A few weeks ago Mawson station endured a 114 knot / 211km per hour storm for 24 hours. A few shipping containers strayed from their locations and a bit of debris blown about and notably our sea ice disappeared sadly (our thoughts are with the emperor penguins and where they are…). At the next good weather window we undertook a tour of three huts up on the plateau to see how they weathered the storm.
As we travelled the 20 kilometres to Henderson Hut, the plume of snow coming off the ridge indicated the winds were still strong. Hendo Hut is located in a relatively sheltered spot just off the side of the exposed saddle that you drive through for access. On arriving at the hut, we made the call that it was too windy to leave the vehicle (doors being ripped off = not worth it). So we decided that we could physically see the hut, but it would need another trip to verify its state.
So Rumdoodle Hut was next on route. Now Rumdoodle Hut is located in a basin and has provided many a good memory for many visitors. It’s the main hut used for field training, recreation trips and shelter for the runway preparation crews over many years. It’s relatively sheltered but also exposed to the winds buffeting the hut from all directions, and also situated on a moraine line (piles of rocks sitting on ice that is moving slowly).
From a distance out, the Rumdoodle Hut didn’t look right, and on arrival this was confirmed. My heart was heavy as we walked around it and looked at the devastation. Front door blown off its hinges, window shutters blown off hinges and windows smashed, the acrow props that hold up the deck had moved a few metres and were now on a considerable angle, which meant the decking was also skewed.
The inside looked like a cyclone had been through (which it kind of had). We took photos of this historic moment and retrieved the ‘hut book'. It was a very sad moment seeing Rumdoodle Hut in this state, I have run many a field training group here and its location for climbing and walking in the Framnes Mountains provides the best refuge on the plateau. It will be great to see it done back up and maybe moved to a flatter spot…
So we departed Rum Hut and headed the 11 kilometres onward to Fang Hut. Fang Hut is located in a lovely basin that also receives a bit of wind. The hut is low profile and looks to have her feet firmly embedded in the ground.
Fang Hut had weathered the storm extremely well, in fact she looks like she didn’t batter an eye lid! So we settled in for the night and listened to the wind steadily increase. The next day the wind didn’t ease and in fact just ramped up, so an extra day in Fang Hut was needed. The following morning we made preparations to the Hägglunds as the wind decreased enough to safely travel back to station.
Back at station, the state of Rumdoodle Hut was the topic of conversation for the days ahead – 'repair?', ‘re position?', ‘renovate?', ‘new hut!?', ‘RMIT van?'… The decision will be made eventually, but what we do know is that a replacement hut is needed for a key location that provides refuge in the Framnes Mountains.
Antarctica does unleash some amazing weather, very somber to be a part of the weather here and to remember that Mother Nature is to be respected and never to be underestimated.
Heidi, Field Training Officer