Preparing for winter: getting on top of field travel and survival training

Field and Travel Training

In anticipation of the colder and more erratic weather that is on its way as winter closes in, we have been getting on top of field travel and survival training. Not too different, I’m sure, to winters past, but an awesome introduction to Antarctica for the newbies among us — of which the 73rd ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition) at Mawson station has quite a few.

For my group, “Field Training Team Over and Out”, as I like to think we’ve been affectionately named through earnest use of the phrase to sign off after our daily Sit Reps (situation reports), it was a great few days away from the slow-setting routine of station life.

After packing our things and a short briefing, we were off with nothing but clear skies and light winds at our backs. Our first night was at Fang Hut, arriving in the evening, we made some dinner and settled cosily into our bunks.

The next morning, we went on a short walk down a wind scour that has formed at the base of the hill opposite Fang Peak. We took a few photos and negotiated the steep ascent out of the scour before getting ready to leave. After a couple of false starts due to a quadbike battery malfunction, and the associated drama of removing, heating and reinstalling a battery in −18°C temperatures, we were off! Across to Fern Lake and then in the direction of the Central Masson Range before turning about and making our way to Rumdoodle Hut to set up bivvy’s for the night as part of our survival training.

There were several highlights during the few days we spent away from station. Simple things, like the peacefulness of wind whirling past our visors as we rode along in line behind each other, to the contrast of mountains standing tall either side of us against the flat white plateau we rode on.

More noticeably were the grounded icebergs in the distance surrounded by forming sea ice and when night fell, the sky lit up with stars as clear as diamonds. The temperature dipped to −21°C and as if just to thank us for persevering, the sky above us exploded with colours of green and pink, scattered across the black canvass as the Aurora Australis stole centre stage. All in all it was a great few days and enough to get us excited for what’s to come.

Signing off, Field Training Team — Over and Out!

Mawson Carpenter (Smokey)