Fire is no joke at Mawson and it takes frequent training to prepare should one occur, however unlikely. Mawson also says goodbye to Theo and details the airglow spectrometer.

Mawson emergency response fire team

Just before Christmas Day, the Mawson emergency response fire teams took part in a training exercise to refresh and practice their group and individual fire fighting skills, including the use of breathing apparatus, or BA. The exercise involved ‘smoking out’ the field store with an artificial smoke machine and also incorporated a search for a ‘missing’ expeditioner who was thought to be inside the simulated ‘burning building'.

Mawson farewells Theo

On Friday night (19 December) a special event occurred to mark the end of an era at the aeronomy building. The ‘Fabry Perot Spectrometer’ which was maintained by Theo Davies, will be returned to Australia for maintenance then packed up ready for its next chapter of life at the South Pole. (See next story) As a result, Theo will no longer be needed at Mawson, though he will continue on at Davis station.

Theo has worked here at Mawson as a physicist every summer since 2006 and what better send off than getting the station band back together. Renamed Theo and The Headbands, we belted out a few tunes in front of a record crowd of about 15 inside the aeronomy building.

Wishing you all the best Theo, from all of us here at Mawson!

Airglow spectrometry at Mawson

Airglow spectrometry using a Fabry-Perot Spectrometer (FPS) is a way of gathering information about winds and temperatures high up in the atmosphere, too high for meteorological balloons and too low for satellites. The first FPS at Mawson was installed in the aeronomy building in 1980.

To keep everything in adjustment, the apparatus had to be attended while observations were made so a physicist wintered at Mawson and spent the nights sitting up with the spectrometer. Two pioneers were Mark Conde and Pene Greet, photographed below with the apparatus at Mawson.

Pene and Mark separately continued to work with the Mawson FPS for a number of years before moving on. Mark eventually settled in Alaska and is now in charge of a network of spectrometers at both ends of the world: in Alaska, and at Mawson and Davis Stations in Antarctica.

The original FPS was shut down in the year 2000 as funding was reduced. Also, knowledge and technology had improved so that it was possible to build a FPS that would work through winter without constant attention. The old FPS was returned to Australia and parts of it have now been recycled to South Africa where it may be used as a teaching aid. Mark thought up a new FPS which he calls a SCAnning Doppler Interferometer (SCANDI) which was then put together by a group of physicists and engineers at La Trobe University in Victoria. In the summer of 2006–2007 Callum Anderson and Theo Davies installed the new SCANDI at Mawson. Callum stayed on for the winter to finish commissioning the equipment.

The SCANDI was operated remotely from Victoria and Alaska. During the winters at Mawson a volunteer, usually the station doctor, visited the instrument regularly, topped up its cooling water and making sure nothing was out of place. The communications officers and tradespeople also provided invaluable technical help when things very occasionally went wrong. The SCANDI has contributed to knowledge of the upper atmosphere showing, amongst other things, how wind direction can be changed near an aurora.

This summer the equipment was dismantled and packed up to be returned to Australia for maintenance. Next summer it will go back to Antarctica to be installed at the South Pole. There it will help to investigate a different part of the Antarctic sky, between the South Pole and McMurdo where new and exciting things may be discovered.