Settling into Mawson mode

First impressions of Mawson

I would often hear these amazing stories about people's experience at Mawson and see spectacular photos of this very special region of Antarctica. But hearing stories and seeing photos is one thing. To be able to finally set foot and experience the wild winds, stunning crevassing cliffs, rising mountain ranges and wondering wildlife is another thing entirely.

On a regular daily basis, we are greeted with the morning Katabatic winds that flow from far up on the plateau while not gaining a single degree of warm air along it’s descent to the coast, making for a very fresh walk to the workshop or other buildings around station. The morning Katabatic winds are usually around 30 Knots easing in the afternoons. We are also lucky enough to have an operational wind turbine that can capitalize on these stiff breezes, providing a source of renewable energy to power station. But be assured the winds don’t stop at 30 knots as we have also been lucky enough to experience a couple of blizzards since arriving, which always makes for good entertainment and reminds us of the harshness that is Antarctica.

Each day when leaving for work we are also surrounded by incredible ice cliffs that curve away into the distance. The rugged ice edges and crevasses that are formed from the immense pressure of the plateau behind, provide an amazing sight when hit by the morning and evening sun. While my photography skills can never do them justice, it makes for a special view when wondering around station or even better when having a morning coffee or an evening beer in the bar.

Also, here at Mawson we are very fortunate to have easy access to some stunning mountain ranges that are begging to be explored. A week or so ago now I was able to go out for a couple of nights to conduct field travel and survival training and start to make a dint in what is a huge place to discover. As you drive up, off station and onto the plateau you are greeted with the amazing views the Mason Ranges, David Range and Casey Range. With a seemingly endless supply of mountain tops to climb, ice lakes to find and wind scours to walk through. There will be plenty to keep us busy in our off time.

But one of the best parts of being down in Antarctica is being able to see all the wonderful wildlife that is around in abundance. From the cheeky Adélie penguins, sunbaking seals, birds flying around and the mighty emperor penguin. Being able to watch these animals being seemingly unbothered by the freezing temperatures and harsh winds is quite remarkable. Although most of the animals are on their way out for the winter, the emperor penguins will remain accessible to us on the sea ice through winter, which will make for a truly amazing sight.

Mawson, what a place, what a home for 12 months.

Nathan Earl

All quiet as the wildlife leaves us

This week at Mawson has been relatively quiet.

We had a wonderful family dinner on Saturday evening - once again awed by Donna's cooking prowess, followed by a game of trivia. It must have been something in the water, but let's say there was some 'discussion' as to whether the judge’s decision was final. Sheep stations must have been up for grabs, but in the end, the quiz master prevailed and peace and harmony was restored.

Work around station continues. Water testing, mechanical servicing, medical treatments, water pumping, fuel transfers, weather observations, food preparation, wind turbine maintenance - just the usual. But then again, maybe not so usual because it's undertaken in -15°C temperatures with winds usually at 30 knots, or more, and always with the incredible scenic backdrop of the ice, the cliffs, the bays, the icebergs.

No more Adélie penguins on station though, the last has finished moulting and flown (swum? waddled?) the coop. It's sad to no longer hear their squawking in the distance as you walk between buildings, or on occasion to be told in no uncertain terms to move off should you accidently stumble upon one of their sheltering spots around station. (They are not backward in letting their feelings be known - especially when in a grumpy moulting mood). We count the days until we can welcome them back - I'm reliably informed it's on 18 October. I hope they have the date set in their dairies.

Field travel training is ongoing with the latest group just arriving back on station after three days away up on the plateau. It's wonderful to see the team reinvigorated after a trip out, full of tales of the cold and ice and mountains, and photographs to be posted onto social media. Field trips always remind us of one of the key reasons why we're here - to experience the Antarctic environment and, if we're lucky enough, to be a part of the science undertaken in Antarctica. They also give us a break from the confines of the Station Limits (where else in the world are grown adults confined to a 300 m x 600 m rocky outcrop for most of their year?).

And Easter is upon us. All are looking forward to a long weekend, not least of all because we missed a couple public holidays while in pre-departure quarantine and on the voyage from Hobart. So Hot Cross Buns and chocolate will be consumed, a marathon of Easter movies will be viewed, and potentially some time off station enjoying the Mawson surrounds will be enjoyed.

Happy Easter to all.

Bec Jeffcoat, SL