Ledingham depot is the furthest field hut from Mawson station. It is situated approximately 150km to the west of Mawson and is only accessed via sea ice travel. Although 150km is a short distance to travel with a vehicle in the real world, it can be an absolute mission down here. There are stories of a trip in recent years taking eight days to reach Ledingham. Lucky it didn’t take us that long, but in saying that we haven’t reached the depot..yet!
The crew of five set out on the operational trip on Sunday the 13th September. Due to the potential difficulty reaching this place, and the small time frame for travel, the crew comprised solely of the field training officer and one lucky, or unlucky, member from each trade. One carpenter (not sure why needed), one diesel mechanic (so they can get out of the workshop for once), one electrician (as the station leader wanted them to feel like it was an important trade) and obviously one plumber (which by all accounts is the most important and liked trade on the station).
The operational purpose of the trip was to maintain and fix any problems at the hut and bring back any old and unused fuel at depots, to the station. This being the case, we were the guinea pigs in trying out a new plastic poly sled trailer which can hold up to a tonne of load. This was to be dragged behind one of the Hägglunds.
The traditional route to Ledinghams depot takes two full days via a Hägglunds. The first day is spent driving to Colbeck hut which is situated close to the Taylor ice glacier and emperor penguin rookery. Unfortunately half way to Colbeck, one of the two Hägglunds decided that the trip was going all too well and that the crew were having too much fun, so it decided to stop working properly. Luckily, we did have a dieso on board, and on the middle of the frozen ocean he manually put the Hägglunds into gear and we decided it was good enough to continue to the hut.
We made it to Colbeck hut through some thick snow, only once getting bogged with the trailer and in quite good time considering the hiccups. After a phone call to station it was decided that the Hägglunds needed to be almost pulled apart to fix the known issue and we were to return to station for the repair. All going well we were to pack and leave for station in the morning. Sadly, due to blowing snow and high winds on station and perfect sunny weather where we were, it was decided that we would have to bunker down for a couple days for safety, explore the local area and eat heaps of food.
As we are a determined and stubborn bunch, this trip is not yet over. We are back on station awaiting a weather window for another go ahead.
Todd – plumber and local legend (in his own lunchbox)