Food and science make life interesting

The station's favourite recipes

This week I have the privilege of writing from Mawson station and since I’m the chef here there will be no photos of penguins, icebergs, auroras, amazing sunrise, or those breath-taking sunsets. Instead it will be all about food and hydroponics. I will be sharing two recipes one is the Station’s favourite cookie and the other is deep fried onion rings which is great for bar snacks or a steak and chip dinner.

The team here has many, many favourite meals, sweets, and snack food which keeps me busy as I do like to cook different types of food for them all.

Before the recipes; a little about Hydroponics. We have a separate building for hydroponics and we are very lucky to have so much produce from it. Each week I do a harvest and we receive plenty of lettuce for the week, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and lots of chillies, mainly jalapenos which I stuff and deep fry (another favourite snack food). I have a great team of helpers that look after hydroponics each week, by checking the water level, PH levels, nutrients and also they have to be a bee by pollinating the cucumbers.

Ok, now to the cookie recipe. The favourite is Chocolate Chip which they call "crack cookies". Some weeks I make this twice a week on Tuesdays and it’s all gone by Saturday so I make another batch.

200 g butter soft

200 g brown sugar

200 g white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 eggs

400 g flour

5 g baking soda

5 g baking powder

pinch of salt

600 g chocolate chips


  1. Beat butter and sugars together until light in colour about 5 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla essence and eggs, beat until combine.
  3. Sift flour, salt, baking soda and powder and place into the mixer in two batches.
  4. Then add chocolate chips beat until just combined.
  5. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  6. You can roll a spoonful of the dough in your hand and place it onto a grease baking tray it can be as big or small as you want.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes

Onion Ring recipe is next, but first a big shout out to Tom Lievense's two favourite girls back home... he loves these onion rings!!!

2 large onions

¾ cup flour

¼ cup cornflour

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

250-350 ml of cold water

panko breadcrumbs


  1. Peel the onion and cut 1.5 cm rings.
  2. To make the batter, place flour, cornflour, cayenne pepper, salt and garlic powder into a bowl and slowly whisk in the cold water. You are wanting a thick batter.
  3. Place the breadcrumbs into a tray.
  4. Now to start the crumbing, place an onion ring into the batter and then into the breadcrumbs. Making sure the onion ring is coated evenly and then place onto a tray. Repeat this until all onion rings are crumbed.
  5. Preheat a pot of oil to 185C and place three or four onion ring into the pot at a time. Cook until golden brown.

I serve these onion rings with garlic aioli or a spicy mayonnaise as a dipping sauce.

Hope you try these recipes and enjoy!!!

Donna W

Science in the field

It has been noted recently by a most discerning reader that I may make our time here at Mawson sound like a ‘holiday camp for adventurous adults’ - please be assured that this is really not the case. (Well, not all the time.) It may seem so, but that’s because I try to make our news stories interesting each week. It’s not so exciting if I just tell you that the weather was pretty horrible, we went to work then came home, did some work outs in the gym, watched some TV, played some darts, and worked on our individual arts and crafts projects whatever they may be. That really is what most of our time is like… interspersed with brief periods of excitement and wonder. I just tend to write about those brief periods.

So… this week we have been out ‘science-ing’ again. Taking the opportunity of what we thought was going to be good weather (it turned out to be quite chilly… -45ºC wind chill) to get out to Kirton and Macklin Islands about 40 km away from station and undertake the automated camera post-summer maintenance and photo download. The cameras (15 in total around the Mawson area) are up set up in vantage points overlooking Adélie penguin breeding sites (and one Cape Petrel colony) and set to automatically take 2 to 4 photos a day; so monitoring the success, or otherwise, of the bird’s breeding season.

The cameras are installed as part of Project 4518, for Dr Louise Emmerson, which aims to monitor and assess Antarctic breeding seabirds to determine population status and trends and to identify and understand current, potential or emerging threats. This project will identify long-term conservation needs and track the wellbeing of a suite of Antarctic breeding seabirds including penguins and flying seabirds.

A couple hours’ drive from station across the sea-ice then a small team of intrepid expeditioners – Troy (Communications Technical Officer), Mark (Senior Field Training Officer) and myself (Field Assistant in training) – arrived at the islands in question and scrambled up the icy, rocky slope to access the cameras.

Then the maintenance – check the tripod is stable, the solar panel is in place and well secured (we replaced one which had blown away), clean the casing, re-focus the camera, reset date/time, insert new SD card, test shot to ensure all working, close up the case, and head off. All going well about 30 minutes work, but some of it is fine finger work that requires removal of gloves – hence the issue with -45ºC temperatures. Two cameras successfully checked and ready to go. Just six left to do, with a trip out to the Rookery Islands scheduled for as soon as the weather allows.

We need to be back to do the same again just before October 20, to ensure the cameras are working, in time for the Adélie penguins' return and to capture their all important nest building and ‘romancing’.

In other Mawson news, some interesting clouds were in the skies this week. Nacreous clouds (polar stratospheric clouds) formed in picturesque, pearlescent patterns across the plateau overlooking station. They only appear when the temperature in the stratosphere is below -83ºC, which is why they occur more frequently in Antarctica and the Arctic during winter. Unfortunately, although beautiful these clouds play a large role in the formation of the ozone hole by encouraging chemical reactions that break down the ozone layer – the ice crystals in these clouds act as a nucleus for chemical reactions between ozone and the CFCs in the atmosphere. This leads to a depletion of ozone. In basic terms, while these clouds are sitting pretty, they are actually eating a hole in the ozone layer. Evil pretty.

And, giving chef Donna a rest on Saturday (she had a station update article to write) some of the team cooked a lovely Italian feast for in impromptu ‘family dinner’. Lots of fun ensued, with only a small amount of instruction required from Donna, no one poisoned, and only one very small fire – I count it a great success.

Bec J