This week at Mawson we got a big dump of snow and experienced the joys of caravanning.

The restoration of the ANZAC van

The joys of caravanning are well known – the open road, the wind in your hair, the smell of the country and the sense of freedom.

In the Antarctic all of these sort of apply…

The open road is very open – vast expanses of unexplored ice and snow. It’s a little more difficult to navigate than Route One, with crevasse fields and tide cracks and all the little rock hard snow drifts, but still the open road feeling applies.

The wind is definitely in your hair, usually at about 40 to 60km/hr on a good day, bringing a wind chill factor of around minus 10 to the party.

The smell of the country – there are no trees or soil or cows, nothing to say country. Instead everyone knows when Malcolm is roasting his coffee beans in the fume cupboard because the aroma blows over the entire station, teasing us all. We know when Warren is burning or the power house kicks in, and take a deep breath in the Red Shed as Gav’s fresh bread is cooking before smoko or lunch. The smell of the country is not present in Antarctica but the lack of smells means a couple of nights in a caravan with a team member is noticeable…

The sense of freedom – it is a nice feeling to head off on a weekend trip away. No internet, no phone, just a good book, some board games and a cheese platter sponsored by Davis.

The joys of caravanning are what have led Tony the field training officer to spent some time restoring the RMIT van, renamed the ANZAC van. This ugly piece of kit was stored up in the graveyard and looking a little sad before Tony got his hands on it. Designed by RMIT as a field research hub, the van is on skids and has enough radio equipment to ensure that contact with Peru might be possible. The vintage orange paint would be right at home in a grungy inner city suburb and the old ANARE logo is still proudly etched on the side.

After much scrubbing, rewiring, new plumbing and updated soft furnishing it is really quite cosy and recently went on its first off station venture to the South Masson Range. She proved to be a very comfortable alternative to the huts and meant that Tony and Shane were able to do some climbing with an extra hour or two of daylight.

Mountains of snow

This week saw the arrival of a huge dump of snow, more then previous blizzards this year. The steps next to ARPANSA are now buried and I think a giant very kindly cut some new ones! For my five foot legs it is a mountain climbing experience, I nearly need a harness.

The workshop and Biscoe Hut are buried, and Jose and Craig have been creating snow sculptures as they dig everything out. Gav is getting a high intensity workout when he needs potatoes, carrots or onions from the store. There is quite a slope to haul the 15kg boxes up.

Photo of the week