At Mawson this week we had a awe inspiring evening with a pod of orcas and waved goodbye to 66 expeditioners as they headed home on the Japanese ship, Shirase.

A visit from the orcas

This week, we were fortunate enough to have a visit from a pod of orcas (killer whales). While we have seen orcas in the distance over the last couple of months, this was the first time that they were so close — only about 20 metres from shore.

They were hunting around the areas where seals and penguins have been hanging out lately. After cruising around the bay to the left of East Arm, they headed through the channel towards Horseshoe harbour and caught a seal or penguin (there is much debate) before cruising on.

It was a magical evening, and even the –15°C temperature couldn’t convince anyone to head for the indoors until they were gone. To be so close to such amazing animals was breathtaking and very humbling.

Settling in

This week we finally waved off our 66 guests and all collapsed in a heap.

On Sunday we said farewell to the 68th ANARE, K-Axis team and Helicopter Resources pilots, engineers and field training officers. It took over 40 loads via helicopter to get everyone, and some cargo, to the Japanese ship, Shirase. An 0600 start meant that we were all finished by about 1500, just in time for another blizzard to roll in.

The Shirase is a huge ship. She hovered about ten nautical miles from Mawson station and was just visible on the horizon through the icebergs at the start of Kista Strait. The information provided by the Japanese Antarctic Program gave those of us remaining behind some insight that the team heading home will be having a very interesting trip, starting with roll call before breakfast at 0600 every morning! The expedition leader for the Japanese Antarctic Program was extremely helpful and I am sure will make all the travellers very welcome.

Meanwhile at Mawson station, we had a couple of days off to recoup, unpack all our personal effects and settle into our new rooms. After having so many people around, it was slightly weird to only have 14 individuals left. The halls were very quiet for a few days as everyone recovered from the last five weeks of nonstop action.