Resupply continues and the Beche team return to station having completed their chick tagging mission.

Man vs Nature

As with all the best laid plans, nature doesn’t always get the memo. Whilst we’ve had some great weather and completed refueling successfully last week, the sea ice has resolutely stayed locked in Horseshoe Harbour, meaning there has been no access to the wharf for cargo operations. With time a'ticking, the decision was made to help the process along by using the resources at our disposal. The Aurora Australis broke up the ice through the middle of the harbour to create a channel, hoping this would be enough to start the ice breaking up. The next morning the channel was still there but no further ice had moved on and the wharf was still locked in sea ice, so the cavalry arrived in the shape of the barge and AA workboat, the AA2, to start ploughing a path to the wharf. After a few hours of diligent boat work, the wharf was reached and resupply could commence: a huge relief to all.

With multiple stops and starts for wind and blizzards, it’s not a uniform process but the action is all happening now. We’re hoping to complete operations in the next couple of days so the ship can continue onward to Davis and bring the out-going Mawson expeditioners ever closer to home.

By Esther, Station Leader

Adélie penguin chick tagging

Each season at Béchervaise Island, the biologists tag 300 Adélie penguin fledglings before they leave the island. A tagged population has been maintained here for over 20 years, using a small tag implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades of the penguin. Some of the Adélie penguins at Béchervaise Island cross an automatic weighbridge and tag reader on their way to their nests. This means we know who is coming and going from those colonies, how long their foraging trips are, and how much food they are bringing back for their chicks. All the breeding penguins on the island are scanned each season to identify all the tagged birds, and this gives us survival information (e.g. how many chicks made it to breeding age) and tells us what the age structure of the breeding population is. It’s a big job, but it provides a lot of valuable information down the track.

This season, we were fortunate enough to get three volunteers to help with this task: Helen, Dave and Nick. Conveniently, Helen has spent three seasons at Béchervaise previously so brought a wealth of experience, Dave had some wildlife handling experience and all three brought enthusiasm and some great weather. They arrived in such splendid sunshine and calm conditions that we put them straight to work after a cup of tea and a briefing — you have to take advantage of such perfect weather! Dave and Nick took to the task brilliantly and impressed us with their empathy and their gentle (but firm!) handling of the chicks. The team was soon up and running like fresh penguin poo down a rock face. This slick operation tagged 300 chicks (out of approximately 1000 currently on the island) in four days — an amazing effort! Big thanks to our volunteer penguin assistants, and to voyage management, the crew of the AA, the watercraft team and Mawson station for making it possible.

Lisa Meyer and Anna Lashko