Change of seasons and secondary jobs on station.

Most days, it still feels like winter

Back home it is springtime but apart from the days getting back to a normal amount of daylight there aren’t the normal cues to the arrival of spring. Some Weddell seals have climbed out of their holes in the sea ice to sleep in the sunshine on wind free days but it is still too early for the Adelie penguins and sea birds yet. Still, something unusual turns up or you get to see the every day things in a different light to keep the photographers happy.

Recently we had some stratospheric cloud light up after sunset. They only occur in polar regions and are clouds 50–80 kilometres high that reflect light from the sun when it is well below the horizon.

When the wind blows over 40 kilometres an hour (which is quite often here) the snow starts to drift over the ground. From the comfort of a lounge chair in the red shed (accommodation) it can be quite hypnotic to watch sinuous streams drifting around and over all obstacles in their way from the plateau to islands. Of course the spell is broken if the wind exceeds 70 kilometres an hour and it becomes a white out. On the downwind side of any obstacle a little snow starts to accumulate and before you know it it has grown to gigantic proportions and buried everything in its path.​

Some may look back nostalgically on the long nights of midwinter but everyone is getting excited by the return of the sun and looking forward to the return of the wildlife. It is shaping up to a busy season ahead. 

Secondary duties

Part of coming down south involves living in a small community and like all communities there are jobs that need to be done that back home you wouldn’t think twice about. These include hairdressing/stylist, flag master, postmaster, librarian and brewer. These are not all the additional jobs but the list is simply too long.

Before our team came down to Mawson we selected what secondary task we would like to take on, as some people had knowledge and experience from previous trips down south or they weren’t present at the time of selection and they got lumped with a job (sorry JB).

Like all jobs some require more work than others and as the station brew master Trev is dedicated to keeping the station socially lubricated with a diverse range of ‘Crews Brews'. The list ranges from mango beer to ‘Hoptimus Prime’ with a favourite of mine being the lime and coriander. At the time of bottling a larger batch, Trev recruits some helpers and this turns into quite a social event involving a large part of the station. As Trev would say, “Cheers and beers”.

Linc, our weather observer, demanded the job of flag master. This involves raising the Australian and sometimes New Zealand (we do have one Kiwi plumber) flags, mostly to commemorate the few brave expeditioners that didn’t come home. This however poses its own inherent problems as trying to raise a flag at −15°C in 70 knot winds can result in some complications.

Kate and Linc share the hairdressing/stylist role on station and I must confess having either a doctor or a weather observer cut my hair made me somewhat nervous but the results have always been good.

Paul, our SMS (senior mechanical supervisor), claimed the role of station photographer. Paul is normally called upon during events and celebrations to document our year on and off station. However, it always pays to have a camera ready as there is always a moment to capture wherever you are.

John, our FTO (field training officer), was given the role of Librarian. In this role he maintains the library of books, magazines and ebooks, and also makes recommendations for new books to be purchased and sent down to station. As there are quite a few avid readers, John is always at hand to recommend a good book.

I chose the postmaster job which is very quiet most of the year but busy at resupply with a lot of letters from philatelists wishing for the letters to be cancelled and sent home to add to their collection. Before departing, there was training at the post office in Kingston, Tasmania as the post office at Mawson station is an official Australian General Post Office.

So the next time you buy a book of stamps, get a book from the library, have your haircut or see a flag at half-mast remember someone at Mawson station is doing the same.

Robbie Baker