners to register their interest in the limited spaces available for such a glamorous job. The lucky callers were Chris, Aidan and I.

Once armed with drills, spare batteries, chargers and a reciprocating saw we headed up on to the plateau. Over a two day period we cut off all the quad tire piercing ‘stubbings’, cut old canes, drilled new ones in and picked up very old canes randomly blowing places. Sounds very glamorous, I am sure, from where you are sitting but realistically, you're in and out of a vehicle, cutting canes and drilling holes for six to eight hours, and then comes the cleanup of the canes at the station end.

The reward for Chris and Aidan was dinner cooked for them at Henderson and Fang hut (the respective end of the cane line) and the satisfaction of being able to drive back along the routes with upright canes, the old canes removed and general tidiness of the route notable. For me it was a job on the field trainers work plan that I was keen to get done and also a huge amount of satisfaction to have the place look tidy and well marked. We completed the GWMHEN-GWMRUM-HENRUM-RUMFAN routes — a total of around 60 km that was maintained over two days.

So a big thanks to Chris and Aidan for your help with caning, love your work and enthusiasm and dedication to straight canes, blunt stubs and minimising the bamboo forest!