This week at Mawson training and teamwork paid off and the sparkies show us the inside of the wind turbine.

Teamwork and training

Throughout our time in Antarctica we meet many different challenges, including working in an environment that can be quite different to any other. Part of our work and recreation area is the sea ice that forms around the islands and coast. The sea ice grows during the winter and we regularly measure the thickness and quality during the season. This time of year we use the ice to access areas like Taylor’s glacier to take a regular photographic census of the emperor penguin colony, Béche Island to count the Adélie penguins as they arrive to start breeding and a number of other small islands to check and maintain the automatic cameras that record the snow petrel arrivals.

Last week a team set out to go to Ledinghams depot, a five-day trip that is one of the highlights of a winter at Mawson. There is a lot of preparation and training that is involved in planning a five-day trip in Antarctica. In addition to all the basic training that everyone on the station undertakes, the team refreshed their knowledge of the emergency equipment like polar pyramids (tents), cooking stoves and communication equipment. As a group they reviewed the risk assessments and risk mitigation strategies and the operation plan for the trip.

Then eventually a five-day weather window opened up showing clear skies and low winds and the team set off. Only a couple of hours into the trip the lead Hägglunds found itself floating in water as very thin sea ice cracked under it. Fortunately the Hägglunds are designed to float (for a while) and are equipped with bilge pumps. Working together over the next five hours the team managed to cut a ramp into thicker sea ice, attach all the winches and finally retrieve the Hägglunds from the water and onto dry firm sea ice.

It was a fantastic effort by the group to look after each other, work together and use all their combined skills and knowledge. A demonstration of true Antarctic spirit.

Hansel & Gretel

At Mawson we are lucky enough to have two 300kW wind turbines, Hansel and Gretel. Hansel is situated at the top of the hill overlooking the station and Gretel is at the bottom of the hill in front of the red shed. They are iconic pieces of the Mawson architecture, towering over the station and splashing shadows across the living quarters as the fins rotate in the wind.

Installed in 2003, the turbines provide a significant contribution to the station’s energy needs and are fully integrated with the diesel generators to ensure continuous energy supply. The electricians, Shane and Sam, are responsible for maintaining the wind turbines and this year that has resulted in quite a few hours crouched in the nose cone searching for faults, re-greasing bearings and replacing fatigued metal brackets.