Dinosaurs and emperor penguins, Mawson has it all

Terri's Antarctic Adventures

Antarctica! What a place to have an adventure! What a place to see somewhere new and make new friends. Never did I think that I could see somewhere as mystical and colourful as the Great White Continent in the South.

Life began in a hotel shortly after hatching from a plastic bag. He took some time to pick himself up off the floor from laughing so much, but my new owner was quick to fill me with the lifeblood of warm air. Life is difficult being an inflatable animal. We became fast friends and I helped him through the rigours of pre-departure hotel quarantine, and he even tolerated my explorations while I became acquainted with my surroundings.

The ride on the ship was uneventful as I mostly remained in my cabin, you see I never really got my sea legs and was only happy to come out and play for his 40th birthday celebrations.

Once on station, however, I couldn’t believe the vast distances and all the amazing and colourful buildings. My owner showed me around a little but wouldn’t let me stray too far as I was so new to this world, and he had already completed 4 winters. His calmness truly helped me settle into life on station. I was given free reign to live in the buildings, but not to go outside as I’d be blown away in even the smallest of breezes. Besides, I didn’t much like the deflating feeling I got when my internal temperature dropped. I would simply lose pressure and crumple in on myself.

I needed something to give me excitement in this place, so I went searching for new friends. There were all these photos of four legged fluffy things on the wall and inside perspex boxes, but none of them wanted to talk. The expeditioners said that they were putting up photos to remember their pets at home. Think that I’m very lucky to be here.

There was a day when I found the chocolate and gorged myself on all these delicious treats. While the experience was initially uplifting, I just couldn’t keep any of it down.

I recently made a new friend who has been serenading me with the most wonderful singing voice. I think that I’m in love and will stay here forever with her.

Terri the Triceratops

One step closer to our emperor penguin neighbours

As predicted last week, all outdoor activities this week have been focused on the sea-ice. We are able to now freely access our sea-ice recreational area on foot; and with that knowledge some of the team got out and took advantage of our new expanded backyard over the weekend. They took a walk around the rec-area, withstanding quite fresh winds, to get up close and personal with the islands close to Mawson.

Our winter science program is now well and truly underway; we have weekly excursions out to measure the sea-ice, and our Communications Tech, Troy, and Field Training Officer, Mark, spent two slightly frustrating days trying to locate a tide gauge in Horseshoe Harbour, under the sea-ice and approximately 8 metres down, in order to download the data it’s been recording over the past year. Avoiding interested fish and spider crabs, and standing strong against the cold, holes were drilled, tide gauge was found (eventually), and data was downloaded. One job ticked off until next year.

And then in an effort to ensure we’re safe when travelling on vehicles on the sea-ice, the whole station population participated in the Hägglunds recovery training on Tuesday. Covering the theory of the winching and retrieval mechanisms in the morning and then getting hands on with the equipment and testing out the winching capability into the afternoon. It’s reassuring to know the vehicles float well and are able to be extracted should a breakthrough of the ice occur. Here’s hoping it’s not required at Mawson this year! If it is, we just need to remember to work through the procedures in a slow and steady manner. And… don’t panic!!

With that done, it’s now time to venture onto the ice in the Hägglunds. Allowing us to expand our field of influence over the surrounding areas a little further. We’ll progressively measure the sea-ice to ensure it’s safe as we move further away from station and then, just as days of full darkness descend (or is it 24hrs of night?), it will be about time to make our first exploration towards our emperor penguin neighbours at Auster.

Bec J, SL