Testing our equipment for future journeys

Sledging at Mawson

The sun is back here at Mawson and with it, the motivation to get out and enjoy ourselves has returned also. A few of us decided it was a good idea to strap on a snow sledge and pull it around behind us, over the sea ice to the north of station. So far we have had a couple of trials to suss any issues out before we attempt a longer journey in the coming months.

Four of us loaded up a couple of different styles of sledges and completed a 7.4km journey around Béchervaise Island to establish which style of sledge was best, what our average speed was on firm, flat ice, and to make any adjustments to the set up and harness system. For all of us it was the first time and we weren’t sure what to expect, but it was actually quite enjoyable.

After the initial trial run, a few of us had some work to do on Verner Island. Two of us decided to get there by sledge the day before, incorporating an overnight component to give us some idea of any complications with making/breaking camp, the detriment of having very little refuge to keep equipment warm and again, to ascertain if we needed to make any adjustments to kit.

The trip out was pretty uneventful. It was late in the day and the sun was going down, lighting the sky with a bunch of amazing colours. The wind was gentle and although the temperatures were quite cold, it was a very enjoyable walk. Arriving at Verner Island it was apparent there was no suitable camp sites. We had expected this and proceeded to the larger Petersen Island to the east. We set up camp on a ledge of snow captured behind a small rock band, about 15 meters above sea level. The snow was quite deep which meant cutting the base in level was easy, and there was plenty to hold the long stakes for our guy ropes.

After we established camp and sent our grid reference to station, we went for a short stroll up Welch Island to catch the last of the sun as it descended below the ice plateau. It was great to see a small group of snow petrels flying around to check us out. Before it got too dark, we descended the island and made our way back to our camp where we settled in for the night. With temperatures of -25C outside we made sure all the important things like batteries and fluids were inside our bags with us so they didn’t get damaged before we went to sleep.

The morning was exceptionally cold, the wind chill was about -35C, so we decided to wait until the vehicle was on its way from station before we started to break down our tent, so we wouldn’t get caught standing around too long with nothing to do in the wind. When the guys arrived we walked over to Verner Island to remove some old infrastructure left from previous science programmes, namely some steel bars and bolts imbedded in the ground and rock. From there we loaded the sledges into the vehicle and went over to Béchervaise Island, were we removed some unneeded labels and more bars and bolts. The other guys installed some framework to better secure the fuel drums that are left on the island over summer.

Everything having gone nice and smoothly, we returned to station with our sights set on a longer, multi-night sledging trip in the near future.

Smokey, October 2020