By this time next week (if all goes according to plan) five wintering Mawsonites will be on board the Aurora Australis getting ready to head for home.
We will be replaced by the 24 summer and round trip expeditioners scheduled to arrive on Voyage 1 at Davis today.
It has been a reflective couple of weeks as we have prepared for the start of a new season. It has been an amazing experience to winter in Antarctica and sometimes when you are at the end of a long stretch it is easy to forget the small things that have made our year such an experience. So I thought as my final Station News story I would take you for a trip down memory lane.
We arrived all sparkling and new, our uniforms were clean and our hair neatly cut. False eyelashes in place and acrylic nails perfect. Then the Aurora Australis ran aground during resupply and our population grew to 80 overnight, including the largest science and female populations for Australian stations in February.
As an added bonus of having lots of boating people around we got to go on ‘iceberg cruises', a rare treat at Mawson and one we enjoyed greatly. We were also visited by a pod of Orca’s just off the station, they put on a show for over an hour demonstrating their power and elegance.
The sea ice started to form, then blew away, then started to form, then blew away. The infrastructure team – Hilly and Cal, got in some last minute concrete pouring before the weather got too cold, Hermann Nelson heater going full bore. Lots of search and rescue training and sea ice training. The 14th of April saw our first lettuce and kale from the hydroponics shed.
Masterchef commenced. I was very excited and we all looked to Gav, the chef for the answers to the big questions… Can you really make a sponge in the microwave with only 30 secs to go? What is the difference between parfait and frozen mousse? Can we try dried fennel? Those not so interested in Masterchef went climbing on the Plateau with many peaks attempted despite the freezing weather.
Sea ice is open and the route to Macey Island was tested, let the emperor penguin viewing commence. Final sunset occurred on June the 13th and we said goodbye to the sun for a few weeks. Midwinter celebrations on the 21st of June, including the midwinter swim and five course meal from which everyone rolled to bed. The first trip to Colebeck Hut and Taylors Glacier headed out on the 27th June. The sun reappeared briefly on the 30th of June (sigh of relief).
The chef has been winning the Chef vs Doc competition so we decided to Walk to the South Pole. The tally board went up and the competition commenced with all other stations and head office joining in. We discovered that this was a great way to find out who is the most competitive on station with people spotted going to the gym at 2200 in an effort to win the daily kilometre battle.
48 hour film festival and we got to join in the PokemonGo game that infected the outside world. We won the 2016 Inter-station Dart Competition. A group headed to Ledinghams depot to photograph the Fold Island emperor penguin colony. The RMIT van got a workout heading to the South Masson ranges, where Shane and Tony D wok fried Bok Choy in what we are claiming as an South Masson ranges first.
First eggplant from hydroponics. A second trip to Ledinghams was planned but didn’t get past the Rookery Islands as the sea ice is deteriorating quite early this year.
The biggest Aurora display of the year was so bright that Shane managed to take a panorama shot that has featured in the middle of our year book.
The sea ice is closed outside of station operating limits which normally doesn’t happen until way into late Nov/Dec. The Russian aircraft was inspected and the Adélie penguins start to return to the Island rookeries. We all took a turn in counting at Beche and it was nice to see the little Adélie’s return. Snow petrels have also been spotted and a Weddell seal has given birth just off station near Dyer Island.
So finally we reached November, personally I have enjoyed my winter at Mawson for so many reasons. The expeditioners on station have demonstrated patience, wisdom and grace to ensure that the lights are still on and the heating is running. More then just succeed at the basics of keeping us all alive over winter they have supported each other, pulled together when needed and given each other the opportunity to achieve their personal goals. We have all had someone to have a drink with, go to a hut with or just sit and think next to.
I hesitate to single people out but there have been a few team members who consistently have gone above and beyond to try to make our community inclusive and happy. I would like to publicly acknowledge them even though they will be mortified #sorrynotsorry.
The Deputy Station Leader Gav, your advice is always wise, thoughtful and valuable, and you are always willing to try new approaches to keep the community engaged.
Hilly, you are the behind the scenes master, importantly the beer fridge is always full and a lot of that is due to the huge amount of effort that you put in, the way you just do what needs to be done is very appreciated.
Nessy someone who throws himself into everything, as fire chief, official photographer and hydro master you have gone above and beyond. We have enjoyed fresh herbs, cucumbers, lettuce, tomato’s and green stuff all winter and we all liked the opportunity to take multiple team photo’s.
Jen Wressell – Station Leader, Mawson