Field huts and a Russian aircraft.The field huts at Macey Island are explored and the vintage wreckage of a Russian aircraft helps expeditioners learn how to navigate crevasses.

Macey Island huts

At Mawson, as at all Australian Antarctic Division stations, a number of huts are located in the field to support travel, and science programs. At Macey Island, approximately 45 kilometres east of Mawson, are two huts. Macey Island is named after Lem E Macey, Officer in Charge at Mawson in 1971. The primary hut is called Rogers Lodge and records show that the first structure was placed on Macey Island in 1971 for use as a survey station. The present hut was made by Freighter Industries in Moorabbin, Victoria. The building is of steel construction and appears to be designed and built as a freight container for a 1950’s vintage truck or rail wagon. 

The hut at Macey accommodates four and has heating, cooking facilities and 24/240 volt power. The apple hut (real name: Igloo satellite cabins), is a light-weight field shelter that is hemispherical in shape and predominantly red in colour, hence the name ‘apple'. The apple hut at Macey Island is mounted on a sled for ease of relocation but it can also be under-slung by a helicopter if required. This apple can accommodates three and is heated.

Apart from the spectacular scenery around Macey Island, the real draw card for this hut is the nearby emperor penguin colony at Auster. The colony was discovered in 1957 by Flying Officer D Johnston piloting an Auster aircraft operating from Mawson, hence the site’s name. From approximately this time each year, Adélie penguins will return to Macey Island — an added bonus.

Russian aircraft

This week our field training officer John has been very busy taking groups of expeditioners out to visit the wreckage of a Russian aircraft. The plane and its Russian crew were visiting Mawson in 1968 and had landed near Rumdoodle. During take off, it was caught by a gust of wind and sustained significant damage, grounding the plane for good. The Russian crew stayed at Mawson overnight before being picked up by another plane from their station. The damaged plane was taken to its current position by a blizzard, as well as movement of the ice on the plateau over the ensuing years.

The remains of the aircraft, a Lisunov Li-2T, lie in a crevasse field. Visiting the aircraft allows us to learn and practice crevasse travel, a skill that is needed by the search and rescue team. John led each group, which consisted of two other expeditioners all roped together. It was a great chance for us to practice our knot tying skills, probe for crevasses and practice walking with crampons. The very interesting history of the site added to the fantastic day out!