This week we answer a commonly asked question, we clean out Rumdoodle Hut, share a snapshot of our social life on station and capture the sea ice re-forming under a spectacular night sky.

Let’s talk about effluent management at Mawson

It’s time to answer one of the commonly asked questions about life on an Antarctic station… 'What happens to your poo?'

Yes, '**it happens’ and how you deal with it is very important in Antarctica. But who would have thought playing with poo could be such fun. The beauty of working in Antarctica is the many roles we are called upon to ensure the smooth an efficient running of the station.

One of my extraordinary duties as station doctor is to monitor the efficiency of the effluent management system.

Yes ‘it’ has to go somewhere and though we do burn faeces on return from a field trip, this is not practical for a loo flush.

First, ‘it’ gets sent down the toilet through those mysterious pipes, that only plumbers know about, to the waste treatment plant for processing.

There it goes through different tanks and stages to come out ‘smelling of roses’ (metaphorically speaking). Particularly interesting and crucial to the process are the chocolate wheels. Try spinning one of these at your local fete! Their business is to rotate a biomass through the solution and bacteriologically convert the solution into a more acceptable discharge.

I then catch four litres of the final product and scurry home with my prize to test two parameters.

Initially, I test the suspended solids — visible solids not in solution. Then I test the biological oxygen demand, which is the organic oxidising material in the sample (otherwise known as good bugs). If they are elevated this means the system isn’t working optimally. In most cases the system works well to manage the waste on station.

These systems are being refined on Antarctic stations and here at Mawson, we can only cast an envious eye over the new waste management system that is up and running at Davis station.

How very effluent!

Until next time, Dr Mal — Station Doctor

Rumdoodle Hut clean up

Following the blizzard which damaged the Rumdoodle Hut a couple of weeks ago, this week a clean–up team collected the debris and stripped out the many bits and pieces which made Rum Hut such a comfortable refuge from the icy plateau.

Buckets of debris were collected and brought back to station for recycling or return to Australia. Every pot, pan and spoon was packed up, although the team did leave the kitchen sink behind…

A trailer full of hut gear is now being sorted on station — hopefully it will all find its way back to a temporary or renovated Rumdoodle Hut in the near future.

We do have a social life!

Some people might think living in a remote, isolated Antarctic community means having no social life. Not here at Mawson! This week Mark and Leon hosted Friday night drinks in the tropically decorated Bureau of Meteorology office here on station.

While the team enjoyed bar snacks and proved that even tradies enjoy a glass of sparkling at the end of a busy week, one lucky expeditioner Alex, also had the opportunity to assist in the daily release of the weather balloon. What a great way to spend a Friday night.

Aurora over sea ice — it’s back!

Finally, this amazing aurora over East Bay last weekend highlights that with the colder temperatures and lower wind speeds, our sea ice is steadily re-forming.

We'll keep measuring it’s growth and keep our fingers crossed that we can get back out there over the coming weeks.