This week at Mawson Tony D writes about successfully proving the route to Macey Hut; we are training hard for a race (I mean walk) to the South Pole; and we have lots to be thankful for.

Walk to the South Pole

July is traditionally a bit of a ‘flat’ month for the station. The skies are still dark, it is cold and the excitement of midwinter is over. We have been away from home long enough to be missing our families and potentially getting a bit miserable. So we decided to try and organise a community event to get us through July, a challenge…

Then Gav the chef said ‘Why not walk to the South Pole?'

We all said ‘OK, that sounds like a great idea!'

It is 2500 kilometres from Mawson station to the South Pole, which is marked on a map by the US Amundsen-Scott Base. Obviously, much to the disappointment of some in the group, we can’t actually walk to the South Pole from Mawson… but we can do anything with a good imagination. So we decided on a virtual walk, which is going to need slightly less training but plenty of dedication and commitment.

2500 kilometres in a month means that we need to cover about 80 kilometres a day as a group. We decided that we would count the kilometres that we cover riding the bikes, walking, running or rowing. The only catch is that we don’t have pedometers down here so the kilometres have to be covered in the gym or in an exercise session. Incidental exercise doesn’t count.

To make sure that we complete the journey we decided to challenge other teams to join us and also raise money for some charities. So far we have been joined by Team Remediation Rampage from head office and Team Macca from Macquarie Island.

We have chosen to support two charities that are close to our hearts, Headspace and Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities (AMRRIC).

AMRRIC is a organisation that provides veterinary and education programs in remote Indigenous communities. Through providing local communities with skills in parasite control, basic animal welfare and providing veterinary programs to help with desexing, AMRRIC works with communities in partnership to improve both canine and human health. Before coming to Antarctica many of the team had worked in remote parts of Australia. I worked as a nurse in remote Indigneous communities for a number of years and I have two desert dogs in my life — Harry the Hairy Hound and Mistress Johnson. So supporting an organisation like AMRRIC provides an important connection for me back to the communities that have given so much to me.

The importance of good mental health, strong support systems and team and individual resilience has been becoming increasingly important to us as a community during the year. Headspace provides early intervention mental health services to young people aged 12 to 25 all over Australia. Headspace provides help across a variety of topics including drug and alcohol, physical health including sexual health, work or study support and mental health issues.

We are all in training and people have been seen going to the gym anywhere between 0430 and 2000. We will report back on all the teams progress once we start off on the first of July!

Jen Wressell

Sea ice drilling to Macey

On Monday morning with clear skies and very light winds for Mawson, myself and Chris Hill (Hilly) set out to ‘prove’ the route over the sea ice to Macey Hut. This hut is situated 58km east of station and is the closest base to the Auster emperor penguin colony. Proving a route involves drilling a series of holes and measuring the depth of the sea ice along previous GPS waypoints, as well as adjusting the waypoints around any large obstacles, these generally being large icebergs.

There are set measurements for safe sea ice travel in Antarctica in various modes: 20cm for people on foot or ski, 40cm for people on quad bikes, and 60cm for driving the Hägglunds vehicles.

With the recent very cold temps and a very smooth surface we made exceptionally good time and were able to make it all the way to the hut, which was hemmed in on all sides by large icebergs. After some scratching around we found an access point and had a quick cup of coffee before heading for home. With the short daylight hours we were mostly travelling in the darkness on the way home.

Proving the route is a very good result and its exciting to open up a new field hut for expeditioners to explore in the winter months. I certainly look forward to seeking out the emperor penguin colony and watching the development of the penguin chicks and the amazing story behind their breeding patterns. If you have not seen the documentary March of the Penguins narrated by Morgan Freeman I highly recommend it.

It is easy sometimes to focus on the amazing scenery and wildlife here in Antarctica, but what can often be overlooked are the people who we live and socialise with and make our time here a much more rounded experience. On this drilling trip I was lucky enough to be working with Chris Hill, or Hilly as he is often referred. Hilly is the carpenter on station and is always busy fixing this or that in an environment challenging for outside work.

Even with a high workload Hilly can always find time to help you out with small jobs or find time to share his experiences of life at Mawson, a very valuable asset to a Field Training Officer on his first trip south. A quiet spoken man, Chris doesn’t mind a night relaxing in a hut on the plateau but I suspect his true passion lies in the sea ice travel and searching out the wildlife to be found in the depths of winter. His specialty is finding the Auster Emperor penguin colony east of Macey hut. Hilly is also our local brewmaster and churns out a delightful variety of beverages in the Nunatak Brewery. Mild mannered, unassuming and extremely knowledgeable, Chris Hill is truly one of the gentlemen of Antarctica and I salute him.

Tony Donaldson

Testing a new heater

There are six huts located around Mawson; three up on the plateau – Fang, Rumdoodle & Hendo, and three on islands that are only accessible by sea ice – Macey, Colbeck and Beche.

The huts provide a fantastic opportunity to get away for the weekend and also provide a base for some of our science work. The huts on Bechervaise Island provide living quarters for two scientists over summer as they study the Adélie penguins. Colbeck is home base while the emperor penguins that breed at Taylor Glacier are photographed and counted every year. Macey Hut will probably get the most use over winter as expeditioners travel out to view the Auster emperor penguin rookery and observe the different stages of breeding from egg hatching to rapidly growing young.

On the plateau the huts are spaced through out the mountain ranges that form the Framnes Mountains. These have been well used over summer but it is now getting cold up on the plateau and heating becomes more of an issue as the temperatures are dropping to below −20°C every day.

All the huts have a little gas cooktop and gas heater, but if you like to glamp rather then camp you can also take a generator and run an additional micro furnace which is handy. Overnight the gas heaters have to be turned off because of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. So it can get a bit chilly when the generators run out of fuel at 0300 and the micro furnace also goes off. This usually leads to everyone pretending to be asleep, as the first one up has to also fill up the generator and get the heating going!

But not anymore! The infrastructure team has been provided with a new diesel fired heater for the huts. These heaters will run on diesel and can safely be operated for up to six days at a time, without emitting any carbon monoxide into the building. Meaning no more 0300 generator runs or frozen feet in the morning.

At the moment the heater has been expertly fitted with a custom flue by our outstanding plumbers Cal and Josh and is being tested in a empty container on station before being installed in Fang for the rest of winter.

Thanks for…

This week at Mawson, the community has a lot to be thankful for.

Personally I am in love with my new beanie and kitted beard given to me by our in house knit master, now I can compete with the boys in beard comps! + the wonderful present of a new jumper, I was so sick of my clothes!

At a community level:

  • Hugs and ‘Are you OK?'s and plates of food made up and left aside from dinner when you are feeling a bit low and just want to have a curl up in bed night.
  • People who clean the bar after the last person has left to go home.
  • The brew guru who puts down all sorts of different brew, takes requests and lets everyone have a go.
  • The hydro gurus who spend time each day making sure that those tomatos, lettuces, zucchinis and herbs keep coming.
  • The sew master who repairs all our clothes with skills and precision, very important when you only bought down one pair of jeans.
  • TV downloaders who make sure that our screen addictions are being fed.
  • The chocolate monster who fills random bowls with snakes and Roses chocolates.
  • Cake decorators who spend hours cutting shapes and making coloured icing so that we can have a treat on our birthday.
  • The practical jokers that make us laugh with posters, glued down pens, keyboard letter changes, random return this call messages and furniture rearranging at midnight.
  • The people with the answers, there is always one of us that knows the answer to the pressing question of the day!
  • The listeners who just appear and listen when you need a debrief, a moan or a giggle.