This week at Mawson we celebrate the cold weather by making ice angels, creating meats for midwinter, and preparing for sea ice travel with Hägglunds safety training.

Charcuterie day

On Saturday four Mawsonites sharpened our knives and put on our aprons ready to learn some charcuterie skills. Charcuterie refers to cold meats and as it is midwinter in only a few weeks, we decided that it might be nice to try and make our own salami, bacon and ham for brunch.

We defrosted a pig from our generous freezer and Gav instructed us on which bits were the hams, the bacon and the shoulder.  It is more difficult than it looks to make the cuts look neat and not end up with a mashed up piece of meat that looks like it should be in a casserole!

The hams were ready first and since the brine was still a bit hot we placed it out the back door in the −20° temps to cool off a bit before soaking the hams for four to five days.

While we waited for the brine to cool we rubbed some spices onto the beef biltong that had been prepared the night before and set it to dry. 

The pork belly (a.k.a. nearly bacon) was next. These were placed into a salt rub with Jose choosing the spicy option and Shane going more traditional. Hopefully by brunch this weekend we will have home made bacon to eat!

Finally we minced the shoulders and some belly fat to make the base of our salami. Red wine, tomato paste, herbs and spices, and a good mix, and we were ready to stuff the skins and wait anxiously for six weeks or so to see if we were successful.

The main worry is with lack of humidity in Antarctica. Salami usually likes a nice humid, cool environment to mature in but with humidity around 1% there is a chance it will just dry out and we will end up with jerky instead of salami! We have put a little humidifier under the salami sticks to try and prevent this happening, and after the first four days it’s looking good so far.

Hägg recovery

Part of our training before taking the Hägglunds, or Hägg for short, out on sea ice is to learn how to rescue them if we fall in!

It’s not as bad as it sounds. They don’t fall in very often and as a bonus they float pretty well but since we can’t call a tow truck we have to learn to rescue ourselves.

Rescuing ourselves means that someone stays in the driver’s seat making sure the engine is going, the bilge pumps are working and the Hägg doesn’t get frozen into the sea ice. The rest of the team has to climb out the hatches in the roof. All the recovery gear is in big tubs on top of the roof — there are winches, ice stakes, special ramps and lots of strong ropes. The idea being that you cut a ramp into the sea ice and then put the special ramps on these to try and give some traction. The ice stakes are what you tie to the ramps to so they don’t slip away. There are also hand winches — preferably you have another Hägg and the mechanical winch is used to try to help the stuck Hägg out of the water. 

Sounds fairly easy…

So after watching a video of how easy it is, we went outside and parked a Hägg down a steep blizzard tail and tried to drag it up to the top.

It was actually not as bad as it sounded on the video, as the equipment was fairly easy to set up and use. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to try it out for real though!

After we all had a go and the Hägg had been successfully ‘rescued’ numerous times, we decided it was time for a BBQ to celebrate.

The mechanical team hosted and set the BBQ up in the workshop. Ingenious use of the extractor exhaust enables smoke free BBQ'ing and no fire alarms.

Photos of the week

The joys of the temperature getting below −30°C — you can throw boiling water into the sky and it freezes instantly!