The Dog room is a special place at Mawson station. Located on the top floor of the Red Shed, it’s a small room with two giant windows facing out onto Horseshoe Harbour providing a spectacular view of station and the sea ice. You can watch expeditioners working and moving between buildings, the machines being driven around and the general activity of daily life. Sunsets and sunrises can be viewed in the warmth and comfort and during winter auroras can be spotted. Right now there is a daily parade of Adélie penguins marching over to check out station and take a break from their nests. The room has probably one of the best views of Mawson’s station buildings.
What makes the room even more special and unique is that it is a mini museum to the dog sledding era at Mawson and built by previous expeditioners. The door is guarded by a taxidermied sled dog, now forever working at Mawson. Nearby is a blood line, beautifully hand drawn by a expeditioner, recording the family lines of each of the Mawson huskies dating from when they first arrived at Mawson from Heard Island. Cabinetry made by expeditioners houses old leather harnesses and collars for the dogs, pins and chains for securing the dog line, old manuals on dog care and handling, and even old tins of food, sledding biscuits and packages of pemmican (for both human and dog consumption).
There is a fully loaded sled displayed against the back wall, complete with all the equipment expeditioners would take on their journeys with the dog teams. Above it is a map of the Mawson plateau and sea ice, marking out the many expeditions taken since the station was established in 1954. It details distances and terrain with commentary on how often expeditioners undertook these trips. In the far corner is shelving and a memorial plaque to Misty, one of the last sled dogs in the AAP. The walls are adorned with black and white photos taken by expeditioners as they farewelled the dogs. As you stand looking at all the items you can almost hear the bark and whine of a dog team ready to run across the ice.
It’s a well loved space by expeditioners. Throughout the year we’ve all drifted through the room, exploring the artefacts and learning of an era long since passed. The quiet space promotes contemplation, not only of the history but our place here and our season. On weekends and afternoons it’s a popular spot for private phone calls and video calls home. Musicians go there to play by themselves or in groups, shut off from the noise of the wallow and bar area. People read in there or simply watch the raw beauty of Antarctica. There’s an unspoken rule that we all respect that if someone is in there you leave the room to them.
The dog room is uniquely Mawson. At the end of our season we’ll take home our own memories and connections to station, all of which will include the dog room.