Fresh faces arrive at Mawson and some have a very special encounter with the emperor penguins at Auster colony.

Here we go again

After another long and perilous winter, the monotony of worn out conversations was broken with the arrival of some wide eyed and overenthusiastic summer and winter personnel. For the new arrivals it was also a relief, after finally reaching their destination following a dull and uninteresting voyage.

After being gone only for a few months, it’s amazing how different a once familiar place can be. Sometimes you just look around in awe and wonder. “What did I do to deserve this?”

The immigrants and the emperors

It is a week now since our summer crew ('the immigrants') arrived. They have all settled in well and have added another dimension to Mawson station. Gradually we are all getting to know each other. They seem like a pretty good bunch and we look forward to sharing the remainder of our Mawson experience with them.

One of the enjoyable aspects of having newbies on station is showing them around. On that note, I was lucky enough to be asked to lead a group of three on a day trip to hang out with the emperors at Auster emperor penguin colony. So it was that on Friday morning myself, James, Kevin, and Tony set off at 0800 bound first for Macey Island, and eventually Auster.

For two of my crew this was their first experience of sea ice travel, and hearing James comment “This is probably the coolest thing I've ever done” reminded me of my first experience of sea ice travel. The recent warm sunny weather — still mostly sub zero temps, but warm to us — has seen a lot of the snow cover melt off. Therefore travel was a lot smoother in most places, which had us arriving at Macey Island in less than two hours. A couple of small jobs had to be done on the huts before the ice closes, and after little more than an hour we were back on the ‘road’ again and heading to the penguins.

Arriving at Auster, we were greeted by Pete L who had led another group to the rookery for an overnighter. Our two new penguin researchers, Matt and Merel, were with him and they were busy with the fantastic task of collecting emperor scat samples — you think plumbing is a dirty job!

Pete pointed us in the direction of the penguins as they had moved a long way since my last visit.

Pretty soon everyone had experienced close encounters with our friends the emperors, as it was one of those days that the birds were keen to interact with us. All you had to do was sit down on the ice and soon enough a group of adults and chicks would waddle the fifty meters or so out to spend time with you. Many photos were taken and soon it was time to head for home.

I think I can say on behalf of all the winterers that we were keen to share the experience of Auster with our new Mawson citizens. It was a privilege to lead my group and be a part of their experience. It was also personally satisfying to visit one last time to have a final look around and say goodbye to our penguin friends who've given us so much enjoyment this winter. They are such beautiful, gentle and curious creatures. I will miss them.