Deep field Trip to Ledingham Depot and Fold Island

Field trip adventure

Six intrepid explorers spent a week on an operational trip to Ledingham Depot, which is 160km west of Mawson station. This may not sound very far, but the two-day trip over sastrugi covered sea ice to get there is quite far by Antarctic station standards. For chippies Aaron and Timmy, plumber Adam, sparky Ryan, dieso Kolfy and me, our first night was at Colbeck hut, a first visit for most of the team. Some small maintenance jobs were done at Colbeck, and then onto Ledingham depot the next day, which was new terrain for all of us. Ledingham’s consists of a long fibreglass hut called a ‘melon’. Although it’s quite roomy compared to the other huts near Mawson, it has only three beds so tents were also pitched for our two day stay. With -25ºC temperatures at night, ‘snow’ formed inside the tents!

A busy day was had by all, with maintenance and hut checks conducted. The biggest job was replacing the cables that stop the hut blowing away, and everyone helped the chippies with it once they’d finished their main jobs. After the work was done, we drove a further 10km to an emperor penguin rookery near Fold Island. The colony is smaller than others near Mawson, and we had to stay quite far away as it’s near the base of ice cliffs. With binoculars and long camera lenses we could see the fluffy grey balls that are the chicks, very cute with all their antics, and some looking a bit too big as they tried to squeeze under their parent’s brood pouch.

On our return to Colbeck hut, we stopped by Proclamation Point, an historic site where Mawson landed a boat in 1931, and we also made a brief stop to an island near the Taylor emperor penguin rookery to get a photo census of the colony. We were lucky to have amazing weather for the main part of the trip, and experienced a glorious full moon over shiny sea ice and an aurora on the first night, beautiful icebergs and glaciers, weddell seals and emperor penguins on the sea ice, and even windless snowfall at the end.

Gemma, Field Training Officer