Part three of the Taylor Glacier trip, the art of brewing masterful ales and ciders using pristine Antarctic water, and a guide to field hut etiquette from Mawson station.

Trip to the Taylor penguin rookery: part III

This story is continued from last week.

Heading west around the end of the Taylor Glacier we were looking at a similar scene to what Douglas Mawson and some of his men saw on 18 February 1931, except they were in an open boat on a moderate to rough sea and we were in Hägglunds on smooth sea ice. Mawson was pressed for time as their ship, Discovery, was running low on coal and Captain Davis was anxious to depart before dark. We were also pressed for time due to midwinter’s lack of daylight.

Eighty-four years ago this lonely beach between two steep hills saw a group of men build a cairn and raise the Union Jack to claim possession for the British Empire. Formalities over three of the party climbed one of the knolls before they returned to the ship and set sail for Hobart, Tasmania. We shared their sentiment in wishing that we had more time to explore the area but we only had time to read a copy of the original proclamation and take some photos, as Frank Hurley had done, before walking back to the Hägglunds. With darkness approaching we turned our ‘ships’ away from the shore and returned to Colbeck hut for our last night.

Next morning we packed up in the dark and departed at 0730 hours because the wind was predicted to increase later in the afternoon. Halfway back, at the tide crack where we had encountered the Weddell seal, the lead Hägg broke a slab of ice that was left bobbing in the middle. Now the crack looked decidedly dodgy for the second Hägglunds to pass so some time was spent searching for a safer crossing.

As daylight gradually returned we were able to view the Casey, David and Masson ranges from a different perspective to what we have become used to. We had to stop for photos when the moon rose from behind Mt Henderson. In the distance looking very tiny and isolated were the wind turbines of Mawson. Home and a hot shower beckoned. 



Well it’s a busy time in the brewery once again as the brewmaster is creating new brews to be sampled. The boutique range of beers is growing and is starting to be aged, ready for Oktoberfest.

Some of the brews this year that have already been sampled are ‘Hoptimus Prime', ‘Black Steam Ale',' Hopinator', ‘Duke of Earl’ and the usual Belgian ales and Munich lagers. These delicious brews were achieved with a special selection of hops brought to station by the brewers. A variety of techniques have been experimented with, the favourites so far being dry hopping directly into the keg (a bag of hops is added to the keg and the flavor develops over time) and the traditional steeping (a tea of hops is made and added to the wort during the brewing). There’s also a great selection of ciders including some lemon and lime, cherry, and pear cider. These have been made with a combination of fruit tisanes, essences and the tinned fruit on station.

Some of the more unusual ingredients have been trialled with great success like a lime, honey and coriander beer and a mango beer. At this time of year, a taste of the Australian summer is a welcome treat.

There is even a selection for the Teetotalers now with a ‘Summertime Blues’ and ‘Duke of Earl’ beer all brewed with you guessed it, tea! (I’m sure that’s what teetotalers means?). 'Summertime Blues' is a wheat beer made with a green and fruit tea infusion. The 'Duke of Earl' is a dark beer with a secret blended Earl Grey tea infusion, creating a smooth and creamy flavour.

Brewing is an activity enjoyed by many on station. Under the guidance of the brewmaster, expeditioners have been able to learn some of the magic that goes into turning pristine Antarctic water, hops and barley into a cleansing ale.

Cheers and beers,

The Mawson Brew Team

Field hut etiquette

Going out on field trips is easily one of the greatest experiences we have the privilege of undertaking whilst in Antarctica. Most of these field trips involve spending nights in field huts and this brings me to the topic of this article, field hut etiquette.

You've just spent a long day in the Antarctic cold, taking endless photos of wildlife, icebergs, glaciers, mountains, etc, and the time has come to call it a day and head to the hut for some warmth, food and comfort.

Hut etiquette 1: Let there be gas

The hut is most often frozen on arrival. To overcome this and get some warmth you need gas to burn. Praise the wonderful gas heaters! This is also an essential ingredient if you plan to do any cooking. There is no worse feeling than arriving at a hut to find the last group used all the gas and didn’t tell anyone. The consequence of such poor hut etiquette is usually appendage removal with a rusty knife (a.k.a. a scolding), or 100 extra Saturday duties depending on who is on the receiving end of a gasless hut!

Hut etiquette 2: Tidiness and water on the stove

You've turned on the gas and made your way inside. The hut should be spotless, beds all made, benches/tables clear of mess, cutlery and crockery put away and there must be a couple of pots, preferably with handles, half full of water (that will be frozen) on the stove. The pots serve two purposes: you use the heat from the stove to warm the hut and the soon boiling water is great for hot drinks, cups of soup or reheating cryo vacced food. Failure in any of these vital tasks demands blizz runs as recompense!

Hut etiquette 3: Toilet time

The hut is now warming nicely, the water has boiled and there are hot drinks for everyone with cheese and crackers being served. Your body is warming up and digestion is in full swing. Soon the call of nature can’t be ignore any longer and you must visit the ‘thunder box'. You should expect the hut to be overstocked with toilet paper, baby wipes (hopeful starting to defrost), baby powder and, most important of all, a new garbage bag. Finding any of these missing will definitely ruin your hut experience. Finding someone else’s waste left behind will cause venting of much harsh language and demand for some form of compensation. (See points one and two.)

Hut etiquette 4: Hut literature

The huts are generally quite intimate places, thus there is only room for one person to do any cooking. While that person is busy the rest of expeditioners can sit back, relax and enjoy the reading material found in the huts. Like your typical dentist’s waiting room, the literature is often older than you are and generally of little interest if found in the real world, but in huts these magazines are full of gloriousness. The wonders of magazines like 1970’s National Geographics, 1980’s Cleo, 1990’s Ralph or FHM, 2000’s Men’s Health and more are there for your education. These windows into the past are priceless and the advertisements will leave you wondering how anyone survived the dark days of the twentieth century. If your hut lacks stimulating literature, find your library and threaten swift uppercuts* until this is remedied!

*Probably just a polite request for new literature at the hut. 

Hut etiquette 5: After dinner entertainment

You're fully sated after a glorious dinner with ‘Big Sister’ chocolate pudding for dessert, now you can while away the evening hours in a number of different ways. You can play cards or board games, tell tall tales of previous intrepid adventures, good naturedly bad mouth the poor saps back at station or pray for clear skies for aurora photography. This is also the best opportunity that the truly extroverted have at a captive audience that just have to see your legendary party trick. The timing of this party trick is all important as you may lose future trip members if the trick is too pathetic or too avant-garde!

Hut etiquette 6: The clean up

This is most important of all the etiquettes. Leave the hut in better condition than you found it. Clean up everything, tidy up, remove all waste, turn everything off and close everything up. On return to station update the hut board with any information that next group would need to have a good a time as you've just had.

Hopefully this helps you understand the important role etiquette plays in having successful field trips in Antarctica.