The signs of a season drawing to an end

Watching the ice melt

What’s it like watching ice melt? Not dissimilar to watching paint dry or grass grow – but when there’s a resupply vessel and fresh fruit on the other side of it, you do it with much more enthusiasm.

Essentially, we’ve had a pretty spectacular year. I’ll say facetiously that COVID-19 has been the furthest thing from our minds for the majority of the year. As far as an Antarctic season is concerned, the biggest hurdle was trying to balance the fun opportunities involved with getting out field, while maintaining a busy work schedule. Truly hard times indeed.

For the majority of the year here at Mawson, life revolved around sea ice. We wanted it fast, thick and vast. With operations as far afield as Auster Rookery 50km east and Ledingham Depot 150km west (distances that take a gigantic effort to reach in this unforgiving environment), we wanted the ice as strong as we could get it. Additionally, all the seabird science we assisted with on the islands surrounding station is accessible with ease on good thick ice. It also makes for a relatively safe recreational area (think crevasse free and flat predictable terrain).

After eagerly watching the progress of MPV Everest as it made its way to Davis station, we have now turned our attention to the regular ice bulletins, which give us satellite data on the sea ice condition surrounding us. For what seemed like for eternity the ice seemed to continuously grow when we wanted it to rot, leaving us puzzled about how in fact they would get the outgoing winter team home. Then all of sudden, a huge polynya near station started to expand. Even ice to the north of it, preventing access, partially broke away. With things still uncertain but looking more promising, the whiff of fresh food, new company coming in and of us going home to our loved ones has certainly increased morale around Mawson town. Even the decrepit old station mechanical supervisor Shane “the pest” Mann has been seen with more of a spring in his step than usual - either that or he’s a few hundred miles overdue for a suspension upgrade! Hard to tell with frames of his vintage.

Anyway, whilst we will surely savour the last remaining weeks alone in what’s been the most incredible home for over a year now – watching the ice melt away will be done with much anticipation and enjoyment as our thoughts start to drift back to Australia and the changed world we are about to discover.

Until next time,

Mawson carpenter