Power and wind rule at Mawson station this week.

The Mawson MPH

To me the main power house, or MPH as it is commonly referred to, is a critical part of life down here. Without it the winter would be long and very cold. Regular maintenance and observations are conducted by the diesel mechanics and electricians to help keep it running smoothly. Checks are done every 12 hours and are taken in turn by each person doing one week every four. The time between these checks has increased over the years with the upgrading of equipment and improved reliability as at one stage they were conducted every three to four hours.

There are stories from previous years when the reliability was not so great and some people spent most of their time in the MPH restarting the generators so often that they would spend the night there rather than walk back to the sleeping quarters. This could have led to many ‘Antarctic dramas’ but somehow they were able to “Keep calm and carry on”.

Luckily this is something that is no longer the case and we have had a good run this season with nothing too major breaking. In saying that, Mawson station is run a little differently from the other stations as most of our power is produced by wind turbines and the diesel generators are used mainly when there is insufficient wind, an occurrence that rarely happens at Mawson station.

The change of seasons

Over the past few weeks the change of seasons has really become noticeable here at Mawson station. With the days are currently getting longer by about eight minutes we are starting to see a lot more sunlight here. The temperatures are also rising noticeably. Last week we had a day with a maximum temperature of −3.5°C. This is the warmest temperature we have had in nearly five months.

As well as experiencing warmer temperatures last week, we also had our first blizzard in over seven weeks. It is unusual for Mawson station to experience such a gap between blizzards at this time of year. We also recently had a period of nearly seven weeks without snow falling.

As has been mentioned in previous articles, Mawson is a very windy place. We have had an average of four days a week with gale force winds or stronger since our arrival earlier this year. Although we are still getting quite a lot of wind, which is likely to continue throughout the year, we are starting to regularly get days where the wind drops off for a few hours in the afternoon. This is a welcome change.

The warmer weather along with the lack of snowfall and blizzards has meant that the blizz tails — the accumulation of snow on the leeward side of buildings and other obstacles — around station are now beginning to melt and shrink at a noticeable rate.

Despite all of the melting snow, the local sea ice is still near its maximum thickness. The program of regular drilling to check the thickness of the sea ice near station shows that it is still over 1.6 meters thick.

As far as getting out and about away from station goes, at the moment we are experiencing the best of both worlds, with the weather getting a bit more comfortable and the sea ice still being in very good condition for travelling on.

The amount of wildlife around station is starting to increase at the moment. Penguins have started to arrive at the islands nearby and there have been a lot more sightings of birdlife recently.

A program for counting the number of penguins arriving at Bechervaise Island began last week. Expeditioners head across to the island to count the number of penguins every second day.