The first week at Mawson been a busy one for the 75th ANARE as they found their way around station, prepared their emergency response teams, were greeted by night after night of beautiful Auroras and had an unexpected visitor.
We farewelled the 75th ANARE with as much fanfare as is possible in Antarctica i.e. our small crew stood out on West Arm to wave goodbye and we released some outdated flares - a replacement for fireworks and streamers. This form of farewell is a tradition at Mawson; I remember with great nostalgia the Mawson wintering team do exactly the same thing as I departed on the Aurora Australis in 1999 (although I think one of the wintering expeditioners might have been wearing a wedding dress). It was wonderful to come full circle and now be one of the wintering team to be waving the ship farewell. Feeling the cold (we may have moved to West Arm a little prematurely) we used the opportunity to see whether an emperor penguin huddle might work for expeditioners as well as penguins… and it does. Mark our Field Training Officer is yet to be convinced that the experiment should count as our survival training.
Our first weekend on station has been spent settling into our rooms and unpacking our Unaccompanied Personal Effects (UPE) - which came as cargo on the Happy Dragon - and questioning why we sent what we did all the way to Antarctica (personal note for next time – three outfits for mid-winter celebrations is excessive). With enough bedrooms for us to spread out throughout the living quarters - AKA LQ - AKA Red Shed - many have converted the extra bedrooms into hobby rooms – whether it be electronics, camera equipment, painting, sewing, exercise equipment - it’s interesting to see how each person makes their room(s) their own sanctuary. (I see a future Station Update article in the making…)
With the departure of the previous team we have moved into an “Operational Recess”, this is a period when we are unable to go out into the field until assured all of our emergency response teams are good to go. So, this week we have been concentrating on training, familiarisations, and exercises to confirm we have a functioning Fire Team, Search and Rescue Team, our Lay Surgical Assistants are ready to scrub in to help our Doctor in surgery, we can respond to a fuel spill, and the emergency vehicles and communications systems are ready. We are tracking well and I predict by mid next week we’ll be able to move onto our Survival and Field Training (hopefully before it gets too cold).
FOOTNOTE: Each day something new and extraordinary occurs to bring back the initial feelings of awe we felt on our first sighting of this magnificent place as we sailed into harbour just over a week ago. We have been greeted each night by beautiful Aurora which encourages us out of the warmth of the Red Shed to test our photography skills. And, who should come and pay us a visit on Tuesday afternoon but our first emperor penguin of the season. May I never lose the feeling of immense privilege that I have in being able to walk from my office and sit and commune with such a wonderful (and comic) creature.