Bechervaise Island, three kilometres north of Mawson station, is home to thousands of Adélie penguins during the Antarctic summer when they come ashore to breed.
There has been an ongoing Adélie penguin monitoring program on Bechervaise for many years and each summer two scientists spend 3–4 months working on the island.
During November and December, when the sea ice is solid enough for travel in Hägglunds and on quad bikes, the scientists live on station and do day trips out to Bechervaise. Around Christmas time travel across the sea ice becomes impossible and the scientists live on the island until retrieval by helicopter or IRB (inflatable rubber boat), when the resupply vessel arrives in mid-February.
For the science work to be done safely and efficiently the accommodation needs to be secure, well-equipped and comfortable. One of the projects currently being undertaken by personnel at Mawson is the replacement of an old “Apple” fibreglass hut with a new “Melon” — the names give an idea of the relative shapes of the huts. The work needs to be done during the winter when there are no penguins on the island — a challenging task with cold temperatures, strong winds and limited daylight hours.
Over several calmer days during July and August the old Apple has been towed back to station, the wooden platform for the Melon to sit on has been constructed and anchors have been placed. A day with very light winds is now required to take the new hut (currently loaded in pieces in a Hägglunds trailer) out to Bechervaise, bolt all the panels together and secure the hut to the anchors. Hopefully this will take place in the next couple of weeks (watch out for Part 2).