This week at Mawson we reflect on a helicopter flight over the mountains and our first trip leaders take the team on a Easter weekend stay at Fang hut. The ‘Animal of the week’ photo does not disappoint.

Flying over the mountains

A couple of weeks ago, while helicopter pilots were still around, we took advantage of the opportunity to have a closer look at terrain surrounding station. This was a great chance to see crevasse fields, glacier and mountains as well as get a great overview of field hut locations in case of any search and rescue situations.

We split into groups of four and quickly found our survival bags, thermals and cameras. Survival bags are essential kit as soon as you leave the station area — they contain a change of thermals, sleeping bag, bivvy bag, snacks, microspikes and lots of little pieces of survival equipment that you might need if you were stuck somewhere waiting for assistance or some bad weather to pass. Even though it was a relatively warm day, we all put on our thermal layers because our helicopters are not heated and it can get a bit cool after sitting for a while.

Following a briefing from the pilots we were strapped in, the doors were shut and up we went. The first views of the station from above show how small our footprint is in the scheme of things. The plateau stretches for miles — as far as you can see behind the station and in front there is sea, islands and icebergs in the other direction. It was pretty awe inspiring.

We turned towards the mountains and headed over an old Russian aircraft that is slowly being carried away by the glacier that it crashed into many years ago. Our chopper headed toward the David Range were Fang hut is located, then over to Mt Hordern. The ice scours were really deep around Mt Hordern and demonstrate how the wind is directed by the mountains.

After seeing Mt Hordern we headed south to the Central and North Masson Ranges were Rumdoodle hut is located before travelling towards Mount Henderson. ‘Hendo’ was the most spectacular of the mountains to fly over, partially because we were facing the ocean and had a view of the mountains with icebergs in the background, but also because of Hanging Lake which is elevated and nestled in the middle of the mountain.

It was a very special treat for us all to be given this opportunity and something that I will remember for a long time.

Jenny Wressell, Station Leader 

A magical Easter

This Easter I was treated to something so special only a select few ever get to experience it.

The Easter long weekend gave us our first chance to get off station for our very first jolly of the season. Jolly is the Antarctic name for a recreational trip. Tony (field training officer), Josh (plumber) and myself, Shane (electrician), jumped in a Hägglunds oversnow vehicle and headed south, onto the plateau and towards the incredibly beautiful David Range.

Our destination was Fang hut, around an hour's Hägglunds drive from Mawson station. Winter was rolling in — the temperature on station plummeted to −25°C with a windchill of −40°C — so we warmed up the frozen hut and ourselves with a cuppa. Soon after we were ready to hit the mountains. Right next to Fang hut is a ridge which leads to Mt Elliot (1237 m). We decided to make the walk up to a shoulder on the ridge (800 m) which gave a great view over Fang Peak and our hut. The walk was cold, but the view was out of this world. We were soon wanting the warmth of our hut again, so we quickly returned.

The following day we organised to have a look and a walk up Mt Coates (1234 m) at the very southern tip of the David Range. I have only seen the mountain on the map and it looked pretty awesome. When we arrived there, it did not disappoint. It was a huge, jagged, cathedral like rock jutting out of the ice. The day was still — blue skies and cold, real cold — but the mountain called us. All rugged up, we started the walk.

We reached a shoulder and were instantly stopped in our tracks. We looked north along the David Range over Mt Lawrence (1196 m), Mt Elliot (1237 m) and Fang Peak (1032 m). You could see the glacier below, in the distance the Casey Range, on the other you could see the South Masson Range, Central Masson Range, right through to Rumdoodle and even Mt Henderson. It was the most incredible view I have ever seen.

I had a moment on top of that rock — I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be there. Very few people get to visit Antarctica, much less get to stay here for a winter and even less get to climb a mountain and see what I saw. This beauty is something else. The sheer size of this place, the remoteness, makes you feel very insignificant.

A realisation struck me there, how isolated we are — that was my moment, my realisation moment, and I was pretty excited about it.​

Shane Ness 

Animal of the week