Plumber Jimmy’s birthday warrants a trip to the Massons and we meet the penguin lady, biologist Merel Bedford.

Life of a penguin lady

Over the duration of the season, I've come to love this place more and more. Mawson has been (and still is) absolutely stunning; from the first days out on the quads — doing our penguin research on the islands around the station — to now staring out over the sea ice and being amazed by the changes we can see out there, wondering how long the ice will last for until it blows out. Honestly, the changes in the sea ice are fascinating. When you arrive here at the beginning of summer, and you’re taken out on your quad to drive over the ocean, it’s a strange feeling, but also an absolutely amazing one. It’s a fascinating form of travel, and amazing to be able to drive past icebergs and stop for a few minutes and take in the views. Then, a couple of weeks later, it all changes out there. You wouldn’t want to drive your quads out any more; the ice is melting and breaking up. Tide cracks are becoming huge and the changes in quality of the sea ice are becoming obvious just by looking at the colour of the ice.

Another amazing part of life at Mawson is being able to visit the penguin colonies that are scattered around on the islands near the station. Being part of the science team, we headed out on a daily basis for research purposes counting, mapping and tagging Adélie penguins for long term population studies, and collecting scat from Adélie and emperor penguins for iron and DNA analysis. And, I’ll tell you, it is amazing! This is my first time out here, so I may be a little over excited, but it’s true.

We have seen the Adélie penguins lay eggs and look after them; we have seen the chicks hatch and have spotted some extraordinary individuals too. One amazing opportunity we were given here was an overnight visit out to the emperor penguin colony out at the Auster rookery. These are some of the most gentle and curious critters I've ever come across. No fear in the world, and although a distance limit applies to us in approaching them, it doesn’t work vice versa which makes for great photo opportunities!

So, there you go! Life as a biologist at Mawson station is pretty amazing. There is much interesting work to be done, after which you get home tired, but satisfied. There are amazing photo opportunities and some cute critters to be studied, and to work with. And then, another important part of life on station is to enjoy your free time. For me, that’s heading out and hiking or climbing mountains, and feeding people cake! Sorry guys, you can go on a diet again when you’re home.

Merel Bedford 

Exploring the Massons

With the culmination of some amazing weather and Jimmy’s birthday, the decision was made by a select few to set off and do some exploring of the Masson mountain ranges. With the quads packed and the boys in high spirits, the convoy headed south. Soon we arrived at Rumdoodle hut which we set up as our home base and organised our camp fridge. The afternoon was spent exploring the Fearn Hill wind scour. We then rendezvoused with some with some fellow expeditioners back at the hut for cheese and crackers and a very improvised game of football on the ice.

The following morning we set off once again heading to the Central Masson Range. Arriving at Patterned Lake we set off on foot to take in the amazing surroundings. Next stop was Phillips Ridge to have lunch while taking in one of the most amazing views of the whole plateau. The day was finished off superbly with Jimmy’s birthday dinner. Evan produced an amazing meal of Venison, topped off with a bottle of red.