This week we take time out for science, checking in with the emperor penguins at Taylor Glacier, generator 2 gets a mid life service and we start walking to the south pole (virtually).

A trip to Taylor Glacier

Last week five expeditioners went on a journey to Taylor Glacier to check on fixed cameras that are used to monitor the emperor penguins and undertake a photographic census.

Taylor Glacier is approximately 100 kilometres from station so a lot of planning went into the preparation for the trip. In addition we had to get a permit to enter the area as the rookery is in an ASPA; Antarctic Specially Protected Area. These are areas of Antarctica which have been designated under the Antarctic Treaty as protected areas, usually holding scientific value. The Taylor Rookery (ASPA 101) has the largest emperor penguin rookery on land. Usually emperor penguins raise their young on sea ice.

Antarctic Division scientists have been observing this rookery for many decades now using two fixed cameras and by performing two to three photographic censuses a year. This first census captures a head count of the males in the colony, while a second in September will provide numbers of chicks.

After receiving a special weather forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology, Chris, Tony H, Tony D, Gav and Craig headed out at 0600 for a long day of Hägglunds travel and sea ice drilling. They made remarkably good time arriving at Colbeck Hut at around 1500 in the afternoon.

The next day in overcast conditions they drove the short distance, approximately three kilometres from the hut to the colony. The sight of wild creatures, doing what they have done for centuries is amazing. With minimal human contact the emperor penguins have been coming to the same place each year to breed and raise their young. With cameras downloaded and census complete the team snuck back to the Hägglunds and headed for the hut.

The next day on the way back to station there was opportunity to call in at Proclamation Point, the landing sight of Sir Douglas Mawson in 1931. There is a visitors book and copy of the original proclamation paperwork in a small box at this point. A special moment for the group as very few people will ever be able to say they have stood on this spot, let alone take a selfie.

A successful trip and big thanks and congratulations to the team who made it happen.

A mid life crisis… whoops… service

This week generator number two turned over 20,000 hours, which meant a mid life service was in order.

Mawson station has four diesel generators and two wind turbines. Although the wind turbines could provide enough power for the station, the wind can be a little bit unpredictable and they really don’t like it below −25°C… their grease freezes! To prevent power drop-out when the wind gusts or it gets too cold, a generator runs constantly in the background providing the station with a steady power supply. Any ‘spare’ energy that is generated is used to heat a boiler that circulates hot water through a continuous circuit around the station, heating buildings and keeping water pipes from freezing.

For the major service the electricians and mechanics work together. The electricians isolate the generator that needs working on, making sure that all the remaining generators and wind turbines still work together, then service the alternator while the the mechanics get to work changing over the turbo, injectors, water pump, starter motor, rear main seal, coolant, mega testing and providing general care and attention.

The end result is a generator that should give another 20,000 hours to the station.

Walk to the South Pole

This week kicked off the Walk to the South Pole challenge, with five teams in the race representing Mawson, Davis, Casey, Macca and head office.

Some gentle heckling has commenced. Jen (Team Davis) and Lauren (Remediation Rampage): “Are there a maximum number of kilometres per day…”, “errr no, we really didn’t think that would be a problem!”

Shane, Mawson’s resident film guru, quickly put together a video to advertise and promptly sent it off to Twitter land where it has been retweeted by Everyday Hero, Triple J’s The Doctor, AMRRIC and me to all six of my followers… I think I'll leave social media to Shane.

The walk has brought out a previously dormant competitive streak in our station community. People have been seen entering the gym at odd hours and on multiple occasions a day. The tally sheet has become a much observed piece of paper and we wait with excitement to see which team has taken the lead in the first week… all will be revealed in next week’s news.

In the meantime we have been thinking about the charities that we are supporting. Shane explains why headspace is such an important charity to him:

Why do I support headspace? Well I was completely shocked when I learned that every year four in every 16 young Aussies experience a mental health issue, but three of those four wont get the help they need. Why? One of the major reasons is the stigma around getting help. We just don’t talk about it.Hopefully we can start the conversation, inspire young people to seek help, and change their lives and the lives of their family and friends.

We are supporting AMRRIC and headspace throughout the month of July through our Everyday Hero fundraising pages.

Jen Wressell